The weather turned nice enough last weekend for me to spend several hours each day in the yard clearing flower beds and pruning shrubs, which regular readers of this blog know means that I listened to an almost equal number of hours of audiobooks. Bonnie had brought me a nice supply titles from the Downers Grove Public Library. To start my new gardening season, I chose Poirot's Early Cases: 18 Hercule Poirot Mysteries by Agatha Christie, read by David Suchet & Hugh Fraser, actors known to many for their portrayals of Hercule Poirot and his friend Captain Hastings. Seeing their names, I wondered if they read together. I could imagine Fraser as Hastings reading the bulk of a story with Suchet supplying the voice of Poirot - Christie had Hastings reporting the cases much like Dr. Watson reporting Sherlock Holmes's adventures in her early stories - but that was not the case. Fraser read some stories and Suchet others. Both created an array of distinctive voices for their characters, but it is Suchet's Poirot that is unforgettable.
Christie's stories in audio ran between 20 and 30 minutes in length, each recounting a crime that seemed to be at first glance unremarkable. Hastings and Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard quickly found clues that led to obvious suspects, but Poirot was always unsatisfied. Could a thief really drop two incriminating items at the scene of the crime? Why would a meticulous gardener not finish the oyster shell border? What would the obvious suspect gain from the crime? The easy solutions unravelled, and using his little gray-cells and a bit of psychology, Poirot unmasked the true criminal.
The seriousness of the crimes in these stories varied greatly. Some of the cases that I liked best were about petty thefts that Poirot dealt with discretely. British national security, the reputations of the lords and ladies, and the lives of debutantes were sometimes at stake. Throughout, Poirot kept his mustache waxed and his shoes shined, and the meticulous Belgian was quick to correct any careless person who called him "French." It was all great fun.
Christie, Agatha. Poirot's Early Cases. BBC Audio, ISBN 9780792769644.