Monday, September 15, 2014

Are you Team Marple or Team Poirot?

In honor of Agatha Christie Week, Kerry Hammond asks the age old question, Are you Team Marple or Team Poirot? 

Let me start out by saying that many of us like both Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. I’m not asking anyone to denounce either detective, after all they are two of the best known crime solvers of all time. But if you dig down deep, really deep, you probably favor one over the other. Admitting it, well that’s another thing entirely.

I actually had my own personal battle with the question when I started to write this blog post. I really do love them both. But as I researched the crimes they’ve each solved, the characters who have played them in films and on TV, and their long running history as Agatha Christie’s legacy, I will tell you that there was a clear winner—at least for me. I will reveal which team I chose at the end of this post, I don’t want to bias anyone. So let’s start with the detective who first graced the pages of an Agatha Christie novel.

According to Wikipedia, Hercule Poirot has appeared in 33 novels, the play Black Coffee, and more than 50 short stories. He was introduced in 1920 in the book The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and his last appearance was in Curtain, published in 1975. Anyone who has read a Poirot novel will be familiar with the fact that Poirot is constantly being mistaken for a Frenchman, but is in fact Belgian. He was a policeman in Brussels before he entered England as a refugee during WWI. He became a private investigator in England and traveled all over the world solving cases. He even worked with Scotland Yard on occasion when he assisted his friend Chief Inspector Japp.

Poirot is best known for his egg shaped head, the fact that he solved cases by using his “little grey cells,” and, of course, his mustache. He is always impeccably dressed and let’s face it, a bit of a neat freak. His sidekick is Captain Hastings, a retired military man that oftentimes comes across as a bit daft, but whose observations invariably help Poirot solve cases.

David Suchet as Poirot

He is best known for Death on the Nile, And Then There Were None, and Murder on the Orient Express. Actors who have played him include, but are not limited to: Albert Finney, Peter Ustinov and David Suchet. Most recently, the last five shows filmed with David Suchet aired on Acorn TV. The adaptations, which Suchet filmed over the course of almost 25 years, finished with the airing of Curtain. Suchet has now officially played Poirot in every story in which he appeared. No wonder it took him nearly 25 years.

Miss Jane Marple, on the other hand, is an elderly spinster from the town of St. Mary Mead, and according to Wikipedia has appeared in 12 novels and 20 short stories. She first appeared in a short story called The Tuesday Night Club. It was published in The Sketch magazine in 1926. Her first full length novel was Murder at the Vicarage in 1930 and that is one of her most famous books, in addition to The Body in the Library and At Bertram’s Hotel. She has been played on both big and small screens by actresses such as Margaret Rutherford, Joan Hickson, Angela Lansbury, Geraldine McEwan and Julia McKenzie.

Joan Hickson as Miss Marple

She doesn’t use her little grey cells to solve cases, she uses her knowledge of human nature. She watches people and she observes (often while knitting in the TV shows) and can’t help but compare people she meets to residents of her little English village. In doing this, she ends up seeing what others cannot. In addition, since she is a little old lady and very unassuming, people talk to her. They tell her things and confide in her. This adds to her knowledge of a situation and helps her solves cases that baffle even the police. She has been known to solve a case after hearing just a snippet of a conversation, which leads to a solution once she has unraveled its meaning.

So there you have it, two of the most famous “detectives” of all time. Which do you favor? Personally, I have to admit a fondness and slight scale tip for Hercule Poirot over Miss Marple. If I had to make a decision on books alone, I honestly don’t know if I would say the same thing. When we lost Joan Hickson, in my opinion, we lost the best Miss Marple ever seen on any screen. To this day, I will re-read a Miss Marple story and I am picturing Joan in the role. The actresses who followed her had to fill awfully big shoes, and although they gave it their best, it just wasn’t the same.

I have spent the last 25 years watching and re-watching David Suchet’s portrayal of Poirot and he is such a wonderful version of the detective that I believe this has swayed me. Also, the characters of Hastings, Japp and Miss Lemon are also played by spectacular actors, so it truly is a wonderful package. I love the amateur detective and little English village stories, but Poirot’s international adventures have won me over.

So, I now ask you, are you Team Poirot or Team Marple?


  1. Team Marple for the character, Team Poirot for the stories.

  2. @Barbara - I love it. I'm team Poirot in general. I love the whole group of characters in the Poirot books.

  3. It's so hard to choose, I love them both. I guess I could be poirot Monday threw Friday. An miss marple on the weekend. Lol. But if I had to really choose it would be ??????? (