Poirot’s Early Cases
Reviewed: January 16, 2007
By: Agatha Christie / read by David Suchet and Hugh Fraser
Publisher: Audio Partners Pub. Corp.
7 CDs, 8 hours, 20 minutes, $37.24
Poirot’s Early Cases is a collection of 18 mysteries featuring Agatha Christie’s well
known Belgian private detective, Hercule Poirot. Given that the readings are
by the two actors most associated with the successful ITV television adaptations
(as shown on PBS and A&E) of Poirot’s adventures, I wasn’t quite sure
what to expect from this audio book. As it turns out, these are straightforward
dramatic readings, some by Suchet (who plays Poirot in the series) and some
by Fraser (who plays his aide, Col, Hastings).
All 18 adventures take place early
in Poirot’s career, when Hastings is the Doctor Watson to his Sherlock Holmes,
narrating the adventures and filtering our understanding of the great detective
through his less rarified senses.
It was Edgar Allen Poe who set the
pattern for eccentric detectives with his three tales of the French investigator,
Dupin, early in the 19th century. Dupin’s adventures are narrated by an anonymous
friend. He favoured dark rooms and had a peculiar reputation with the official
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle adapted the
pattern to his tales of Holmes, with their gothic atmosphere, his dependence
on Watson and his competitive relationship with Inspector Lestrade.
The early Poirot stories were similar,
with Hercule exercising his “little grey cells” from his apartment/office,
focussing on clues, seeing what others do not, and baffling people with his
appearance, arrogance and vanity. How could a fussbudget with such a sensitive
stomach, and such an obsession with his mustache possibly be brilliant?
In many ways, Jacques Clouseau is simply
Hercule Poirot carried to extremes.
Later on, of course, he would shed
the detective agency and the supporting cast (including Hastings’ narrative
voice) and adopt a psychological method more in keeping with Miss Marple than
with his earlier self, but that was later.
These adventures are very much in the
Conan Doyle tradition: tight little puzzles hinging on one or two carefully
concealed clues which only Poirot, with his concentration on “order and method”,
can pick up and work with.
Suchet and Fraser are fine readers,
each adopting a “Hastings” voice for the narrative and a “Poirot” voice when
the detective takes the stage. There are differences in their presentation,
but each of them does a good job and I have no quarrel with either interpretation.
This set of readings took us all the
way to Whitehorse and half way home again.