Cat Among the Pigeons was one of the first detective stories that I read. I liked it a lot the first time round, but later I realised that it was a long way short of Dame Agatha at her best. The plot is rather cluttered, and Mark Gatiss, who wrote the screenplay for Agatha Christie’s Poirot, addressed that by making a number of pretty radical changes to the story. By and large, however, they worked, and the result was very watchable.
One change sees Poirot in at Meadowbank School from the outset. The soon-to-retire head teacher (a suitably imperious Harriet Walter) has invited him to make a speech, but then asks him to stay on at the school to assess the quality of the potential candidates to succeed her. Not very likely, but a device to allow Poirot to dominate proceedings from start to finish, and in story-telling terms, this was a good idea.
Mrs Upjohn (played by Pippa Haywood, who I used to like in The Brittas Empire, and who seems destined to be typecast as a scatty woman) recognises someone at the school who is supposed to have died years ago – but nobody follows up on this tantalising remark, and she promptly takes herself off to Anatolia. A sequence of murders and other crimes duly ensue.
The cast includes Claire Skinner (best known as the harassed mum in Outnumbered), but inevitably David Suchet turns in the most memorable performance, somehow convincing us that Poirot would be completely at ease in the (to him) wholly alien surroundings of Meadowbank. Overall, I’d say this is one of those Poirots where the television version is on a par with the book which sourced it.