In her autobiography, Dame Agatha Christie wrote this about her first detective novel:
At that date I was well steeped in the Sherlock Holmes tradition. So I considered detectives. Not like Sherlock Holmes, of course. I must invent one of my own, and he would also have a friend as a butt or a stooge -- that would not be too difficult.Captain Hastings, the narrator of the early Hercule Poirot stories, is very much in the Watson tradition -- except not nearly as intelligent or self-effacing as the good doctor.
In re-reading the early short story collection Poirot Investigates, I was strongly struck by the echoes of Sherlock Holmes. An excellent is example is the final story, "The Chocolate Box."
It opens with these lines: "It was a wild night. The wind howled malevolently, and the rain beat against the windows in great gusts." Many of the stories begin with domestic scenes reminiscent of Baker Street, but this not-so-cozy opening immediately evokes the third paragraph of "The Adventure of the Five Orange Pips."
That sets the stage, but the bulk of the story is Poirot telling Hastings about a case that happened when he was a young man without a biographer -- just like Holmes telling Watson about "The 'Gloria Scott'" and "The Musgrave Ritual."
At the end of the case, in which Poirot only learns the killer's identity because of a confession, Poirot tells Hastings to remember the case "and if you think any time that I might be growing conceited -- it is not likely, but it might arise . . . you shall say to me, 'Chocolate box.'"
Surely no Sherlockian could read that without thinking of the final words of "The Yellow Face," also a failure: "Watson, if it should ever strike you that I am getting a little over-confident in my powers, or giving less pains to a case than it deserves, kindly whisper 'Norbury' in my ear, and I shall be infinitely obliged to you."
Poirot Investigates was very early in a career that was to go on another half-century. By no means would anyone say that Agatha Christie's body of work was just Holmes rehashed. But the Great Detective was certainly an important influence on the Dutchess of Death.
What favorite detective of yours shows a Shelrockian influence?