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Agatha Christie - Her Detectives & Other Characters

In her two most famous detectives, Agatha Christie creates two very different personalities and characters.

On the one hand you have the Belgian retired detective, Hercule Poirot, who is very methodical and precise, and sometimes conceited in his powers of deduction, with a very high opinion of himself.

On the other, you have Miss Marple, a charming English lady, who melts into the background, observing and listening, and who uses similarities with people she knows to draw conclusions about the murders.

However they both have in common a mix of intelligence, tenacity and intuition…

To discover more, select an option from the menu below:


Hercule Poirot
Jane Marple
Captain Hastings
Harley Quin

  Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot visiting card

Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot

Hercule Poirot was a retired Belgian detective, with a wealth of knowledge from his time in the police force. He was therefore highly respected, and had close links with Scotland Yard. Poirot was logical, methodical and rational in his solving of the crimes. He inspired every confidence in the reader that he would uncover the identity of the murder and the circumstances of the death, and so you are willing to go along with him, trusting in his abilities.

Agatha Christie’s decision to make Hercule Poirot a Belgian was partly due to the presence in her district of a large number of Belgian refugees, but she also wanted a character in whom we could sympathise and empathise with. As Belgium was at the time occupied by Germans, she succeeded in ensuring both a certain degree of sympathy, as well as eccentricity when compared to his English counterparts.

Poirot was a meticulous character, extremely fastidious, liking everything to be straight, aligned, and in pairs, constantly rearranging things. Indeed this somewhat compulsive disorder actually helped him on occasion realise the solution to the crime.

Poirot believed that by the application of sanity, logic and method, the mystery could be solved. In Agatha Christie’s earlier novels, Poirot solved the crime methodically, relying heavily on the clues provided, as well as his logic. He often kept important details and deductions to himself, only merely hinting at them to the reader.

However as Hercule Poirot’s character developed through the novels, it is claimed that he relied less on a detailed examination of the clues and the crime scene, and focused more on an understanding of both the victim and the murderer, their circumstances and their psychology. Poirot’s methods of getting people to talk to him also changed, initially encouraging them to talk to him openly, and later hiding his identity or lying in the hope that people would let their guard down and reveal all.

However whilst Agatha Chrisite soon tired of Poirot, the public loved him. He appeared in 33 novels, 56 short stories and 1 play. Upon his death, Poirot was the only fictional character ever to have an obituary on the front page of the New York Times.

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Agatha Christie's Miss Jane Marple

Miss Jane Marple had a wealth of experience of people, how they behave and how they think. She lived in an English village, and being immersed within it, claimed that nothing could surprise her as she had seen it all. Miss Marple’s powers of deduction usually involved an element of intuition and a focus on the psychology of people – how she has seen others react in the same circumstances, or a feeling that they remind her of someone. She was a keen observer of human nature, and had a healthy interest in gossip.

The canny village spinster was one of Agatha Christie’s favourites, and arose it is believed because Agatha was bored of Poirot who had become “tiresome” to her. In Agatha’s autobiography, she admits that Miss Marple insinuated herself so quickly into her life that she hardly noticed her arrival.

Although there were only 12 Miss Marple books compared to Poirot’s 33, Agatha said that she can’t really remember how or why she selected a new character to act as sleuth. Miss Marple was partly based on the character, Caroline Sheppard, in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and partly on various friends of her grandmother “the sort of old lady who would have been rather like some of my grandmother’s Ealing cronies”.

Miss Marple was full of curiosity, a gossip, yet shrewd and intelligent. She was very polite and good mannered, yet with a keen sense of ruthlessness and high moral standards. Her shrewdness, intelligence and sense of intuition often meant that she was one step ahead of the both the police and the reader.

Acutely observant, Miss Marple often blended into the background sitting there with her knitting, yet hearing and observing everything and everyone. She also had a tremendous ability of lateral thinking, and a wealth of knowledge of human nature from her immersion in village life. Agatha Christie described her as fussy and spinsterish, but always expecting the worst of everyone and everything.

Miss Marple also had an openness and a disarming charm, which built trust and encouraged people to open up to her, even the police officers who often confided in her. She was therefore an integral part of the gossip network and used this to her advantage.

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Agatha Christie's Captain Hastings

Following the style of Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie decided in her first Poirot novels to include a sidekick for her detective – a Dr Watson to her Sherlock Holmes. She thought that two brains would be better than one, and that it would be useful to have someone for the detective to bounce his ideas off, as well as on occasions being his eyes and ears.

Captain Hastings was often the narrator of the Hercule Poirot story, and was privy to most of Poirot’s thoughts and ideas. However his slowness to see the significance of these, and his apparent lack of ability to think things through and therefore jump to fanciful conclusions, makes the reader feels one step ahead of him. He also often asked the questions of Poirot that the reader themselves are thinking.

Occasionally however Captain Hastings plays a more critical role; his observations were occasionally vital to Poirot solving the mystery; and his innocent suggestions of the blindingly obvious have also helped Hercule Poirot to catch the murderer.

Appearing in only 8 of the Poirot novels, Agatha Christie grew tired of him quickly, but found it difficult to disassociate him from Poirot in her writings.

Poirot’s later sidekicks included Ariadne Oliver, a mystery writer; Miss Limon, his secretary who could occasionally obtain a piece of information that only a woman could; as well as Inspector Japp himself, with his useful access to police files.

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Agatha Christies Harley Quin
The character of Harley Quin was one of Agatha Christie’s favourites. First appearing in a collection of short stories in 1930, The Mysterious Mr Quin, he appeared in a total of 14 short stories.

Both the character and name of Harley Quin are derived from the famous historical Harlequin clown. Quin appears and disappears without warning, and due to tricks of the light, his clothes often appear multi-coloured and bright, like those of the theatrical Harlequin figure.

Harley Quin’s stories have a supernatural and spiritual nature, combining the traditional mystery puzzle with a hint of magic and fairy tale. This magician-like detective and his elderly assistant, Mr Sattherwaite, focus on righting the wrongs of the law, resolving marital disputes, preventing tragic suicides and reuniting estranged lovers. Agatha described Quin in her autobiography as “a friend of lovers, and connected with death”.

Sattherwaite is an observer of people, preferring to remain on the sidelines when we first meet him. Quin helps focus Sattherwaite’s mind on the correct solution by asking key questions, about what was actually seen and heard, rather than what was assumed. Quin has been described as the catalyst or helper who enables Sattherwaite to solve the problem.

His supernatural style of resolving issues are in sharp contrast to the rational and thoughtful styles of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.


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