Friday 8 November 2013

Agatha Christie, Poirot and The Labours of Hercules

The Labours of Hercules was perhaps an odd choice for the penultimate instalment of Agatha Christie's Poirot, a rather dark rendition of elements from the book of the same name,which in fact brings together a dozen collected short stories. The screenplay by Guy Andrews was well-crafted, especially given the challenge of the task facing him. The production was atmospheric and the cast (as ever) impressive, with Simon Callow really enjoying himself, though the story almost inevitably lacked the tight-woven texture of the best Poirot mysteries.

All the same, it's been quite a week for Christie fans. The CWA celebrated 60 glorious years on Guy Fawkes Night with an event at Foyles, announcing the results of its "Whowunnit" poll of members. And Christie was voted best ever crime novelist, and her The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was best detective novel. Best detective was Sherlock Holmes, and given that Poirot, in his early days, was rather derivative of Sherlock, this seems fair enough.

Unfortunately, due to pressure of work, I wasn't able to make it to London for this event, but I agree with the view expressed by Alison Joseph, chair of the CWA, that the result reflects the long and distinguished history of crime writing. There are those who argue that the likes of Jo Nesbo (good writer as he is) should be ranked with the all-time greats, but it's very difficult to make a sensible evaluation of the potential longevity of present day best-sellers. Some of the stars of previous generataions simply haven't lasted well (a great shame, in some cases.) Anyway, the best of Nesbo and other writers of today may still be to come. Christie and Conan Doyle have unarguably stood the test of time .So although all polls like this one have their limitations, because inevitably, one tends to be comparing apples and pears, the results seem to me to make sense.

Having said that, my own feeling is that the best classic whodunit of all wasn't even on the shortlist. My choice would be another Christie novel - And Then There Were None.

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