Hercule Poirot

From Academic Kids

Hercule Poirot (pronounced Air-kewl Pwa-roe) is a fictional character, the primary detective of Agatha Christie's novels who appears in over 30 books. The character was born in Belgium, and has worked as a Belgian police officer, but moved to England after World War I and started a second career as a private detective. Poirot is remarkable for his small stature and egg-shaped head, his meticulous moustache, his dandified dressing habits, his absolute obsession with neatness, and his disdain for detective methods that include crawling on hands and knees and looking for clues. He prefers to examine the psychology of a crime, once even betting his best friend and sometime partner, Arthur Hastings, that he could solve a case simply by sitting in an easy chair and using his "little grey cells."

Like a large number of detectives of the early days of mystery fiction (including Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, and Father Brown), Poirot is unmarried.

His fictional address (from his business card) is Hercule Poirot 56B Whitehaven Mansions, Sandhurst Square, London W1, UK.


Major novels

The Poirot books take readers through the whole of his life in England, from the first book (The Mysterious Affair at Styles), where he is a refugee staying at Styles, to the last Poirot book (Curtain), where he visits Styles once again. In between, Poirot solves cases outside of England as well, including his most famous case, Murder on the Orient Express (1934).

Hercule Poirot became famous with the publication, in 1926, of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, whose surprising solution proved controversial. The novel is still among the most famous of all detective novels: Edmund Wilson alludes to it in the title of his well-known attack on detective fiction, "Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?" Aside from Roger Ackroyd, the most critically-acclaimed Poirot novels appeared from 1932 to 1942, including such acknowledged classics as Murder on the Orient Express, The ABC Murders (1935), Cards on the Table (1936), and Death on the Nile (1937). The last of these, a tale of multiple homicide upon a Nile steamer, was judged by the celebrated detective novelist John Dickson Carr to be among the ten greatest mystery novels of all time.

The 1942 novel Five Little Pigs (aka Murder in Retrospect), in which Poirot investigates a murder committed sixteen years before by analyzing various accounts of the tragedy, is a Rashomon-like performance that critic and mystery novelist Robert Barnard called the best of the Christie novels.

Recurring characters

While the majority of the supporting cast in the Poirot stories is always different, some characters do show up more often. Arthur Hastings, whom Poirot met almost immediately after arriving in England, becomes his life-long partner and appears in many of the novels and stories. Other frequently recurring characters include the detective novelist Ariadne Oliver, Agatha Christie's humorous self-caricature, and Poirot's secretary, Miss Lemon. Chief Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard appears in many of the stories, as well.

Books featuring Hercule Poirot

Short story collections listed as ss


Poirot has appeared in movies, too, played by Tony Randall (The Alphabet Murders, 1965), Albert Finney (Murder on the Orient Express), and Peter Ustinov (Death on the Nile and other films). He also was portrayed by Alfred Molina, Charles Laughton and Ian Holm. However, many think the definitive Hercule Poirot portrayal is by David Suchet, who appeared in several television episodes made by Granada Television from the 1990s (which are often rerun on the A&E channel in the U.S.). The television dramatisations starring Suchet appeared under the series title Agatha Christie's Poirot (simply Poirot in the U.S.).

See also Miss Marple.

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