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British actor David Suchet

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Christopher Stevens // Daily Mail

Morse. Holmes. Miss Marple. Television’s most revered characters are the detectives, super-perceptive beings whose moral strength defends us against evil and chaos. Detectives are the gods of the TV age.

And of all the gods, David Suchet, an obsessive perfectionist, plays the supreme intelligence: Hercule Poirot.

This week sees the little Belgian detective’s final case, Curtain. Suchet, 67, has peeled off the waxed moustache and hung up the cane. We will miss him — but for the highly strung star, who inhabits his roles so intensely that friends in the past have feared for his sanity, the death of Poirot could be shattering.

Though he has been played by many fine actors — Albert Finney, Peter Ustinov and Alfred Molina among them — Poirot was once a lesser deity, a minor idol whose eccentricities were good for a giggle.

His absurd accent, his popinjay manner, his fastidious attire made him a comic caricature.

In the colour TV era, viewers wanted detectives who drank real ale and swigged whisky; Poirot sipped from a thimble-glass of sweetly foul red liqueur called crème de cassis.

He first appeared in 1920, and over the next half-century, in a series of more than 30 novels and dozens of short stories, he made his creator, Agatha Christie, the most successful writer alive.

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