February 19, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favourite Characters In Crime Fiction

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is about our favourite characters in X genre. As I mentioned in my post about the Top Ten Settings Id Like To See More Of, Im a big fan of good crime fiction in general and Agatha Christie in particular. I own 77 out of ca. 100 books written by AC; and, Ive read ALL of them. What is more, Ive read each of her books more than once. To put it simply, I am obsessed with AC. Hence, I thought it would be a good idea to dedicate this post to those characters developed by her whom I love the most. So, here are my Top Ten Favourite Characters in Crime Fiction:

This post may contain spoiler; so, do not read on unless you want to!

1. Monsieur Hercule Poirot
David Suchet as Hercule Poirot in The Murder on the Orient Express (2010)
Captain Hastings, Hercule Poirot’s loyal friend and ally, describes the great detective in the first novel in which they appear together, i.e. The Mysterious Affair at Styles, as follows:
He was hardly more than five feet four inches but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His moustache was very stiff and military. Even if everything on his face was covered, the tips of moustache and the pink-tipped nose would be visible. The neatness of his attire was almost incredible; I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound. (The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Chapter 2)
Hercule Poirot is a character with which I have much in common. We both love good food (especially chocolate and French cuisine), symmetry, and tidiness, and we are both little perfectionists. And of course, we both like to use our “little grey cells.” Certainly, there might be many people who do not consider these character traits attractive, but it is due to those that I believe that Poirot and I would get on well with one another in real life. :-) So, I cannot help but love this little Belgian sleuth.

2. Miss Jane Marple
Joan Hickson as Miss Marple in A Caribbean Mystery (1989)
Miss Marple is one of those characters that everybody believes to be stupid because of her outward appearance. In A Murder Is Announced, Agatha Christie describes her character thus:
Miss Jane Marple was very nearly, if not quite, as Craddock had pictured her. She was far more benignant than he had imagined and a good deal older. She seemed indeed very old. She had snow-white hair and a pink crinkled face and very soft innocent blue eyes, and she was heavily enmeshed in fleecy wool. Wool round her shoulders in the form of a lacy cape and wool that she was knitting and which turned out to be a baby’s shawl. (A Murder Is Announced, Chapter 8)
Yet, despite being old and knitting everywhere and at any (im)possible time, Miss Marple is anything but innocent. Quite the contrary, as we learn in the Murder at the Vicarage, she is in fact “dangerous”. That is to say, nothing escapes her attention and there’s no murderer who will sleep well, however perfect the murder he/she committed may seem, if Miss Marple is in charge of the case.

3. Lucy Eylesbarrow
Amanda Holden as Lucy Eyelesbarrow in 4.50 from Paddington (2004)
Lucy Eyelesbarrow is probably my all-time favourite character in Agatha Christie. She is a thirty-two year old genius (she earned a degree in mathematics at Oxford with honours, for Pete’s sake!) who, however, refrains from pursuing an academic career. Why? It’s because she is brilliant enough to know that “a life of academic distinction was singularly ill rewarded.” But, Lucy Eyelesbarrow loves financial stability and she is also a clever businesswoman who sees that there’s always a great demand for good household employees. Thus, she enters the field of domestic labour and, as Agatha Christie tells us, she is being successful.
Her success was immediate and assured. By now, after a lapse of some years, she was known all over the British Isles. It was quite customary for wives to say joyfully to husbands, “It will be all right. I can go with you to the States. I’ve got Lucy Eyelesbarrow!” (4:50 from Paddington, Chapter 4)
Lucy appears in the above-cited novel only, as the ally of Miss Marple. It is Lucy who searches for and finds the missing body. Besides doing this she doesn’t play a huge role in the solving of the crime puzzle, because, as good fortune would have it, she is busy with sorting out her love life. . . And, whom she will marry in the end? Only Miss Marple knows, but I want to believe that the clever man who is so afraid of this smart woman will be the winner!

4. & 5. Tuppence and Tommy Beresford
Francesca Annis & James Warwick as Tuppence & Tommy Beresford
in Partners in Crime (1983–84)
Tuppence and Tommy Beresford are probably less known characters of Agatha Christie, which is a shame in my opinion, because they truly are loveable. Regrettably, they appear only in five novels—namely, The Secret Adversary, Partners in Crime, N or M?, By the Pricking of My Thumbs, and Postern of Fate.

They make their first appearance in The Secret Adversary, in which they’re young and restless, and unmarried yet. This is how Agatha Christie introduces them:
Tommy sat down opposite her. His bared head revealed a shock of exquisitely slicked-back red hair. His face was pleasantly ugly - nondescript, yet unmistakably the face of a gentleman and a sportsman. His brown suit was well cut, but perilously near the end of its tether. 
They were an essentially modern-looking couple as they sat there. Tuppence had no claim to beauty, but there was character and charm in the elfin lines of her little face, with its determined chin and large, wide-apart grey eyes that looked mistily out from under straight, black brows. She wore a small bright green toque over her black bobbed hair, and her extremely short and rather shabby skirt revealed a pair of uncommonly dainty ankles. Her appearance presented a valiant attempt at smartness. (The Secret Adversary, Chapter 1)
By the end of the last novel in that they appear, i.e. Postern of Fate, they’re two pensioners who have been happily married for ages and have raised three children. But, there’s something that has never changed during all those years: they’re still passionate about solving mysteries. And, they’re really good at it. Although, to me it seems Tuppence is slightly more talented, a bit cleverer... But, they are a really strong, unbeatable team who have solved together many difficult cases.

6. & 7. Lady Eileen Brent (Bundle) and Bill Eversleigh
Cheryl Campbell & Christopher Scoular as Bundle & Bill
in Seven Dials Mystery (1981)
So, who do you think was the first “it girl” ever? I will tell you. It was Lady Eileen Brent alias Bundle, one of my favourite female characters by AC. Have you never heard of her? Big mistake! Serious mistake! It could have been you whom Bill Eversleigh, Bundle’s companion, had scolded thus:
“I wish we’d got Bundle here,” murmured Bill. “You know her, don’t you, Jimmy? Oh, you’d like her. She’s a splendid girl—a real good sport—and mind you, she’s got brains too. You know her, Ronny?”
Ronny shook his head.
“Don’t know Bundle? Where have you been vegetating? She’s simply it.” (The Seven Dials Mystery, Chapter 1)
Bundle, Lord Caterham’s eldest daughter, is “tall, slim, and dark with an attractive boyish face, and a very determined manner” (The Secret of Chimneys, Chapter 10). But what is more, she is a very clever and brave woman who plays a major part in solving the “mystery of the seven dials.”

Her faithful companion is Mr Bill Eversleigh, a Foreign Office official, who is “a very likeable young man,” and has “a pleasantly ugly face, a splendid set of white teeth and a pair of honest brown eyes” (The Secret of Chimneys, Chapter 4). Even though Agatha Christie introduces her characters in The Secret of Chimneys already, Bundle and Billy have only a walk-on part in that novel. By contrast, in The Seven Dials mystery it is Bundle and Bill who are in charge of the case, and in this novel also their love story comes to a climax. . .

8. & 9. Lady Frances Derwent (Frankie) and Bobby Jones
Francesca Annis & James Warwick as Frankie & Bobby
in Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (1983–84)
Frankie and Bobby are the third on the list of lovebirds and “partners in crime” and I adore them just as much as the previous two. Regrettably, they make only one appearance, namely in Why Didn't They Ask Evans?. Even though I’m no expert of literary genres and styles, I’m almost sure that this novel, like the above-mentioned Chimneys novels, owes its inspiration to the writings of P.G. Wodehouse. Also the characters bear much similarities. Frankie is very similar to Bundle in that she is a Lady, she is not breathtakingly beauty, she doesn’t mind to mix with boys from the “lower” class, and she is clever.

Her love interest and co-detective, Bobby Jones is not the famous American golfer but, as Christie informs us at the very beginning of her novel, “merely the fourth son of the Vicar of Marchbolt.” And Bobby is, like Bill Eversleigh, neither the most handsome nor the smartest boy of the town. Agatha Christie introduces Bobby us thus:
He was an amiable-looking young man of about eight and twenty. His best friend could not have said that he was handsome, but his face was an eminently likeable one, and his eyes had the honest brown friendliness of a dog’s. (Why Didn't They Ask Evans?, Chapter 1).
So, Bobby too is a very loveable young man and what woman could withstand the charms of a man who is as faithful as a dog?

10. Mrs Ariadne Oliver
Zoë Wanamaker as Ariadne Oliver in Cards on the Table (2006)
Finally, there’s Mrs Ariadne Oliver who is a very funny character that sometimes joins Monsieur Poirot or other investigators to “help” them to solve a case. She appears in seven novels—namely, Cards on the Table, Mrs McGinty’s Dead, Dead Man’s Folly, The Pale Horse, Third Girl, Hallowe’en Party, and Elephants Can Remember. Admittedly, she is not very good at solving crime cases, even though she is a writer of crime fiction. Her most famous character is Sven Hjerson who is a Finnish detective. So, as you might have guessed by now, Ariadne seems to be Agatha Christie’s literary self. And, as I indicated above, Agatha Christie developed many a strong female characters, which implies that she believes that women have a unique talent for discovering the truth. The same is true, of course, to her literary alter ego, Ariadne Oliver, as the following excerpt from the Cards on the Table shows:
Mrs Ariadne Oliver was extremely well known as one of the foremost writers of detective and other sensational stories. ... She was also a hot-headed feminist and when any murder of importance was occupying space in the press there was sure to be an interview with Mrs Oliver, and it was mentioned that Mrs Oliver had said, “Now if a woman were the head of Scotland Yard!” She was an earnest believer in woman’s intuition. For the rest she was an agreeable woman of middle age, handsome in a rather untidy fashion, with fine eyes, substantial shoulders, and a large quantity of rebellious grey hair with which she was continually experimenting. (Cards on the Table, Chapter 2)
So these are my favourite characters in crime fiction. Do you love good whodunits? Who are your favourite authors in this genre? Are you an AC fan? Or, are you rather an Arthur Conan Doyle addict?

13 comments:

  1. I am absolutely an Agatha Christie fan, so this list made me grin. Wonderful!

    My other favorite would be Rex Stout. Nero Wolfe is fascinating.

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    1. Dear Cindy! Thanks for stopping by and commenting! And, I'm happy that my post made you smile! I will definitely check out Nero Wolfe. I've never heard about it, but now I'm intrigued. Thanks!

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  2. Love your post and enjoyed reading your selections. I love crime fiction, too, although I haven't read a lot of Christi. (I know....) I enjoy a bit of Doyle, too, but I guess one of my faves is Poe. Different.

    That said, I may have to take a second look at Dame Agatha as I am intrigued. I appreciate the work you put into this post. Thanks!

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    1. Dear Vikk! Big thanks for appreciating my work! Sometimes I really have the feeling that nobody cares what I'm writing; hence, I'm glad when I hear that someone does... Poe is one of your favourites, really? I have been thinking of reading something by him for a long time, because I know that he was the "grandfather" of crime fiction. But, I have no idea where to start. Can you recommend something to me? Which book did you find the best?

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  3. Great list! I'm a big fan of Christie, too, and have read almost all her books, many of them more than once and some of them more than twice. If I had to come up with a Christie favorites list, it would include almost everyone on your list.

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    1. Dear Lark! Thanks for stopping by and I'm so happy that we are of the same mind about AC's characters! I simply love it to have kindred spirits around me!

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  4. I really like your Top Ten post :) When I was younger, I used to read a lot of A. Christie (should pick up that habit again maybe), also Sherlock Holmes, and my particular favourite was the courthouse mastermind Perry Mason (Erle Stanley Gardner). Right now I'm really craving to try some Donna Leon's crime books.

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    1. Dear Riv! Thanks for stopping by! Oh yeah, I've seen some Perry Mason movies and have often been thinking that I should read the books. Now, I have one more reason to do so. Thanks! And, I clearly must check out Donna Leon, if you're so enthusiastic!

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  5. Wonderful post. I'm still collecting my Christie's and haven't read all I own. You have given me a push in that direction.

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    1. Dear Donna! Thanks for stopping by, and I'm happy that we are kindred spirits as regards our love for crime fiction. And I'm especially happy that my post inspired you to read more AC!

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    1. I have been reading Agatha Christie for 45 years. Have read them all at least 5 times. Still enjoy reading them. Recentky after a Christie break of about 7 years I started rereading. Every bit as captivating as they were the first time I read them as a teenager.

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