Anna Campbell

February 2014



MFTFeb14-8It’s No Mystery

Are you a mystery fan? I went through a stage about twenty years ago where I read mysteries like they were going out of style, which they certainly weren’t. I remember in particular being crazy on Dorothy L. Sayers and PD James (hmm, possible future My Favorite Things columns!) back then.

MFTFeb14-7But as often happens with reading crazes, you move onto something else and don’t pick up that particular genre for a while. But over the last few years, I’ve gone crazy on mysteries again and have been madly reading fantastic writers like Julia Spencer-Fleming, Carola Dunn, Nancy Atherton and Elly Griffiths.

MFTFeb14-6Something that’s turned me back onto the mystery genre are the wonderful TV adaptations, often British, of these stories. Crime novels often make for great TV as they’ve got such a strong plot arc and there’s a dominant exterior plot (unlike romances which can be difficult to dramatise – the characters spend so much time thinking and feeling and it doesn’t make for great drama!). By the way, if you haven’t already read it, check out my fan girl piece about Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch.

MFTFeb14-5My favorites of these TV series are the wonderful Poirot mysteries starring David Suchet as Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. I hang my head in shame when I admit to having read only one Agatha Christie, Nemesis, which years ago was left at a holiday house I was renting. I remember liking it but I never got back to her work. Clearly I need to!

MFTFeb14-4As a teenager, I remember trying a Poirot book but finding the character too much of a caricature. This book and don’t ask me which one it was seemed to be all about moustaches! Hey, what can I say? I was very judgemental at thirteen!

MFTFeb14-3But somehow David Suchet takes the absurd, unrealistic, cartoonish elements of Poirot and manages to make him a real person. More, makes him fascinating and complex and wonderful. I think part of the secret is that there’s such kindness in Suchet/Poirot’s eyes. You know he’s suffering for all these people, both good and bad. He’s a bit like a moustachioed Santa Claus with endless compassion for us all. But he also has a very strict moral compass so you admire him as well as love him. And you can see him thinking – it’s much more exciting on screen than it sounds!

MFTFeb14-2I love the detail in this performance. The mincing walk in the patent leather shoes. The fussy way he uses his napkin after sipping his tisane. The expression on his face when someone dares to serve him up some abomination of 1930s English cooking. There’s plenty of humor to enjoy in these shows!

Suchet isn’t the only pleasure of Poirot’s company. There’s the wonderful Art Deco setting. Love the houses and the clothes and the bits and pieces like clocks and ornaments. There’s also a chance to go actor spotting. So many famous and becoming famous actors turn up in these series – I suspect the beautiful writing attracts them. I’ve been a devotee of BBC drama since I was a little girl. It was a family ritual to sit up on Sunday nights and watch the wonderful serials. So seeing all these actors I’ve loved for so long is like revisiting old friends.

MFTFeb14-1I’m sad to hear that Curtain, the last Poirot, is on its way to Australia. I suspect I’ll cry buckets when Hercule shuffles off this mortal coil and his patent leather shoes. But in the meantime, I’m enjoying revisiting so many of these wonderful stories which seem to be on perpetual repeat on our local cable mystery channel. No complaints from me.