Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The A.B.C. Murders

(UK, 2019)

If I were casting Agatha Christie’s book The A.B.C Murders one of the last people on my list of possibilities to play the famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, would be John Malkovich. Poirot has been played by a fairly wide range of people, but Malkovich is almost totally against the short, obsessive-compulsive dandy described in the books.

But it soon becomes clear that Sarah Phelps, the writer of this three-episode series, has a whole different take on the little Belgian. There is very little left of Christie’s creation. Do I mind? Not terribly, though I wonder what real Christie fans would think of it. Phelps’s Poirot is a tortured figure, a man who never smiles, and aside from an attempt to dye his goatee early on, seems to care little about his appearance. He is said to be has-been, a man who makes his living by staging elaborate mystery parties at the homes of the very rich, not to say decadent, upper class. He has horror in his past, which I won’t get into.

She has also changed the plot quite a bit, but I had to read the Wiki summary to know that. Quite a few years ago I read most of the Christie canon. I enjoyed them, and of course had to compulsively read until the ingenious (and almost always wildly improbable) solution. But I was never quite sure if I wanted to pick up the next one. The best word I can find for them is clever. The British drawing room murder story is not really up my alley. Still, I have quite liked some of the film adaptations, with the likes of Albert Finney and Kenneth Branagh and David Suchet and Peter Ustinov. Poirot is a fascinating creation.

I think people who are not deeply into those books, like me, will enjoy this series, as I did. It helps that I read the book so long ago that I didn’t recall the outcome. But if you are a hard-core Christie fan, I think you should avoid it.