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The ABC murders

Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot purists might well have been offended by this edgy, dark representation and John Malkovich’s portrayal of the Belgian detective but thank goodness writer Sarah Phelps stayed faithful to the plot line as it’s an intriguing mystery.

The normal Christie dramatisation of a country mansion, classic automobiles, British actors with youthful good looks in fair-isle sleeveless jumpers and a vain meticulously dapper Poirot were replaced by a Britain in 1933 where Mosley’s Movement was active and gaining support, gory violence and a sexual low life of perversion.

John Malkovich, as you would expect from an actor who named a film he starred in after himself Being John Malkavich, is not short in the vanity stakes but his Poirot is more grave resembling Sigmund Freud rather than David Suchet, hiding a dark secret troubling his deeper conscious and at odds with the young detective investigating a supposed serial killer selecting his victims by the alphabet of places from a railway time table.

The fact is Agatha Christie is an immensely clever crime writer.

This style of detective novel, the serial killer replicating crimes – but is he (?) – has been adapted the world over notably by the French writer – in fact a woman – Fred Vargas.

Quite recently I heard Harriet Gilbert advocate this novel on A Good Read for more conventional reasons as a period piece.

This production worked hard on its period detail in terms of location, attitudes and dress. It was therefore silly to pay lip service to contemporary PC with a black priest, an unlikely sight in the thirties. The test of all such programmes is whether you want to see the second and third. I could not stay with The Little Drummer Girl but I was determined to watch all three as broadcast and not later.

About Bernadette Angell

After cutting her journalistic teeth in Boston USA, Bernadette met and married an Englishman, whom she followed back to London. Two decades and three children later, they divorced. She now occupies herself as a freelance writer (credits include television soaps and radio plays) and occasional amateur gardener. More Posts