Curtain:Poirot’s Last Case

The mark on Norton’s forehead-it was like the brand of Cain..

-From the notes of Capt.Arthur Hastings.

Dame Agatha Christie has a special place in crime fiction. Her most famous creation -M.Hercule Poirot was second only to Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Hercule Poirot with his precise manners, his penchant for order, his queer mustache is as famous as the Baker Street detective. Yet, they are unparalleled in their own way.

When Doyle finished off Holmes in The Final Problem, he faced the wrath of the public who went to the extend of mourning a fictitious character. Such was the effect Holmes had on them. Equally impressive is his sidekick Dr.Watson who chronicles all of Holmes’ adventures.

If it was Watson for Holmes, we have Captain Arthur Hastings assisting Poirot in his adventures. From A Mysterious Affair in Styles to the last, they remain an inseparable pair in the reader’s mind.

Curtain:Poirot’s Last Case is the last of the wonderful Poirot mysteries. The way Poirot uses his grey cells and unravels everything at the end in his own way is a treat in itself. Murder on the Orient Express, Death in the clouds, The Hollow, Hickory Dickory Dock, The Big Four, The Labors of Hercules are some of Poirot’s most famous ones and my favorites.If it was all action in Holmes, it is brain work in Poirot’s case.

Poirot summons Hastings one last time to Styles, the place where it all started. Five unrelated murders have occurred, in each case the accused’s guilt proved beyond doubt. But Poirot suspects that there is more that meets the eye. Crippled with arthritis and old age, Poirot engages the help of Hastings to be his eyes and ears and report to him whatever he observes. Poirot feels that this would be his last case and this time the adversary is a clever one. Even Poirot doesn’t stand a chance before his devious schemes.

As Poirot and Hastings cast the net and watch, all doesn’t seem as they are. A murder occurs and Poirot nearly fails in his attempts to lure the criminal. Poirot makes a last ditched effort to catch the criminal and the rest…..is to be read in the book.

It is not easy to write crime fiction. That too establish a certain style and create a memorable character as Poirot and making him seem alive in flesh and blood. But Dame Agatha Christie does the impossible and Poirot truimphs!

Of all the Poirot cases, this one is the most intriguing and baffling one. For as suspicision falls on each one, the suspect is eliminated and Poirot is at his wit’s and races againts time before the next crime takes place-a crime so horrific, ruthless, cunning in nature.

For the rest, do read. You will enjoy it!

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “Curtain:Poirot’s Last Case

  1. Zwh

    Do….do u mean that in this book Poirot dies???

  2. Murali N

    Mr. Harish !
    I have read both, Holmes as well as Poirot, stories. I am of the very strong opinion that Sherlock Holmes is THE undisputed best !! Reasons are not hard to find. Poirot almost never explains “how” he came to his conclusions. It is Holmes who does it all the time. Poirot’s suspicions are more “feelings” oriented – he uses phrases like “I was not satisfied”, “it didn’t ring true”, it struck me as rather odd” etc. I mean to say that there is no actual incongruity he notices that sets him on the track of suspicion, whereas Holmes explains clearly what the culprit had purported had to make him think and where exactly he gave himself away. In fact this (make a character appear to be speaking the truth and another fumble for answers, and ultimately say, something like “a well-practised” lie comes naturally or something like it) is one of the tricks which Christie had used to keep the reader from guessing the actual murderer in her stories – a very cheap trick, indeed !!
    You never know when Poirot is casually conversing in the middle of an interrogation and when he is actually seriously investigating. Put bluntly, I wiould say that Agatha Christies doesn’t know how to create and include conclusive clues in her plot to facilitate “reasoning”. Very conveniently, she uses phrases like “psychology of crime”, “using gray cells”, etc. apart from depicting the character’s behaviour in different situations so as to make her readers “feel” the guilt in her characters rather than make them “know” for sure based on any concrete evidence. Also, her very way of showing “tangible clues” cannot help detectives is also very annoying and convoluted. I FEEL THAT THIS IS A DIRECT INSULT TO CONAN DOYLE AND HIS CREATION. In fact, tangible clues are what helping detectives today -in fact you have a branch of study called “forensics” – which she has dismissed so cheaply in many of her stories. KUDOS TO CONAN DOYLE WHO HAS CONCEIVED OF SOMETHING THAT HAS BECOME A BRANCH OF STUDY TODAY !Her nethods or “Poirot’s” methods of “reconstructing the crime” are useful only in cracking murders cmmitted by someone inside a confined area – be it a planc or a ship or a small cottage or a village inn or a house. If the criminal is an outisder as is more often the case in Sherlock Holmes stories, Poirot would be in a soup for sure !! In fact, to only narrow down her field of suspicion conveniently to only those in the confinement (plane or ship or hose or whatever), she makes her detective ask a seemingly logical question to the effect of “Whose word do we have for it that there was a man in the corridor?”, what evidence do we have for it that it was left in the draw last evening?” etc. In fact, in real life, having only somebody’s word for something NEED NOT be a lie. PLUS, U WOULD HAVE TO A HELL OF A LOT OF “TRACING” WORK !! I often wonder how / why Agatha Christie fans never realised this !!
    Psychology, if you ask me, can very well be used in a mild sense, to elicit some info which a character would try to consciously avoid revealing. To worm out the entire sequence of events that led to the murder under investigation using psychology only gets on one’s nerves !!
    Further, notice that in all Christie stories, whatever has to be done outside the house be it gathering info or tracing people, doing background check, someone conveniently gives what Poirot wants on a platter while this {getting info which none of the people inside the household would (be willing to} share / know) is a very tricky part of detective work and needs a special skill by itself. Infact here is where you need to apply your psychology – get to know all you want without arousing any suspicion in the other person that you are a detective and overhearing gossip, digging out buried secrets or pasts of people,etc.
    Whereas, Sherlcck Holmes deliberates all his assignments himself and when he does employ agents, he tells them what to do in terms of the process and NOT in terms of the result – meaning that it is his (Conan Doyle’s) cleverness that does the trick. And he emplys agents only in a situation when he needs to simultaneoulsy observe the goings on at more than one place.
    Moreover, in Poirot stories, the actual ingenuity with which the murder was done is mentioned causally by the detective as though it is “obvious” or got to know through someone or accidentally and it is his her “motive” that takes the priority in the explanation, while the irony is that it is the mode of murder that sets off the “mystery”.
    And, this is, by NO means, an exhaustive list of “complaints” I have against the novelist. I can pick at individual instances in her stories to show many inconsistencies.

    • Jefferson

      Sherlock Holmes is not better than Hercule Poirot, Poirot’s cases are all much tougher to crack, in The Big Four novel Poirot faced 4 of the world’s greatest and smartest criminal masterminds, something that Holmes wouldn’t be able to crack. The best Holmes cracked was professor Moriarty a city-level criminal mastermind, that’s nothing compare to what Poirot has solved.
      Also, Holmes wouldn’t be able to solve the case in the Curtain.
      Poirot is a prototype of forensic psychologist/a profiler. Poirot’s sheer logic, deductions and observations are easily on par with Holmes, but his mind is above Holmes’.
      Plus Poirot has unmistakable gut instincts.

    • Jefferson

      Also, Poirot has solved most of the cases without using evidence, or there was no evidence at all, it’s the power of the brain here, conversation with people and connecting the unconnectable.

    • Jefferson

      Unlike Poirot Holmes could not solve any case without evidences, it always had to be at least one piece of evidence.
      But Poirot also developed his own methodology as well, forensic psychology, profiling, Poirot was the first one who actually used it on maximum level.
      Holmes is not smarter than Poirot in any way, it’s the opposite.
      If you have a guy who merely solves the case by conversation and watching events and behaviors of people involved in crime or outside the crime and reading them like an open book, than his/Poirot’s deduction is much greater than that of Holmes, sorry but that’s the way it is. Poirot solved cases that even Holmes could not, nuff-said.
      Poirot has also shown in some stories the ability of tracking, but just one time.
      Just because Holmes invented hos own craft does not make him smarter, Poirot has also shown being genius in forensics in a very few stories. But most of the time he does through the police. and in Poirot’s case evidences very often fool Scotland Yard, Holmes would also be fooled. Holmes would realize that something was wrong but wouldn’t be able to solve the case, unlike Poirot who does it all the time.
      I can tell you 100% objectively that Holmes simply not better as some people claim he is.
      It’s simply not true, Holmesian sheer logic and deduction are not any better than Poirot’s sheer logic and deduction.
      Holmes’ cases are pretty much like open card, Poirot’s cases are much more complex, much tougher to crack and much more difficult to solve, most of the time there is lack of evidences or no evidence at all.
      Poirot always solves crimes in the house on the boat, in the hotel and etc…, but that’s the same case with all of Holmes’ novels as well. Professor Moriarty has appeared in one story, was mentioned in story, and he was city-level criminal mastermind.

      Holmes actually extremely rarely had duel with gangs it was only in 2 novels where he fought against gangs and crooks, Study in the scarlet and several more stories, plus Moriarty of course, almost all other cases that Holmes was solving where pretty much “in the house”.

      In “The Big Four” Poirot and Hastings had to save the entire planet from the 4 world’s greatest and smartest criminals and from all of their criminal organizations, continually and always risking their lives everywhere and trying to outsmart all 4 criminal masterminds who have eyes everywhere in the world and all of their actions.
      These 4 have been continually 3 steps ahead of Poirot great deal of time and Poirot still managed to beat them in their own games in the very end.
      One more thing, Holmes would not be able to crack the case in the Curtain: The last Poirot story, because there was nothing to connect these completely random killings.
      Curtain is one of number of cases which are much more complicated, much more complex than any of those that Holmes had in his entire professional detective career.
      Professor Moriarty was only city-level criminal mastermind, while these 4 criminal masterminds in the Poirot: The big Four were planetary-level criminal masterminds, because after all they almost had the entire planet in their hands, control and manipulation.
      Some people say that Holmes would solve a case without visiting the crime scene which is BS, because he needs to collect all the evidences and etc. to find the killer, plus Holmes logic wouldn’t work without forensic/physical evidences.

      One of the rare cases/mysteries that Sherlock Holmes could not solve was “the disappearance of James Phillimore”.
      Extremely similar, basically the same Poirot’s case/mystery is called “the disappearance of Mr. Davenheim”, where a Davenheim disappears in exactly the same way as Holmes’ James Phillimore.
      The main difference is that Poriot solved the case in less than a week, while Sherlock Holmes was lost, without any evidences and couldn’t solve that basically the same case.
      Cheers.

    • Jefferson

      Poirot’s doctrine comprises several sorts of right-brained, left-brained and moral beliefs that allow him to quickly get beyond a myopic Holmesian preoccupation with footprints and cigarette ash. He can therefore think more effectively at higher levels of abstraction and ambiguity. Sure, as a literary creation, Poirot is rather crude, and yes, the contrived nature of his cases can make his thinking style itself seem contrived. Still, his thought processes, unlike those of Sherlock Holmes say, are surprisingly useful as a model for us non-fictional humans in the real world.
      Poirot’s psychological doctrine in particular, is a robustly intelligent one, based on subtle ideas about human behavior and skepticism of jargon-happy Freudian-technical theorizing. An example is the assertion he offers (I forget in which novel): “women are sometimes tender, but they are never kind.“ I forget how Poirot uses the idea in his reasoning, but I remember immediately feeling a great sense of clarity and relief when I read it. It is a personality heuristic — one that I find to be true — that requires the vocabulary of a storyteller rather than that of the theorist or experimentalist, and proves powerful in reasoning about human (in this case, female) behavior.
      This is a right-brained sort of doctrinal element, one that enables him to recognize patterns. But Poirot can go left-brained as well. For instance, at one point he explains his bachelorhood to Captain Hastings as follows: “In my experience, I know of five cases of wives being murdered by their devoted husbands. And twenty-two husbands being murdered by their devoted wives. So thank you, no. Marriage, it is not for me.” Poirot is a Bayesian rationalist: he applies the spouse-as-prime-suspect principle frequently in stories. In fact it is so likely that a husband or wife will turn out to be the murderer in a Christie novel that she has to expend much of her ingenuity in muddying marital equations.
      But even right and left-brained tendencies do not add up to whole-brained narrative rationality. This is where Poirot truly rises above other fictional detectives: there is a moral-philosophical dimension to his thinking that is at once fatalistic (“people do not change”) and normative. Though he is Catholic, his views are actually closer to the Protestant doctrine of predestination, and the Poirot plots are, as a consequence often Greek-tragic in their inevitability (Death on the Nile is a good example). His most frequent normative doctrinal utterance is probably “I do not approve of murder.” The line usually appears after Poirot has provided a nuanced and sympathetic exposition of the motives and actions of all concerned, and it seems like he has practically justified the murderer’s actions. But once he presents his compelling theory of the case, he draws his line in the sand. Unlike the non-fictional francophone, Madame de Stael, who is credited with the quote “to understand all is to forgive all” (“Tout comprendre rend très-indulgent”), Poirot never allows the murkiness of psychology to cloud his moral vision, thereby saving the Poirot stories from the tedious and self-absorbed agonies of many modern fictional detectives.

      Poirot’s moral philosophy mostly seems to be inherited from Christie herself — Poirot, like Christie, is a religious conservative who is deeply suspicious of socialist save-the-world tendencies. Curiously, some of his moral strengths seem to arise from Christie’s subconscious awareness of, and overcompensation for, her own moral flaws. Christie herself is blatantly xenophobic and racist (see Hickory Dickory Dock for instance). Poirot began his career in The Mysterious Affair at Styles like any other xenophobia-inspired Christie caricature, full of ridiculous, unreconstructed Latin pomposity. But he evolves through later novels into an ironically self-aware egoist. By the time of his death in Curtain, he has evolved in ways that the English, with their misguided sense of modesty and self-deprecation, never can.

      To the extent that the moral elements of Poirot’s doctrine represent philosophical truths, they simplify his detective work and allow him to drive events towards decisive outcomes. This again, is an element of his thinking style that I find useful in the real world: keep your psychology complex, but your morality simple. Otherwise you’ll never get anything done.

      There is one last element in Poirot’s doctrine: the recognition and exploitation of the flaws of others’ doctrines. The best known exploit, of course, is his tendency to exaggerate his foreignness and play on the xenophobic prejudices and assumptions of civilizational superiority on the part of the English characters (who always seem to describe him with archaic words like mountebank and jackanapes). The key moment of redemption in a Poirot novel, the one that anchors the reader’s identification with him, is when a shrewd English character calls Poirot out on his charade, at which point he can assume his fully-realized character. But this is not just a recurring motif of exposition and identification in the Poirot canon. The very point of a Poirot novel is to validate and reinforce the superiority of Poirot’s doctrine over lesser doctrines. The moment of truth is not really the revelation of the murderer, but the point in the story at which it becomes clear that Poirot’s world view provides the best perspective with which to make moral sense of the plot. The solution to the murder validates the doctrine.

      The whole-brained Poirot doctrine — right-brained, left-brained and moral — allows him to reason around more ambiguous situations than any other fictional detective. The integrated unit of thought in Poirot-style thinking is the story. He urges witnesses to talk freely, speculate, and tell their story as they please, correctly understanding that people think, remember and talk (whether they are lying or telling the truth) through narratives. His own theories in turn, take the form of evolving stories, which he continually tests for both psychological and empirical plausibility. Though he has the dramatic imagination of a playwright, he never loses sight of the distinction between bald facts and the accounts of those facts; he never hesitates to kill beautiful theories if they fail to account for even a single trivial observation or psychological implausibility. And of course, like any good fictional detective, the significance he assigns to specific facts in his stories is often very different from the significance attributed to them by his witnesses in their stories. Poirot stories are really stories about stories.

      Christie frequently highlights the complexities of Poirot’s thought processes by juxtaposing them against those of other characters, who operate by simpler doctrines. Compared to the lurid and sensationalist imagination of Captain Hastings and the damn-the-facts fantasies of Ariadne Oliver, Poirot’s own theories of the case can appear very prosaic. On the other hand, the lack of imagination of Inspector Japp and Miss Lemon can make Poirot seem like Shakespeare. Again, this is not to say that Poirot is not capable of fantastic imagination when the situation warrants it, as it does in Murder on the Orient Express. When the facts justify bold leaps of faith, Poirot leaps.
      Perhaps I am backward-looking, but to my mind, Poirot has never been topped in the annals of fictional detection. Christie’s other creations can mostly be dismissed. Tommy and Tuppence are the worst secret agent characters ever, Parker Pyne is a bore and Superintendent Battle rarely does anything except look enigmatic while others solve the crime. Even Miss Marple is pretty much a one-trick right-brained pony. Her stock-in-trade is identifying similarities in personality patterns across widely disparate social situations (an urbane Duke in London might remind her of Tommy The Butcher’s Boy). The entire holographic Marple universe is based on the dubious one-element doctrine, people are much the same everywhere, which allows for specious extrapolations of the social psychology of St. Mary’s Mead to the rest of the world.

      Within the Christie universe, only the mysterious Mr. Quin is something of a match for Poirot, when it comes to doctrine-driven detection. In many ways, thanks to being partly a supernatural-allegorical construct, Mr. Quin is often more sublime than Poirot. If you haven’t read the Mr. Quin books (there are only a few), you should.

      Among fictional detectives who have appeared since Poirot (at least the ones I’ve read/watched on TV), only Dr. House, solver of medical mysteries, comes close. Though nominally a Holmes-inspired character (the show is full of insider Holmes references), the character of House is much closer to that of Poirot, once you discard the superficial Holmes connections. Like Poirot, House is an ironic-doctrinaire mix of right-brained intuition, left-brained statistical skepticism, and a complex-but-black-and-white moral compass. The fact that most of us understand absolutely nothing of the medical jargon in the show underlines the fact that House’s appeal lies at a doctrinal level.

    • Jefferson

      Holmes was born in England. He makes his debut in the novel A Study in Scarlet (1887), in which he becomes famous, both in the virtual world of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and with audiences. This novel tells that Holmes is good at natural science but utterly ignorant of literature and philosophy, and he has a strong body and is “an expert singlestick player, boxer and swordsman”. Compared to Holmes, Poirot has a quite distinct history. Poirot is a retired Belgian policeman, who escapes the World War I and immigrates to the England. His debut is in The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920). Agatha Christie never mentions Poirot’s educational background, but it is easy to speculate that he must have received a good education on literae humaniores – he often recite a poem – and his career in the Belgium police force may also give him a lot of experience – he can easily analyze the criminal’s motivation. There is no doubt that they live entirely dissimilar lives before their first appearances to readers, due to the different eras, the different nationalities, the different education, the different professions, and the different cultures. So it is no wonder that they have the following other distinctions.

      Holmes is an expert on changing his appearance – he can easily disguise himself as an old lady to follow a suspect. He has his own boy scouts – they are a gang of young beggars, who can give Holmes information. He is a good hunter. He is brave and smart enough to try his best to investigate. For example, in the novel The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901), he hides himself in a marsh to find the clues about the hound of the Baskervilles. He is good at observing details – in one scene he knows where Watson comes from due to mud spots on Watson’s shoes. Powers of observation help him to find clues that are often ignored by the official Scotland Yard detectives. He also shows great prowess at acting, with which he can cheat criminals to induce them to confess their guilt. It is not hard to see that Holmes prefers to collect physical hints.

      In contrast, Poirot values people’s psychology more, though he too takes account of material evidences. Poirot is a portly and short man. It is impossible for him to change his looks, or enter into physical conflict with the criminal face to face. The phrase “the little gray cells”, which refers to the grey matter in the brain, is mentioned again and again in all Poirot novels and stories. He sits in a chair, and thinks over all the relationship between people and the clues. He has said many times that he never collects clues like his policeman friend Chief Inspector Japp. He likes to chat with all the relevant persons, and finds the differences between their stories. For example, in the novel Five Little Pigs (1942) he notices that there are great distinctions in 5 suspects’ statements about a quarrel. After analyzing everyone’s psychology in the quarrel it becomes one of the keys to solving the murder. His noble temperament makes him easy to come into contact with high-class citizen. But Poirot is a foreigner living a first-class life, and his accent is not pure, and he is not familiar with the civilian’s life, so he cannot get news from people occupying a low situation, such as beggars, as Holmes does.
      However, Poirot does get information from chief inspector Japp and his secret agents as shown.in many stories and novels.
      Poirot has ubelievable power of observation, too. But different from Holmes, Poirot attaches great importance to the hints and details that others think insignificant. Take Dumb Witness (1937) for example, Poirot notices the weird acts of victim’s pet dog Bob, and this dog turns out to be a sticking point of the case. It is easy to find that Poirot has a totally distinct detective method from Holmes.

      In addition, their principles are different, that is, they share different professional ethics. The only thing that Holmes cares is to find out criminals and punish the sin. Sometimes he may even break the law. He often exceeds his authority – he is keen on chasing the criminals, which is the police’s duty. But Poirot would not approve of this method. In the story The Final Problem (1893) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle even composes a plot that Holmes perishes together with his ultimate enemy Professor Moriarty. As the following collection of short stories The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905) shows, Holmes does not mean to end his own life – he does not think he should be punished, though he kills Professor Moriarty without any practical evidence that can be accepted by the police, for Professor Moriarty is always behind all the crime, which is noticed by nobody except Holmes. On the contrary, in the novel Curtain (first published in 1975, written in 1940s), Agatha Christie also arranges for Poirot to end up in ruin together with a criminal. He puts the murderer Stephen Norton in death, though he has no physical proof that Norton kills many people by luring others to murder, because Norton is so smart that only Poirot can detect him. So Poirot commits suicide. As the letter that Poirot gives Captain Hastings reads, Poirot devotes his whole life to prevent murder, so after his murdering Norton, though Norton deserves the punishment, he sentences himself to death. It is easy to conclude Poirot’s motto: a detective should uphold justice justly.
      Also, in the Big Four, 4 of the world’s smartest and the greatest criminal masterminds also posed a threat to the entire civilization were discovered only by Poirot.

    • Jefferson

      Holmes actually extremely rarely had duel with gangs it was only in 2 novels where he fought against gangs and crooks, Study in the scarlet and several more stories, plus Moriarty of course, almost all other cases that Holmes was solving where pretty much “in the house”.

      In “The Big Four” Poirot and Hastings had to save the entire planet from the 4 world’s greatest and smartest criminals and from all of their criminal organizations, continually and always risking their lives everywhere and trying to outsmart all 4 criminal masterminds who have eyes everywhere in the world and all of their actions.
      These 4 have been continually 3 steps ahead of Poirot great deal of time and Poirot still managed to beat them in their own games in the very end.

      Also one more important thing about Holmes, Holmes did not know the streets he did not do it by himself, but he always had help from homeless, crooks, secret agents to solve the case.

      Poirot on the other hand has chief inspector Japp, police, secret agents, crooks and etc. to inform him what happens on the streets and in the world.
      This is how Holmes detected the Mastermind behind all the crime other people on the street told him that, he didn’t configure it out like Poirot did all by himself(Hastings was only observing, but he has never seen Norton doing something with other guests, neither has Poirot) who guided him in the Curtain but Poirot did do it all by himself in the Big Four with some help of streets’ people and chief inspector Japp (he was only talking to them), and in the same way Poirot would do the same way without any problem. and he did this already in the Big Four.

      Holmes was told by beggars and street people the name of the organization-Moriarty. Holmes did not detect him all by himself, Poirot did in 2 occasions: in The Big Four and in the Curtain.

      At worst Poirot=Holmes in smartness/intelligence, sheer logic, deduction and observation, but Poirot sees things that even Holmes misses, so this is why Poirot is smarter than Holmes.
      For example, in the novel Five Little Pigs (1942) he notices that there are great distinctions in 5 suspects’ statements about a quarrel. After analyzing everyone’s psychology in the quarrel it becomes one of the keys to solving the murder, Holmes does not have these abilities.

  3. Laura Allen

    Mr Murali
    if u have read the ‘study in scarlet’ a mystery of holmes’ u might have realised that sir doyle creates a completely new character out of thin air………..could we have foreseen that the Salt Lake City would have anything to do with it?
    Laura Allen

    • Murali N

      Ms Laura Allen,
      First of all, let me thank you for replying to my post !

      Replying to your question – I don’t remember the details of “Salt Lake City” in connection with “A study in Scarlet” – I read it more than 13 years back. Having said that, I want to point out what I had already done and you seem to have missed -(I AM QUOTING MYSELF VERBATIM)
      { “Poirot’s” methods of “reconstructing the crime” are useful only in cracking murders cmmitted by someone inside a confined area – be it a planc or a ship or a small cottage or a village inn or a house. If the criminal is an outisder as is more often the case in Sherlock Holmes stories, Poirot would be in a soup for sure !! }
      Sherlock Holmes gives a logical explanation for whatever he says !! Don’t tell me you can’t see that. He explains to the reader the conclusion step by step by step – right from the moment he is given to investigate a mystery till he is through with the solution he tells you WHAT he noticed, WHAT he THOUGHT about it, what actual action did he plan, what result he expected, what actually happened, what did he plan next and so on. And, going by this process, in THIS case, the criminal HAPPENS TO BE “an outsider”. In fact, in this story, a corpse inside a locked house is all the detective has to start off. Naturally, any person other than the co investigators (Of course, except Watson, the narrator !) would indeed be “from out of thin air” How else would there be a rationale in THIS story ?

      Say, in some story, a neighbourhood bank is robbed. Who is the culprit ? The police nab one Mr. X. Is this X a complete outsider (professional gangster / smuggler) or one of the very bank employees themselves ? Ms. Laura Allen, who would you like X to be ? Well, in YOUR (and for that matter, many Christie fans’) opinion, it HAS to be the latter. Am I right ? For, only then, you (the reader) can “find him out” !! But, IS THIS “REALISM”? In real life, do you “always” end up with only a known character as the culprit ?? Don’t you have to do a lot of tracing work ? If you ask ME, I will say that X can be anybody – outsider or a bank employee himself.I mean, investigations should be carried out in such a way to nab the culprit “whoever” he is and “wherever” he is. That is what Sherlock Holmes (always) does and the ciminal merely happens to be an “outsider”. However, I admit I do have a soft corner for ” the criminal to be brought in “from thin air” “because that is how the very talent of a person as a detective story wirter manifests itselt – explaining (and very “logically” at that) the introduction of a new character !! That is, {READ VERY CAREFULLY FROM HERE TILL THE PARA END, LAURA ALLEN) it is not as though Sherlock Holmes brings in an outsider saying that he had nabbed the culprit, the “culprit” confesses to all those around (and hence, to the reader) and the story ends there – THE most important part in the story {In fact, a prime reason for my preferring SH over HP} is “always” a part of the narration. He tells the reader “how” he traced this fellow !! Isn’t that laudable ?:Ironically, Herucle Poirot, in spite of pointing at an insider as the culprit, is very often not able to explain convincingly “how he reached his solutions” !!

      Taking up your question again, let me ask you – WHY ON EARTH DO you WANT TO FIND OUT WHO THE CULPRIT IS ?!?!?! Are you are “reading a story” or “solving a puzzle” ???!!! To test your skills as a detective / observer, you always have games like “You be detective”, “murder hunt”, “treasure hunt”, “spot 10 differences between the pictures”, etc. A good detective story is a one {Contradict me here if you want to !) in which the solution is given in a clear, unambiguous and convincing way to the reader – and Conan Doyle had admirably succeeded in this and Agatha Christie had miserably failed in the same. The very fact that most of her readers reach a “wrong” conclusion bears testimony to what I am saying. I mean – the whole set up (characters, sequence of events, testimonies, etc.) can be interpreted in more than one way

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