Curtain - Agatha Christie

Underneath the quarrels,the misunderstandings, the apparent hostility of everyday life, a real and true affection can exist. Married life, I mused, as I went to bed, was a curious thing.

Curtain is a detective novel written by Agatha Christie, first published in 1975. It tells the story of the author’s beloved character, Hercule Poirot’s, final case before his death. Poirot’s best companion, Arthur Hastings, reunited once again with the brilliant detective at Styles - the first place they solve their first case together - to catch what Poirot describes as the perfect criminal. Poirot who’s now gotten old and needs a wheelchair and an asisstant to push him around everywhere asked Hastings to do the impossible task of helping him to catch the illusive criminal before someone got murdered.

This book is the author’s equivalent of Conan Doyle’s The Final Problem and the criminal that Poirot trying to catch in this case, named X, is probably meant to be the equivalent of Moriarty, the ultimate villain of Sherlock Holmes. There are a lot of parallels between X and Moriarty, mostly the enigmatic presence of their character and how they conduct their crimes in a perfect way possible, which is by not doing the crime themselves. That last trait alone makes them the perfect matchup against any detective characters that rely on evidences before conclusions. The only way to make it impossible to stop a detective from solving your crime is to remove yourself completely from the equation.

While this theory is great and Conan Doyle’s Moriarty is a perfect proof of that, I can’t say the same for the character X. Moriarty and X act in the same spirit, but they work differently under the hood. Different with Moriarty’s case, there is an extraordinary amount of disbeliefs that needs to be suspended to make the methods used by X even slightly believable. I don’t want to spoil anything but if you’ve read at least a half of the book, you’ll probably know what I mean. Overcoming this barrier is one major hurdle that was hindering me from enjoying this book to the fullest. It really undercuts the critical moment of his battle against Poirot and Hastings. How their true characters are truly tested and pushed to the edges against this ruthless and untouchable bad guy. This moment could’ve been perfect and awesome and X could’ve been as memorable as Moriarty and The Final Problem were if it was not for this problem.

Beside that major thing, however, the author did a great job, as always, of spreading her main plot into multiple branches of minor plots, fully aware of where her readers are at every turning of her story. Some minor plot twists are very predictable, but the major ones are really well-done.  The author kept the last pieces, until the very last pages of the book. Even in this last case, that feeling of “It’s so obvious. How did I not realize that?” is thankfully still presented well in this book.

Overall, I don’t think Curtain is a very good detective story mainly because of the unideal villain. But, it’s a great final chapter of the character Hercule Poirot. It highlights what makes the character as admired as it is and how by solving this last case we get to see another side of the character that we never see ever before.

Agatha Christie
First Published
June 7, 1975