*** Warning. This post assumes you know the plot of at least two Hercule Poirot novels and have seen the recent adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express. I may unintentionally spoiler you. ***
There are many minor annoyances in Branagh’s Murder in the Orient Express. Johnny Depp’s mumbling. Penelope Cruz’s chronic miscasting. The under-use of Willem Dafoe. Above and beyond all else for me is the opening scenes.
***I did warn you. I am literally going to describe the start of the film at this point***
Let us not dwell on the fact we are in Jerusalem when the novel starts in Syria (then Istanbul). Let us also not become embroiled in the fact that there is a public solution of a crime when, in the book, M. Poirot has skillfully and silently resolved an embarrassing issue. Let us instead consider the two boiled eggs.
Two boiled eggs. A boy is dispatched through the streets to provide two eggs, which must be boiled to his exact specifications and match in size. Poirot has a ruler. If these eggs do not match his standards they will be rejected. This is, apparently, to demonstrate the character of our detective. He is fussy, he is exacting, he likes his “order and method”. Some readers suggest he has a form of OCD (I don’t accept this). He is, in fact, a bloody nuisance.
Me, at the cinema: “Where have these boiled eggs come from?”
Me, last week when I rewatched the film on TV: “I’d forgotten about those boiled eggs.”
At this point I am sufficiently irritated that I mention it to a friend and I also listen again to an abridged audiobook I have. No mention of the boiled eggs. I let it go.
Then at the weekend I watch the two-part ITV adaptation of Peril At End House. I rather like this novel and I had just finished listening to a radio adaptation of it. Half an hour before the end of the TV show Poirot is at breakfast, “I cannot eat these eggs, they are of totally different sizes.”
I google “Hercule Poirot eggs” and “Hercule Poirot breakfast”. I know, because I have seen it enough times on TV, that his breakfast is eggs and toast cut into squares, the toast with jam on. He drinks tisane and cocoa or black coffee. He’s an aesthete, however, and appreciates good food and drink, presentation and taste. Link after link comes back with Poirot eating identical eggs. Where has this come from?
I dig a little further. According to the internet, in 1936 Christie wrote a letter to her US publishers, as Poirot,”For my breakfast, I have only toast which is cut into neat little squares. The eggs – there must be two – they must be identical in size.”
Ok, so is it in the books? Here I have a problem because I gave away my Christie collection in the 90’s. No, I don’t know why. At the time I thought I wouldn’t read them again. I have been building up my collection again on Kindle when they are on offer and I wasn’t against spending small amounts to get selected books.
First, Murder on the Orient Express. Eggs are ordered, but not by Poirot. At this point Poirot is in transit and so has little interest in the ritual of breakfast I think.
Next, Peril at End House. Poirot calls attention to his habits and directs Nick to, “ask my friend Hastings here.”
“I detailed some of Poirot’s minor peculiarities – toast that had to be made from a square loaf – eggs matching in size”
There it is! This line in the book is turned into a breakfast scene on TV.
I go through the Mysterious Affair at Styles, Murder on the Links and Poirot Investigates. No eggs.
The internet search has thrown up another egg quote, a request to Pierre Michel in a TV adaptation. As far as I can tell this is a train conductor. I’ve already discounted the Orient Express so I take a look at The Mystery of the Blue Train. No eggs.
Enough! I am at risk of spending far too much time and money looking for eggs, it will end with me building little card houses while listening to audio books. I accept that the eggs are canon. I do not accept that my Poirot would reject eggs constantly not of matching size. Now excuse me while I read Murder on the Orient Express again.