Saturday, December 17, 2011

Unforgivable Arrogance

I read Agatha Christie from time to time. Yesterday was one of those times: Death on the Nile. I began reading it, and as soon as I realized that it is a Poirot novel I experienced a peculiar sinking feeling, an interesting decline in my interest in the book.

Not that I won't finish it--oh, no. But I sighed, inwardly, and said to myself somewhat regretfully, "Alack. Another Poirot."

I think the reason I don't like Hercule Poirot as a detective begins with his method. Poirot is the ultimate psychological detective; he solves cases by understanding personality, behavior, etc. He is no Holmesian examiner of cigar ash.

I can accept the concept of psychological detection. One of my favorite detectives is Father Brown, who says that the way he solves crimes is by "becoming" the criminal. Why, then, my distaste for Hercule Poirot?

It's the arrogance. It's an element of his character, of course; and bravo to Christie for humanizing her lead in such a potentially crippling fashion. In my uninformed opinion, though, the way Poirot solves crimes is sloppy. He consistently employs fallacies of sweeping generalization. And he doesn't care, because he succeeds.

I've long been a proponent of allowing recurring detectives to fail. Sherlock Holmes, perhaps the most recurring of all recurring detectives, failed on more than one occasion. And that made him a richer, fuller character.

Poirot's arrogance, his blind belief in his own ability, annoys me. And that's why I'll look at Death on the Nile with a touch of resignation blended with my enjoyment.

Long live personal taste!

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