Two of the worlds most famous detectives — Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot — are here for a battle of “Who did it better?”
I love these two detectives. I’ve read every Holmes story, and I’m working my way through reading every Poirot. I have a deep love for both of these detectives, and don’t think I’ll ever tire of their stories, adaptations, or influence. BUT WHICH ONE IS A BETTER DETECTIVE?
The first Sherlock Holmes story came out in 1887, with Agatha Christie publishing her first Poirot novel about 30 years later in 1920.
Its no secret that Christie was influenced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in her detective novels. Both have the detective whose a little bit…different than most people, the sidekick who sometimes plays the narrator, and is used for the sake of explaining things to the reader, and both solve the crimes that no one else is able to solve (least of all those gosh darn incompetent officers at the Scotland Yard). Yup, Chief Inspector Japp and Detective Inspector Lestrade both work at the Scotland Yard! (maybe they go out for drinks after work complaining about the annoying local detectives)
But what are the differences between these two? And who is a better detective? Lets break it down:
1 CRIME SOLVING METHOD
These two could not be more different in how they solve crimes. Holmes is all about the clues. He was smart enough to deduce someone’s life story just from looking at them, picking up every tiny detail of their appearance. He uses these skills to get a feel for suspects and witnesses; and to pick up meaning behind the smallest and most inconsequential clues.
He also frequently uses science to back up his beliefs – using logic and skill to determine whodunnit.
Poirot on the other hand, dismisses clues and evidence as unnecessary. He uses psychology and people to solve crimes. From the way someone tilts their head when answering a questions, or the part of the story a potential suspect glossed over. He figures out people, what makes them tick, what their secrets are, who they are.
So I have to give my first point to Poirot. Figuring out whodunnit with nothing more than conversation, well-timed letters, and thinking seems a lot trickier than following clues and picking up on details
Holmes 0 – Poirot 1
Both of these detectives have a signature look – so who has *the look*?
Sherlock Holmes is easy to recognize – he tends to wear a long coat, a deerstalker hat, and smokes his pipe. He is also a master of disguise with a closet full of accessories to hide who he really is.
Poirot didn’t necessarily have a signature style, but he had a very certain appearance – a short man (about 5’4′), a perfectly egg shaped head, and a signature curly mustache. He didn’t often use disguises or wear a certain piece of clothing, but he was very recognizable by everyone whose encountered him.
This round goes too…Sherlock Holmes! He’s got a very specific look, and is the master of blending in or showing off whenever necessary. He’s the style king of detectives.
Holmes 1 – Poirot 1
3. QUIRKS AND PERSONAL BACKGROUND
Everybody has those little things that make them, them. But what are the distinguishable things about these guys?
For Holmes the easiest aspect of him to jump too is his drug use – mostly using cocaine and morphine. Other than his observation skills, I can’t think of any other weird things about him, there’s only the drugs.
Poirot likes organization and orders His books are arranged by height, his home is spotlessly clean, and he only eats perfectly sliced bread.
Conclusion: I’m assuming Poirot had some form of OCD…so putting a mental disorder against a drug addiction sounds weird…but I guess we’ll give the point to Poirot?
Holmes 1 – Poirot 2
4. CAN THE READER SOLVE THE CASE?
One of the biggest parts of these detectives stories is the “big reveal” aka the part at the end where Holmes or Poirot tell us what happened, whodunnit, and why. But how was is it for the reader to figure it out?
I’ve read every Holmes story, but not every Poirot story, so I’m not 100% sure on this one. But I will say I’ve sold more Holmes cases so far than any of Agatha Christie’s stories. I can usually pick up on some of the clues that Holmes offers, but with Poirot I end up with far fetched guesses. I can usually piece together the logic of who it is after the reveal, but very very rarely do I figure it out before.
Holmes 2 – Poirot 2
5. A BIG BAD
What does every great detective need? A mortal enemy!
For Holmes we have Moriarty, a criminal mastermind whose brilliance rivals Sherlock’s own. Surprisingly, Moriarty is only featured in two of the original stories, but has a much larger role in later stories. (Andrew Scott’s Moriarty in Sherlock is one of my all time favorites.
Poirot’s enemy is… nobody. Other than The Big Four where he is up against international espionage, there’s never really any sort of big villain.
So this round goes to Moriarty!…I mean Holmes
Holmes 3 – Poirot 2
6. SIDEKICKS AND THE SCOTLAND YARD
In addition to the big bad, every good detective needs a sidekick, used for explaining details to the reader, and a member of the police force to call upon/poke fun at.
Holmes is up first with….John Watson and Detective Inspector Lestrade.
Watson is the war vet with the inconsistent battle wound, and Lestrade is the nice detective who frequently clashes with Holmes’ brand of detective skills.
Poirot has Arthur Hastings and Chief Inspector Japp. Hastings has a fondness for auburn-haired women, he is also a war vet, and a little dimwitted. Like Lestrade, Japp is quick to clash and get irritated with Poirot, but also understands his usefulness and pushes him to solve the tougher cases.
I love Hastings and Japp, but you hear the name Hastings and you don’t immediately think anything else…
You hear Watson and you think Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, one does not exist without the other.
Holmes 4 – Poirot 2
7. MY FAVORITE STORY
Everyone has their favorite stories, and I’m sure my favorites are different than other peoples. But for the final round I’m going to put my favorite Holmes and my favorite Poirot story against each other.
For Holmes we have A Scandal in Bohemia. This is the story that involves the woman, aka Irene Adler. It’s such an amazing story and really tests Sherlock Holmes intelligence.
For Poirot we have The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. This is the most amazing story, featuring an elderly Poirot who proves his mind is as sharp as ever. Its a story with a twist you’ll never see coming and remains one of my favorite stories every.
Holmes 4 – Poirot 3
And the winner is….Sherlock Holmes!! By one point he wins the crown of all time best detective…
What do you think? Who is your favorite mystery detective?
1 thought on “Holmes vs Poirot: The Greatest Detective Showdown”
Amazing analysis. I like Holmes more as well