O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock
The meat it feeds on. That cuckold lives in bliss,
Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger:
But O, what damnèd minutes tells he o’er
Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves!
Othello: O misery! Othello Act 3, scene 3, 165–171
Agatha Christie’s carefully planned Poirot’s swan song – Curtain was written nearly 30 years ago before it appeared. Christie planned quite a few intriguing aspects – the scene is Styles where Poirot made his debut à la ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’, Poirot is reunited with his ol’ companion Captain Hastings who continues to endear us with his Watsonian performance, Poirot appears enfeebled and indeed it is claimed that he can no longer walk and the story does mark the onset of senescence and decay in his long and illustrious career.
The storyline is a crafty one and the dénouement rivals Christie’s popular affairs such ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’, ‘Death on the Nile’, ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ to name a few. Poirot makes it intriguing from inception – Captain Hastings arrives to meet his old friend after a long time and is shocked to learn from Poirot that a sinister murderer is present at Styles – now converted into a boarding house run by the Luttrells. And his methods are most unusual – he doesn’t sully his hands and his machinations ensure that the smoking gun is in the hands of a person who has himself fallen prey to being manipulated psychologically by the master criminal.
Indeed the final villain has to be someone special and Christie has decided to play the game on the psychological level. As usual there is a roomful of characters with sordid pasts and violent temperaments. Christie spices it up by including Judith, Captain Hastings’ youngest daughter, who has fallen in love with the married man Dr. Franklin and who is also being wooed by the shady womanizer, Major Allerton. Christie alludes to Iago in Othello to give us a clue about the murderer – envy has driven him to meddle into other’s affairs and he draws a vicarious pleasure by spoiling their happiness.
Things are action packed – Mrs. Luttrell is accidentally shot at by her husband who is doing some rabbit hunting on the grounds, Captain Hastings is concerned about Judith falling prey to Major Allerton & plans to poison him and finally Mrs. Franklin dies of poisoning and it is concluded to be suicide as she had poor health. The incidents are not happenstance – indeed a clever mind is at work orchestrating the affairs. So it is showtime and Poirot steps in to have the final fight with the protagonist.
Poirot manages to put an end to the mischief-maker and sadly passes away due to a heart attack. Captain Hastings is left some clues by Poirot to understand what had transpired – he makes a muddle of it as usual. After a few months post Poirot’s death, the manuscript detailing the affairs reaches Captain Hastings through Poirot’s lawyers.
Poirot is supremely confident that Hastings would not be able to solve the riddle. Indeed such is the case and it leads to the final scene where Poirot shares the plot. It is unexpected and lifts our spirits to know that Poirot was never quite infirm and took all of us for a ride till the end. A distinguished career draws to an end – this was exploited well by the Poirot series featuring David Suchet. The final episodes had a build up for the finale – we saw Poirot in moments of loneliness, regrets for having traded adventure over the more pleasant life of matrimony, his moral qualms and of course the sign of things have to finally end. Au revoir Poirot – Curtain has been drawn in a fitting manner of your long career.