A couple of months ago, I was browsing the clearance bins at our local used media-and-junk superstore, and found a slimline case of the TV version of “Death on the Nile,” one of the seventy-odd episodes of Poirot that starred David Suchet and was made by a succession of ITV companies over a quarter-century run. I think it got separated from a box set, and it was only a dollar. Perhaps surprisingly, I had never looked into the series, because I don’t actually like the character or the books.
In much the same way that I once spent an insane amount of time that could have been better spent trying to like Star Trek, I once forced myself to enjoy Agatha Christie and couldn’t do it. All the ingredients should have been there. I tend to like between-the-wars British detective fiction, especially Sayers and Allingham, and I enjoyed the BBC’s adaptations of the Miss Marple stories with Joan Hickson. But the original Marples were mostly tedious, and Tommy and Tuppence more so, and Hercule Poirot worst of all. I read eight or nine Poirots, and even the mighty ABC Murders, which everybody said I was certain to love, left me cold. I did, however, notice and love the weird continuity between two of the novels and a creepy old lady asking questions about dead children behind a fireplace.
But I picked up that cheap “Death on the Nile” for two reasons. First, I’ve got mad respect for David Suchet for taking the reins and fighting like a tiger to make good on his dream to adapt every one of the Poirot adventures, because there are a lot of the darn things. And second, I truly enjoyed Suchet as the strange old landlord in “Knock Knock.” I think it’s a great story, set in a “freaky Scooby-Doo house,” with some terrific characters. Bill’s friend Shireen finds them four new housemates and they find a great big place where the rent’s cheap and everything goes wrong. Every twenty years, six young people go missing. The Doctor finds all their belongings. One of the tenants in 1977 had Bowie’s “Heroes” 45 with the picture sleeve. That tenant had far better taste in music than Bill.
Our son enjoyed it very much, particularly the scary sequences before we meet the little alien “lice” responsible for everything, and is going nuts with curiosity about who or what the Doctor is keeping in the vault underneath St. Luke’s. I told him that, in a break with tradition, he won’t have to wait until the end of episode eleven to find out.
Oh, and that “Death on the Nile” I picked up? I really enjoyed it, despite the incredibly unlikely plot, because David Suchet was so entertainingly fussy and mannered in it. It seems, for me, that Poirot is a character who demands to be seen onscreen rather than on the page. I might buy another one day.