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Jelle

Jelle

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Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie I suppose I must've been around 10 at the time when I started digging into my dad's collection of horror stories and thrillers, most of which were old classic tales (mostly compilations of horror short stories, including Poe and the like and detectives like Simenon or Christie), supplemented by my own R.L. Stine era horror. We also watched a lot of detective series on TV: A Touch of Frost, Silent Witness and my favourite: Poirot!

Now I don't remember for sure if I started reading Christie because I enjoyed the TV series or if the two just coincided; the series has been running since the late 80s and is now close to having covered every Poirot story ever written. Unfortunately the latest installments seem to have turned Poirot into a grumpy, religious old man rather than the clever and quirky Poirot I grew up loving. It's still great to watch though, David Suchet's Poirot is perfect. In fact, whenever I see a different actor portraying him, it makes me physically sick.

Anyway, I loved the series, I loved Christie, or more specifically I loved Poirot, because I scanned the back covers of all the Christie omnibi to see which stories or novels included Poirot, because I sure as hell wasn't going to waste my precious time on Miss Marple!

Obviously, seeing as I was 10 (this is a rough estimate, I always have a lot of trouble sticking an age on life events, so I might have been 8, or 12 or something), I read all these stories in Dutch translation, which works quite well for old horror stories and detectives and either way my English proficiency wasn't quite up to scratch yet.

A while ago, I decided to revisit my old love and again searched through my dad's dusty long-time-no-read collection of books, I think it was induced by seeing half of a Poirot episode on TV or by listening to the old Poirot theme.

Please enjoy the smooth jazzy sounds of the exquisite Poirot theme song and savour the sight of David Suchet's big, bald, smiley head kaleidoscopically embracing your screen. I get a big nostalgia orgasm every time.


Soon enough, I found Moord in de Oriƫnt-express, which I remembered liking a lot. I started reading it, but quickly realised I couldn't deal with Poirot speaking Dutch. I tried to move past it, but I could only see David Suchet's face in my head, uttering Dutch lines, and it was just wrong, so wrong. So I put it away and ordered a used copy in English online. I don't think my dad would be too pleased if he found out I'm ordering books he already has. Tssk.

I'm happy to say, I still love Poirot. Not that he is all that loveable, really. He's an arrogant, elitist know-it-all, with a slightly worrying psychopathic streak. Sure, he doesn't kill anyone, but this guy adores murder and death. If some poor soul got brutally stabbed or viciously beaten to death everywhere Hercule went, he'd be a happy camper. One scene in particular made me laugh:

At one point in the beginning of the novel, when no one has been killed yet (spoilers! someone totally dies!), Poirot is sitting in the dining wagon with his friend, having a nice meal. His friend, Mr. Bouc, I believe, is mentioning to Poirot how nice it is that so many people of different nationalities and class are gathered here together, enjoying their voyage, only to go their separate ways again. Poirot then ventures an alternative turn of events, where all this lovey-dovey harmony is struck down SHOULD someone have a little accident, or you know, get brutally murdered.

What a buzzkill, that Hercule. A little creepy too. There you are eating a nice meal and celebrating the joys of life when your moustached friend starts getting all morbid. Now what Mr. Bouc should have said was probably something like: "Huh? What! Murdered? What are you on about? We're having a nice meal here and you can't shut up about lethal accidents and murder. What the fuck is wrong with you, dude?"

Sure enough, though, Poirot was right, one of those people, did get murdered. Funny how that works. Sometimes I think that Poirot sets up every murder he solves, just for the hell of it. It's awfully suspicious how he's always around murders and when he just plainly starts predicting them out of the blue, I wouldn't feel safe anymore.

There's some flaws in this, sure. Having been written in the 30s, it uses a lot of discriminating stereotypes when it comes to European ethnicities. Italians are passionate people, they stab. English people are basically robots, they'd never stab. Things like that, but in the end all these "facts" are not relevant to the solution, so to me it's only interesting to read a book in the 30s mindset. Besides, I'm Belgian, I come off fucking great. You won't hear me complaining.

Poirot's deductions and revelations are sometimes on the verge of psychic, which, I suppose, somewhat thwarts the reader in his quest to the solution. I did figure out the solution before I finished, but I'm guessing I didn't really solve it but just remembered the unravelling from when I read it so many years ago. I can't imagine that I actually figured it out. Quite unlikely, because, in my vision, it's not really a bad thing that you can't figure out the full array of things, because Poirot is supposed to outsmart everyone. He's supposed to know things you don't know, and draw conclusions you never would. If I weren't hopelessly outsmarted by Hercule Poirot, what kind of life would this be? Who would I look up to? Poirot is smarter than you and that's just how it should be, and I'm glad.

Finally, I'd like to say that I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have enjoyed this nearly as much as if it weren't for David Suchet. Even when Poirot is being a pompous dick, Suchet's comforting face appears in my head and everything he does turns from annoying to eccentrically charming and all is right with the world.

Je vous remercie, monsieur Suchet, mon ami. May your little grey cells continue to rage in full force.