I'm working my way through the Hercule Poirot novels. I've made it through more than half of them. With The Hollow I think I've stumbled across the point in which the author, Agatha Christie, has learned to hate Poirot. (I really need to read her autobiography for myself. She wrote and said a few colorful things about her most popular character, and not all of them are very nice.)
What I found most interesting about this particular Poirot novel is how completely superfluous he actually is. She developed the other characters very well, more than I've seen from her in other novels. Poirot makes almost a cameo appearance. The plot develops and everything seems to be happening around him as usual, but in reality that exactly what's going on – it's all happening around him. He doesn't seem to interact with the plot as he did in his earlier novels.
My two favorite characters are Lady Angkatell (Lucy) and Henrietta Savernake – Lucy's first cousin. Lucy is a delightful airhead who somehow seems, in her own vague way, to be a very good judge of character and is able, through her seeming ditsyness, to manipulate people when she feels it's necessary. Henrietta is an artist and, like Lucy, has a unique perspective on life. Though Lucy introduces Henrietta in the first chapter by talking about her, we first get to know her in the second chapter as she's working feverishly on a new sculture that has completely consumed her mind for days, and she is even jerked awake in the middle of the night wondering about it. She is also a good judge of character, but her character (no pun intended) is stronger, more straightforward. We learn that it's also not beneath her to manipulate when there's a good cause.
The cast of characters consult with Poirot, and Christie uses these conversations to delelop the plot. However, they could just as easily be talking with each other. In the end, Poirot doesn't bring about the solution to the problem; he simply witnesses it. He plays the part of the beneficent father figure. But, if one needs a sounding board for the thoughts going through their minds, it may as well be Christie's most popular detective as anybody else. And, there is very likely a very good reason for adding him to the story: money. I would imagine, though I have no evidence of this beyond the very-convincing circumstantial, that a Poirot novel sold more copies than a non-Poirot novel. So slap his name on the cover, by all means. He certainly does no harm, unless you happen to loathe him.
Another favorite character, who appears with Poirot from time to time, is Ariandne Oliver. She's in Cards on the Table, but she makes a much more colorful appearance in Mrs. McGinty's Dead. What I love about Ariadne is that she seems to be a caricature of Mrs. Christie herself. A flighty, nonsensical writer of mystery novels who talks a lot and has a comical affection for apples. She also hates her main character. My favorite quote from the book: "'How do I know?' said Mrs. Oliver crossly. 'How do I know why I ever thought of the revolting man? I must have been mad! Why a Finn when I know nothing about Finland? Why a vegetarian? Why all the idiotic manerisms he's got? These things just happen. You try something – and people seem to like it – and then you go on – and before you know where you are, you've got someone like that maddening Sven Hjerson tied to you for life. And people even write and say how fond you must be of him. Fond of him? If I met that bony, gangling, vegetable-eating Finn in real life I'd do a better murder than any I've ever invented.'"
Through Ariadne Oliver, Christie seems to be making fun of herself and her readers at the same time. (In Greek mythology Ariadne is the daughter of Minos who helps Theseus find his way out of the Labyrinth. Could there be a deeper reason for Christie's choosing this name?) And yet, ever-faithful to her readers, she continued writing his novels. He appears in The Hollow, which is more or less his 24th novel out of 35, which doesn't count the numerous short stories. Christie could, and did, write other things – though mysteries seem to be her strong point. Even then, she has other sleuths. But, she always came back to Poirot because that's what her fans wanted.
I'm enjoying experiencing the development of Poirot more than I expected to. I was never too fond of him in the first place, but at least I'm in agreement with the author on that point.
Thank you for your time.