“Why, why, why did I ever invent this detestable, bombastic, tiresome little creature?” Agatha Christie wrote in 1938 about her most famous character.
Finickety, maddeningly vain, pompous at times and always arrogant you can see what she meant about the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.
But he is also brilliant, kind, loyal and always gets his man, woman or butler in the 33 novels and 54 short stories he appears in.
Surely reason enough for him to be one of the most loved personalities in fiction and also on television.
Actors such as Peter Ustinov and Albert Finney have filled his shiny spats in the past but for modern viewers there is only one Poirot: David Suchet who has played the character for 25 years in ITV’s brilliant adaptations.
But soon it will be all over. Tonight ITV shows the last ever Suchet Poirot, in Curtain, the ‘tec’s last case.
Spoilers prevent me from telling you the outcome of this story (any Christie fan worth their salt will know, however). Suffice it to say that Curtain is set years after the last films and Poirot spends most of the mystery confined to a wheelchair.
And we know Suchet will make no more Poirots after that (leaving aside the vague possibility of a big-screen outing) meaning that we will only see his brilliantly rendered performances in ITV3 repeats.
Suchet was – is! – a brilliant Poirot, a character allegedly inspired by some of the Belgian emigrés Christie met after the First World War. Brilliant, profoundly complicated, Suchet captured – captures! – all these maddening qualities but with a captivatingly warm and generous humanity.
He is a Christie expert, having read those books he has adapted three or four times. Such is his attention to detail that directors are sometimes loathe to give him notes.
Off set, apparently Suchet is renowned for offering lavish hospitality to all his guest stars – meaning that a high calibre of folk are always appearing, some even playing relatively minor roles such as chambermaids.
“What endears me to him is his endless love of people,” Suchet has said of the role he has nurtured lovingly for a quarter of a century.
And we love him back. For millions, when he goes, the curtain will be brought down on a great era of British telly.