Christie’s Poirot

Lucie Skrčená


A portion of gray brain cells, please!

A favorite with readers, painfully meticulous, precise, sometimes petulant, but whose gray brain cells are infallible. Have you guessed? Bien sûr, I’m talking about none other than Hercule Poirot, the famous Belgian detective created by Agatha Christie, the Queen of Crime. If you don’t know already, the truth about the background of this superhero might take you aback.

Keywords: Hercule Poirot, detective, gray brain cells, Agatha Christie

About the author

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born on 15 September 1890 in Torquay, Devon, England. She was undoubtedly naturally talented, but it was also the support she got from her parents that made her one of the greatest writers of all time. Her father was American, and it was he who took care of her schooling. Her mother loved telling stories. Against her mother’s will, Agatha learned to read at the age of five. Her favorite writers were Edith Nesbit and Louisa M. Alcott. Christie also liked scary stories and poetry. She created her first piece of writing, a poem called “The cowslip”, when she was only ten. 

A few interesting facts about Christie

In 1928, Christie went missing after a quarrel with husband Archie, who wanted a divorce. She was missing for 11 days, which sent people almost into hysteria. She was found in a hotel, where she had checked in as Ms. Neele (the name of her husband’s mistress). The mysterious disappearance still hasn’t been cleared up.

For her contribution to literature, Christie was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1956. Fifteen years later, she was promoted to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Her second husband, Max Mallowan, was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1968, for his contribution to archeology. Both knighted in their own right, the Mallowans were one of few such couples.  

Christie wrote six romantic novels under the name Mary Westmacott. You would probably not recognize her writing, since the style is quite different. 

Her stage play “The Mousetrap” has been on stage continuously since 1952, which makes it the longest running stage production ever. The play was written for Queen Mary at the request of the BBC.

The Queen of Crime’s first name is very often pronounced incorrectly by non-native speakers. Let’s clarify: it is /ˈægəθə/.

You might be wondering where Christie picked up such a good knowledge of poisons. During the First World War, she worked in a dispensary. Hers was a much-needed but dull job; Christie was able to find joy in writing. 

The year 1919 marked a huge breakthrough for Christie. Not only did she give birth to her only child Rosalind, she created one of the most brilliant brains in the history of literature.  

A phenomenon is born

            Hercule Poirot made his debut in 1920 when The Mysterious Affair at Styles, the first detective story featuring his brilliant mind, was published. Christie (through the words of Captain Hastings) described him as quite a short man with a military moustache and egg-shaped head. Slowly but surely, readers fell in love with the meticulous, petulant but infallible little Belgian. He appeared to be a writer’s dream. But was he really?

            The truth is that Christie honestly hated her greatest character. In the course of her career she called him “insufferable, detestable, bombastic, tiresome and ego-centric”, and she regretted having made him so old for the first book. She was sorry she hadn’t abandoned the character after the first few books and created a new one. Yet she didn’t part with him for the sake of her readers, who loved him. 

Parlez-vous français?

            What made the stories even more intriguing were the little chunks of French Christie used in them. It was only natural for her to put a phrase or a question tag here and there: she had learned French when her family stayed in France and she had had a French governess. Let’s have a look at these French expressions.

            The two most frequent ones are definitely mon ami(my friend) and n’est-ce pas(a question tag meaning “right”, although not as informal and rather neutral). Then there’s Mon Dieu, meaning “My God”, and eh, bien, which can be translated as “oh, well”. 


            Over two billion copies of Christie’s books have been sold all over the world, which makes her the world’s best-selling author. Hercule Poirot has definitely contributed to this record. 

Sources and citations:

Brawn, David (2015). Little Grey Cells. Location: Agatha Christie Limited.

Christie, Agatha (1977). An Autobiography. Location: Agatha Christie Limited.

Christie, Agatha (1920). Mysterious Affair at Styles. Location: Martino Fine Books.