These made-for-TV movies are among the 41 murder mystery novels originally issued by PBS involving the proper, obsessive little Belgian inspector Hercule Poirot. The character of Poirot (played to perfection by David Suchet) was created by the famous British author Agatha Christie, who wrote her first Poirot novel in 1920 at the age of 30 and her last Poirot novel in 1975, 55 years later and a year before her death in 1976.
The Double Clue – 4 Stars (Excellent)
The dramatization of "The Double Clue" by Anthony Horowitz in 1991 strips something from the original novel written by Agatha Christie in 1923, but remains one of the best Hercule Poirot episodes ever.
Poirot (David Suchet) is called to investigate the theft of an irreplaceable piece of jewelry that occurred during a social gathering at the home of wealthy collector Marcus Hardman (David Lyon).
Only four guests are possible suspects-a millionaire who could buy the missing piece in a heartbeat; a middle-aged society lady who is on hard times; a young, effeminate agent for Hardman; and a Russian refugee, Countess Vera Rossakoff (Kika Markham).
Poirot's assistant-Captain Arthur Hastings (Huge Fraser) -and personal secretary-Miss Lemon (Pauline Moran) -pretty much make fools of themselves investigating the case while Poirot is smitten and spends all of his time with Countess Rossakoff. Both Hastings and Miss Lemon are visibly upset because the precise, orderly, rational, meticulous little Belgian detective is so out of character.
Even more upset is Chief Inspector Japp (Philip Jackson) whose job is on the line since there have been three recent thefts of precious jewelry and the thief is still at large. Japp is given only a couple of days to solve the case; he sees his livelihood slipping away as Poirot idles away his time with the Countess.
Miss Lemon is distraught. She has been in love with Hercule forever and Poirot never even notices her. Poirot finds the Countess to be the most extraordinary woman he has ever met, a brilliant thief who is the match of his brilliant mind. Will Poirot be able to experience an impulse and yet not act on it?
See how Poirot finds and returns the stolen goods only to have the thief escape into the night.
The Mystery of the Spanish Chest – 4 Stars (Excellent)
What chances will a husband take to validate his suspicion that his wife is cheating on him? Hecule Poirot, the master of psychology and human behavior, is almost killed in his quest to solve the murder of the suspect husband. The center of the wife's attention and her suspected lover is obviously implicated and arrested for the crime.
But Poirot can not find the answer to two key questions: Why would he kill the husband, put him in Spanish chest and leave the body there while conducting a party with several guests in the same room, knowing the body could be easily discovered? And if he did not do it, who did and why?
Poirot finds the answers to these questions far more difficult than successfully concealing an ongoing illicit affair. By pushing his gray cells a little harder, Poirot discovers a dastardly execution by a person with no conscience and no remorse.
The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor – 3 Stars (Good)
When a young, beautiful artist-Susan Maltravers (Geraldine Alexander) -marries a much older wealthy owner of a manor-Jonathan Maltravers (Ian McCulloch), could there be a hidden motive beside love? What if a love triangle developed? What if the death of a young girl on the same manor grounds years ago returned to haunt the young wife, driving her out of her mind?
These and other questions are put to rest when Hercule Poirot realizes the elder Maltravers did not succumb due to a recent operation, but rather from a cold-blooded execution. Poirot, however, does not have sufficient evidence to convict the murderer.
Because he is long on theory and short on evidence, Poirot concocts a really scary scene wherein the victim returns from death to confront his executioner.
Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley