Detective Chief Inspector James Harold Japp is a fictional character who appears in several of Agatha Christie's novels featuring Hercule Poirot.
Japp in Christie's work
Like those of Miss Lemon and Arthur Hastings, the role of Inspector Japp in Poirot's career has been exaggerated by adaptations of Christie's original novels; specifically by the TV series Agatha Christie's Poirot, where these characters are often introduced into stories that did not originally feature them.
Japp's career in the Poirot novels extends into the 1930s but, like Hastings, he disappeared from Christie's writing thereafter. A police officer somewhat similar in character (Superintendent Spence) was introduced as a significant recurring character in the later Poirot novels. Where Japp still has some of the overtones of Lestrade from the Sherlock Holmes stories, although not a total bungler, Spence became a very clever and skilled detective in his own right in Christie's later stories.
Appearances in stories
Japp has been depicted in several novels and short stories, all featuring Hercule Poirot:
- The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920)
- The Affair at the Victory Ball (March 1923)
- The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan (March 1923)
- The Disappearance of Mr Davenheim (March 1923)
- The Plymouth Express (April 1923)
- The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor (May 1923)
- The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman (September 1923)
- The Veiled Lady (October 1923)
- The Market Basing Mystery (October 1923)
- The Adventure of the Clapham Cook (November 1923) - mention only
- The Lost Mine (November 1923) - mention only
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) - mention only
- The Big Four (1927)
- The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest (1932)
- Peril at End House (1932)
- Lord Edgware Dies (1933), also known as Thirteen at Dinner
- Death in the Clouds (1935), also known as Death in the Air
- The A.B.C. Murders (1936), also known as The Alphabet Murders
- The Girdle of Hyppolita (1940) - he is a Chief Inspector here.
- One, Two, Buckle My Shoe (1940), also known as An Overdose of Death and The Patriotic Murders. This is his last appearance in any work by Christie.
In most of these appearances, Japp is a minor character with minimal interactions with Poirot or involvement in the plot. However, Japp emerges as a major character and partner to Poirot in Lord Edgware Dies, Death in the Clouds and One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, before being written out of the series. In number of appearances, Japp is comparable to Arthur Hastings who was featured in eight of the Poirot novels.
James Japp, while being a competent detective, is no match for Poirot; he frequently finds himself a step behind the great detective but has developed a grudging respect for the man's abilities over their years together. Japp and Hastings often commiserate on their confusion and inability to keep up with Poirot on cases.
Japp and Hastings are also generally astonished to find that Poirot cannot understand anything typically English (like cricket, which he maintains is utter nonsense).
Japp is characterized as someone who is outspoken, pragmatic, conservative, dogmatic, conscientious, and a tad bit stingy.
In The Market Basing Mystery, Hastings mentions that Japp is an ardent botanist and that he "discoursed upon minute flowers possessed of unbelievably lengthy Latin names ... with an enthusiasm even greater than that he gave to his cases."
Portrayals in other media
Thirteen at dinner
Agatha Christie's Poirot
BBC Radio 4
Jackson also plays Japp alongside John Moffat's Poirot in a series of BBC Radio adaptations, produced contemporaneously with the Suchet TV series.
Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple
As Japp is very similar to the derogatory abbreviation "Jap", he was renamed Inspector Sharp in the Japanese anime series Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple (NHK, 2004). He was voiced by Yuusaku Yara.