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Joe Absolom as James Bentley

In the novel Mrs McGinty's Dead, James Gordon Bentley was a house agent of Breather and Scuttle and the lodger of Mrs McGinty. He was put on trial for her murder. The investigating officer for McGinty's death found evidence against him, but was not sure about his guilt so he contacted Hercule Poirot. James Bentley had light brown hair and was very slender and clumsy. Poirot described him as a person whom one could not trust. Bentley had told his colleague Maude Williams that Mrs McGinty was once preoccupied because she didn't find her cat, and that she made him eat too much herring.

Bentley's father was a doctor, and died when James was nine years old. He lived with his possessive but invalid mother in Cullenquay, and went to college. During the war, he worked in a ministry, sice he had a lung disease. Then he went to work for Breather and Scuttle. When he left the job, he found himself in several debts and started to be Mrs McGinty's lodger. One waitress of a Kilchester restaurant said that Bentley chose a seat facing a wall and talked to himself. Superintendent Spence described him as a queer person, but not queer enough to commit murder. A girl named Amy used to make fun of Bentley and consider him a nullity.

The end of the novel leaves open whether he paired with Deirdre Henderson or Maude Williams.


James Bentley was portrayed by Joe Absolom in the ITV TV adaptation which formed part of the Agatha Christie's Poirot TV series. Here the character of Deirdre does not appear, so he couples with Maude Williams at the end. He also writes poetry in this adaptation.

In Mlle Mac Ginty est morte, the France Télévisions and Escazal Films adaptation of the novel, the parallel character is called Robert Vasseur. Here he is the lodger of a Huguette Mac Ginty just like the original character, and the sole beneficiary of her will. Régine Molon, who is to some extent the Mrs Sweetiman parallel, saw Robert running away from the crime scene covered in blood. At the time of the episode, Vasseur was estranged husband of Alice Avril.