Can Series Characters Get in the Way?

In An Appointment With Death, Hercule Poirot is on vacation in Jordan. He is called into a case involving the death of a woman in the historic city of Petra.

This sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? Christie’s sleuth on the case.

Unfortunately, in the actual narration of the story, Poirot shows up just in time to overhear two conversations at the hotel. Other than those two encounters and the testimonials given at the end, he’s not involved in the storyline at all. The whole story centers around the dead woman, her abused adult children, a woman doctor who falls in love with one of the lady’s kids, and how they all interact. It’s a fascinating scenario….

But I wondered throughout if Poirot was needed?

He had nothing to do with anything except to overhear two key pieces of information. Then everyone else presents their testimony in the last few chapters and voila! The murderer is unmasked and sent off for justice.

There were other police officers who could just have easily figured out the situation. The characters involved in the murder could have sorted it out amongst themselves. There’s an almost infinite array of options, and yet it fell to Poirot. Which I understand, because a lot of people like the guy. Heck, I like the guy. I think he’s amusing and sharp and entertaining. But in this particular book, I felt like he was an unnecessary piece – just thrown in because readers would expect Poirot or Marple to be participating in some kind of investigation.

But Christie wrote books without either Poirot or Marple. (And Then There Were None being one of the most legendary of her career, as a matter of fact.) So why Poirot?

I have no answers. Only questions today, it seems. Have you guys read any series where you wondered what exactly the lead series character was doing in a particular story? Seems that it would pop in more in cozy series – after all, caterers and knitting clubs shouldn’t be involved in the first place, right?


One response to “Can Series Characters Get in the Way?”

  1. Deniz Bevan Avatar

    Hmm, I never thought about it that way – let me go reread the book… 🙂

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