When Sleuths Take Flight ;-)

when-sleuths-take-flightAs this is posted, it’s 113 years since Wilbur and Orville Wright conducted the first sustained flight of a motor aircraft. Since that time, flight has changed dramatically. Of course, modern air travel has lots of inconveniences, and I’m sure all of you have your own airline ‘horror stories.’ I know I do.

It’s all got me to thinking. At this time of year, many people travel by air, whether it’s to visit friends and family, or to get away for a holiday. Fictional sleuths are no different, if you think about it. So, what would it be like if some of our most famous fictional sleuths took to the air on a modern flight? If you’ll ask your disbelief to go get some snacks and an airport book for the trip, let’s talk about…


When Sleuths Take Flight


I. Miss Marple (Agatha Christie)


Miss Marple approaches the security checkpoint. She is carrying a handbag and a tote bag that contains her knitting and a book.

First Security Officer: Boarding pass and ID, please.
Miss Marple (After fumbling for a moment in her purse for her boarding pass): Here you are.

The security officer glances at the documents and then briefly at Miss Marple. Then, the officer nods and waves a hand towards the conveyer belts. Miss Marple approaches the belt and places her things on the belt as she walks through the metal detector.

Second Security Officer (Holding up Miss Marple’s tote bag): Whose is this bag?
Miss Marple; Why, that’s mine. She steps over to retrieve it, but the security officer holds up a hand to stop her.
Second Security Officer: I’m afraid you can’t take this on board, Madam.
Miss Marple: Whyever not?
Second Security Officer: It’s the knitting needles, Madam. They’re forbidden on the aircraft. You may check them if you wish.
Miss Marple: But then I shall have to go down two floors, through the security checkpoint again, and then quite probably miss my flight.
Second Security Officer: I’m sorry, Madam, but that’s the rule. No knitting needles on board.
Miss Marple (Leaning closer and looking somewhat sorrowful): You know, it would be a real shame, wouldn’t it, if I couldn’t finish this jumper that I’m knitting. It’s a Christmas present, you see. And (drops her voice even lower as her eyes become much shrewder), you wouldn’t want me to mention to your superiors that I saw that open flask in your pocket, would you? She smiles and reaches out for the tote. The security officer hands it back to her wordlessly. She straightens up and, with great dignity, goes on towards the gate. 


II.Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)


Holmes and Dr. Watson are seated on a plane. Watson glances around; Holmes is reading a scholarly paper on bloodstain analysis.

Watson:  Quite a nice pair of seats we have, Holmes, wouldn’t you say?
Holmes (Without looking up): I daresay they are comfortable, but the airline has certainly seen better financial days. These seat covers have been repaired at least three times, rather than being replaced. And you’ll note that the overhead compartments are made of a plastic that was last manufactured eight years ago. A solvent airline would replace them with a more modern plastic.
Watson (Now looking out of the window): Holmes! Look here! You can see the entire region!
Holmes: (Glances past Watson’s shoulder at the view from the window). Yes, we are approximately five miles from Ramsgate, heading south. You will observe the way the traces of the Wealdon Dome become quite obvious at this point. He turns back to his paper. Watson snaps down the window shade and, shaking his head, picks up his book.


III. Nero Wolfe (Rex Stout)


Wolfe and Archie Goodwin are sitting in the First Class cabin. Wolfe looks around peevishly, and shifts in his seat.

Wolfe: Confound it, Archie! I cannot possibly be expected to be comfortable in this seat! It was obviously designed for a malnourished ten-year-old street urchin!
Goodwin (Looking pointedly at Wolfe’s bulk): I’m not having any problems. Besides, I figured you were gonna gripe about it, so I got you two seats.
Wolfe: Two!? Preposterous! You see, Archie? This is why I object so strenuously to any kind of travel. There is simply no room to sit. And what will happen when this infernal contraption begins to move?
Goodwin (Shrugs): Best way to get where we’re going. The client lives in Miami. And he’s rolling in it. We want the dough, we go there. Besides, you haven’t wanted to throw a Christmas party in a few years. Might’s well go where it’s warmer.
Wolfe: Hmmph. He tries again to settle into his seat. For a few moments, there’s silence. Archie stretches his legs, slips his fedora over his eyes, and tries to sleep. Meanwhile, Wolfe is looking at the menu card. Then he mutters, grudgingly.  Well, at least there’s to be a real meal. Medallions of lamb, baby potatoes, yes, it might be all right. Archie pretends not to hear his boss, but smiles a little.

An hour later….

Archie straightens up and pushes back his fedora. He and Wolfe are getting ready to eat. A flight attendant brings them utensils. Wolfe looks askance at his.

Wolfe: Archie, this isn’t genuine silver.
Goodwin: So? It does the job. Better than what you get at a greasy spoon. He looks up as the attendant returns, this time with covered food dishes. The attendant places some dishes in front of each man and invites them to enjoy their meals. Wolfe suspiciously lifts the lid off his dish.
Wolfe: I don’t like the smell of this, Archie. Not at all. It certainly doesn’t smell like proper medallions of lamb.
Goodwin (already starting to eat his own meal): It’s OK. Give it a try.
Wolfe raises an eyebrow, but slowly picks up his fork and takes a cautious bite. Immediately he winces and drops the fork. He then lets out a stream of incoherent Serbo-Croatian invective. The flight attendant rushes up.

Flight attendant: Is something wrong, sir?
Goodwin: Nah, I think he just bit his tongue a little. He starts to grin as he turns his attention back to his meal.


IV. Kurt Wallander (Henning Mankell)

Wallander is sitting morosely in his Economy Class seat. He is on the aisle. The passenger to his left is wearing a red cap decorated with a pom-pom and sparkles. She turns to Wallander.

Passenger: Don’t you just adore Christmas? I do!! It’s so lovely with all of the lights, and the presents, and the good will!

Wallander nods in an attempt to be polite, and opens a report he has on his lap. Just then, there is an announcement requesting all passengers to pay attention to the safety video. Wallander sighs, puts down his report and looks up at the monitor in front of him. The characters on this particular safety video are all elves, and the whole theme is Christmas joy. When the video finally ends, Wallander picks up his report again. Just then, there’s a noise from across the aisle. Sitting there is a set of parents with two very small children. They’ve begun to sing Christmas songs, clapping to the rhythm and encouraging their youngsters to do the same. A flight attendant, dressed like a Christmas elf, comes down the aisle. She stops when she gets to the front of the cabin.

Flight Attendant: Welcome on board everyone! Now, to get us in the holiday spirit, why don’t we all join this lovely family here and sing some Christmas carols! Won’t that be fun?  Wallander signals for the flight attendant and, when he arrives, asks for whisky.

These are just a few examples (space precludes any more from me). Your turn!


Filed under Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Henning Mankell, Rex Stout

26 responses to “When Sleuths Take Flight ;-)

  1. Excellent as always Margot and of course we all know what happened when Poirot got on a plane! 😉

  2. I can just imagine Dalziel being incredibly rude (or straightforward rather) with some annoying fellow passenger and Pascoe having to ruffle the feathers. I can also see Montalbano being very pained at the quality of the food and offering to give the chef some cookery lessons, while Catarella bumps into everybody and everything in the aisle and manages to lock himself in the toilet. Meanwhile Mimi Augello is flirting with the stewardess…

    • 😆 Oh, Marina Sofia, those are fabulous scenarios! I can see them clearly. And of course, Catarella has to interrupt at least two or three times while Montalbano’s trying to sleep. And as for Dalziel, I could well imagine him being, direct, shall we say, with someone who’s bothered him. Poor Pascoe…

  3. Sorry, I meant Pascoe having to soothe the ruffled feathers… Too late for me, should go to bed maybe!

  4. Terry Hickman

    This is very imaginative and fun! I’ll be shoving sleuths into planes all day now. Thanks! But one thing should be noted: in the US, at least, most airlines do NOT prohibit knitting needles any more. From what I read on Ravelry, it helps if there is already part of a project started on them, and some folks say they have had better luck with bamboo or other wood types than with metal needles – though the few times the security people have confiscated them seem to have been because the agent was just in a bad mood, or a jerk to begin with. But MOST knitters have no trouble taking in-progress knitting projects on a flight.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Terry. I’m really glad you enjoyed the post. And of course, you’re quite right about the knitting needles, especially if a project is in progress. That was just put in there to make for a more interesting scene. I hope your disbelief was nibbling on a snack while you read it… 😉

  5. Loved this, Margot. Reminded me of the allegedly true story of what happened when Oscar Wilde visited the US and was asked at Customs if he had anything to declare. His reply: ‘Only my intellect.’

  6. Hahaha! Great fun, Margot! I love the idea of poor Nero Wolfe grappling with airline food! 😀

  7. These are all fab Margot – I particularly enjoyed Miss Marple’s deft retrieval of the knitting needles and Nero Wolfe and his airborne meal and I would have my own reaction to the joining in the carols after watching yet another inane safety briefing! Living on an island I have to travel by plane too often… everyone in Jersey moans about how unprepared everyone is at the security check-in and why don’t people realise that if you follow the instructions getting on the plane, it all works much better for everyone!

    • Thank you, Cleo. I’m glad you enjoyed these. And I wouldn’t have a very positive, joyful reaction to being asked to join in that sing-along, either. I’d imagine that, living where you do, you have quite a lot of experience getting on board flights. It really can be annoying when people try to drag a huge suitcase on board, or in some other way hold everyone else up. It can be maddening, can’t it?

  8. Absolutely priceless!
    I only know Wolf and Wallander from TV shows, but that’s enough to enjoy your post 🙂

  9. tracybham

    All of these were very clever, Margot, especially the Holmes and Wolfe segments. This made me curious about The Black Mountain, where Archie and Wolfe travel overseas. They do go by airplane but the story doesn’t mention the size of the seats in the airliner, and I can’t believe Wolfe fit into airline seats even in 1954. Mostly Archie makes the point of Wolfe’s fear of machinery and any kind of vehicle, and Wolfe actually has a breakfast of 4 eggs and 10 slices of fried bacon.

    • Oh, I haven’t thought of that one in a long time, Tracy! Thank you for the reminder! And it is really funny to think of Wolfe trying to squeeze into a small airline seat. For that reason, I can understand why Wolfe doesn’t like to travel.

  10. Hercule Poirot and Hastings approach security as they are flying to Miami to join Nero Wolfe and Archie for Christmas.

    Security: Sir, you need to take off your shoes.
    Poirot: What? Pourquoi? What do you mean take off my shoes?
    Security: They need to go through the scanner.
    Poirot (stiffly): I have never disrobed in public in my life!
    Security (getting irritated): I said your shoes not your clothes.
    Poirot (grumbling as he unties and carefully removes his shoes and places each shoe precisely in the tray): It was never like this on the Queen Mary.
    Security: Now, please proceed through the body scanner.
    Poirot walks through and an alarm rings.
    Security: You have something metallic on you. What is it?
    Poirot (searches his pockets and comes up from his waistcoat with a tiny pair of scissors) It is must be these special scissors which I use to keep the moustache properly trimmed.
    Security: I am sorry sir but they cannot go on the plane with you. The scissors could be used as a weapon.
    Poirot: Incroyable! This an outrage! Am I to be stripped naked before I get on that plane?
    Security (really annoyed): That could be arranged sir!
    Hastings: I say Poirot I’ll get you some new scissors in Miami.
    Poirot (disbelieving): They have moustache scissors in Miami?
    Hastings: I am sure they do.
    Poirot: Well then let it not be said that Poirot overreacted to the indignities of an airport security persecution. (With head held high he delicately steps to the nearest chair and sits and puts his shoes on.)

    (Margot: I love these fun posts! No sleuth is safe from your whimsy. We got back from our cruise on Fri. and I did not look at blogs until this morning or I would have commented sooner.)

    • Oh, my! How dare they ask Poirot to remove his shoes! What if they get scuffed or scratched as they go through the security process? I hope Hastings remembers to look for a good shoe store in Miami, just in case… And those scissors! How is Poirot possibly expected to maintain his dapper appearance if his moustache is not properly groomed! What if it droops during the flight!? I completely understand his pique, I really do!

      (Thank you, Bill, for adding such a witty, spot-on vignette to my list! Fantastic! I’m still chuckling. I’m glad you like these flights (pun intended 😉 ) of fancy. I’m also glad that you got home safely from your trip.)

  11. Love this, Margot! Merry Christmas!

  12. kathy d

    Absolutely brilliant! The Wolfe and Goodwin segment is hilarious and so true.
    But we all know that if Wolfe, Holmes, Poirot or any number of detectives were on a plane — a murder would be committed. And they’d have to question every passenger in this obvious locked room mystery — and then put on a very elaborate denouement to show their brilliance.
    The murderer would be named and conveniently, there would be police on board who could arrest the perpetrator and take him or her into custody to be taken off the plane at the nearest major airport.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Kathy. And I love the way you carry the story to the next level. I can just see the whole scenario, too, with the victim slumped over, and the other passengers wither belligerent, or ‘trying to help,’ or curious, etc.. It’s a great setup! And thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed this post.

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