In Agatha Christie's The Mystery of the Spanish Chest, Colonel Curtiss, a scar-faced murder suspect, makes an enormous error in personal diplomacy when he refers to Hercule Poirot as simply "a detective." "I am THE detective, Mr. Curtiss," Poirot promptly corrects him.
Indeed he is. One can assume Poirot (David Suchet) was on to Curtiss (John McEnery) before the man even knew he was matching wits with the legendary Belgian detective. Poirot soon reveals Curtiss to be the vicious culprit who deftly plunged a keen-edged blade through a tiny peephole in a trunk, penetrating the brain of the man hiding within and killing him instantly. Poirot has the good taste not to gloat as the police haul Curtiss away, cursing "that bloody little Belgian!"
A quick solution to a puzzling murder mystery is standard operating procdure for Poirot -- and so is his facile sense of humor. He may be vain and egocentric, but he's also extremely observant -- and one of the things he has observed over many, many years is the fact that he's the world's greatest detective. You have to expect a little egotism in one who knows he has no peer, n'est-ce pas? Fortunately, Poirot brags with such a disarming absence of guile that everyone ends up being charmed.
The preceding is an excerpt taken from the book,
MYSTERY!: A Celebration, by Ron Miller
(published by KQED Books).
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