The Timeless Allure of Hercule Poirot

Related story: What makes Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot such all-time favourites?

Between 1920 and 1975, Agatha Christie wrote 33 books starring Hercule Poirot, a mustachioed detective who uses the “little grey cells” in his brain to solve the most perplexing murders.

Each of the books has been adapted at least once into a TV series or film. Murder on the Orient Express has been adapted the most — five times, including a new release starring Kenneth Branagh.

The chart below shows how many times each of the books was adapted, and when.

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One of the reasons for the lasting appeal of Christie’s mysteries is how difficult it is, even for fans, to predict the identities of the killers.

Readers of Poirot never know whether the murderer will be a man or a woman – Poirot caught 28 men and 23 women – or indeed how many murderers there will be. Earlier Poirot stories, particularly those from the 1930’s, often featured multiple murderers and multiple victims.

Each circle represents a murderer or a victim. Earlier stories are on top; later ones are on bottom. Hover or tap on a circle for more information.

Poirot stories, as well as other Christie mysteries, have also remained popular because the murders are so clever that only a truly brilliant detective could solve them.

Christie, who volunteered as a nurse during the Great War and was an apothecary’s assistant by the end of it, used her vast knowledge of poisons to fashion many of her plots. In 17 of the 33 Poirot novels, poison was used as part of a murder (sometimes Christie’s killers used more than one murder weapon to throw would-be sleuths off their scent).

Poirot murderers prefer poison
Number of times each method of murder was used in all 33 Poirot novels

Christie’s books may have lost some of their appeal for younger readers, but the movies will continue to be popular, said Vaibhav Parel, assistant professor at Hansraj College, Delhi University, who teaches The Murder of Roger Ackroyd to literature students.

“The movies undoubtedly will draw crowds because people are always interested in seeing newer versions of a familiar story,” Parel said. “Moreover, everyone would want to see how Branagh plays Poirot.”