Monday, January 03, 2011

A Starting Point - Poirot's Timeline


Before I start posting, I should perhaps warn you that in order to follow this blog, you need to be quite familiar with the episodes of this excellent television series (and be prepared for possible spoilers). If you haven’t seen it – do it! NOW! (I would be surprised if you've found your way to this blog without having seen the series, though!). But even for an experienced fan, some of my musings might be slightly difficult to follow without a good overview of the different episodes.  I suggest having the IMdB-site easily available in another tab: And ideally, of course, you should watch the episodes while reading the blog posts!

Finally, I’d like to give you an impression of what I’ve actually been able to work out – my timeline/overview of Poirot’s life, based on the references by the script writers and my own guesswork. The complete and accurate chronology of episodes (with references) will be given later:

Hercule Poirot born (could be earlier or later, it depends on how old you want him to be!).

 “In context, Poirot seems to be a man in his late fifties or early sixties when he arrives in England and somewhere in his mid-eighties in Curtain, his last case.”
(Anne Hart’s excellent biography, published in 1997 – The Life and Times of Hercule Poirot, p.4).

But remember: this is based on the actual novels and short stories – NOT the TV series.

Personally, I think it's quite evident that the producers of the TV series have tried to correct the mistake Christie admitted to several times; that of having made Poirot too old in his first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. In fact, I believe the producers have envisioned him as probably around his mid-40s when he arrives in England and around his early 30s or late 20s in his case as a 'young' policeman (see later in the timeline), The Chocolate Box. In other words, Poirot would be in his late 50s or early 60s in his TV series heyday, 1936.

Of course, this is all wild speculation. But I have, nevertheless, not been able to locate a single piece of evidence to suggest that the TV series follows the same aging of the character as Christie does. Personally, I think this is a wise move.

Early 1900s:
Poirot is a ‘young’ police officer in the Belgian police force. He investigates The Chocolate Box.

ca. 1910-14:
Poirot becomes head of the police force in Belgium. He has to leave during ‘the Great War’.
“I also know what it’s like to come to a new country and to know no one (…). I was head of the police in Belgium. But then came the Great War. I was forced to leave. I came to England, to the village of Styles St. Mary. But it was a sad and painful time for me so far from my family and my home (…). I’ve had a good fortune, my talent it has been recognized. It is reported that I am the most famous detective in England”
Poirot to Countess Vera Rossakoff in The Double Clue.
Interestingly, Poirot does not mention having retired from the Belgian police force, only that he was 'head of the police'. This, I would argue, supports my theory that TV-Poirot is younger than Book-Poirot.

Poirot lives in Styles St. Mary as a Belgian refugee. He solves The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

ca. 1920-1932:
Poirot works as a private detective in London. It is necessary to imagine that he has had more cases than Christie actually wrote, since the episodes of the ITV series only (or mostly, in my opinion) take place in the 1930s.
 “Since I have a first-hand knowledge of most of his cases, it has been suggested to me that I select some of the most interesting and place them on record” (Hart 1997:159)

Hastings's introduction to the first collection of short stories, from Anne Hart's The Life and Times of Hercule Poirot.
Notice the word 'some' - Hastings has chosen specific cases out of a larger range of cases, enabling the possibility that TV-Poirot has had several cases in the early 1920s not recorded in the TV series chronology.

During this time period, I imagine Poirot sharing rooms with Hastings in the early years (as in the books), possibly in 14 Farraway Street. Then, in the late 20s (around 1928?), he and Hastings move into Whitehaven Mansions and he acquires his secretary, Miss Lemon.

Poirot’s absurd retirement to King’s Abbot and the vegetable marrows, possibly from June 1932 to May 1933. He solves The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (May 1933).

Poirot resumes his work as a private detective, with Hastings and Miss Lemon by his side.
Mid-1936: Hastings meets Bella Duveen while he and Poirot solve Murder on the Links. I imagine it to take some time (about six months?) until the couple move to their newly acquired ranch in the Argentine (see 'The Hastings Storyline').

Hastings has left for Argentina with Bella Duveen. Following Hercule Poirot's Christmas, Poirot decides to go travelling for about six months, visiting for instance Lord Boynton's archeological dig in Syria (Appointment with Death) and Nice (Mystery of the Blue Train). He has entered one of his temporary states of semi-retirement (see Anne Hart's biography) and consequently rents out his flat for these months and grants Miss Lemon paid leave. When in London, he stays at The Savoy or The Park Lane Hotel (see Five Little Pigs and Mystery of the Blue Train and Anne Hart's biography). In June, having accepted the irresistable Crale case, Poirot re-establishes himself in Whitehaven Mansions. The final boxes of Miss Lemon's filing system are returned by the beginning of Lord Edgware Dies

Poirot is now no longer a private detective, but a consulting detective, accepting cases only from friends and associates, and cases he finds particularly interesting, is charmed into or stumbles over. 

Around August 1937, Poirot moves out of his old flat and into a new one in the same building (ref. Cards on the Table). The building has been redecorated and restructured following significant structural alterations to the flats (ref. book version of (The Clocks). Miss Lemon, so distressed by the disarranged filing system (Lord Edgware Dies) puts together a mini-version of her system for Poirot's new office as a leaving present. She retires or quits. Consequently, Poirot acquires his manservant George (ref. Taken at the Flood). 1939 is as far as we can be certain the TV series has come in terms of chronology. (The rest of the timeline is based on my guesses as to where the series might go in its final adaptations.)
Poirot solves The Labours of Hercules. He retires for good. At some point he moves into Styles, which has now become a guest house.

Late 1940s or early 1950s:
Poirot solves Curtain at Styles Court. He dies.

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