|“||Half the people who spent their lives avoiding being run over buses had much better be run over and put safely out of the way.They're no good.||„|
|~ Superintendent Battle|
Superintendent Battle is a recurring protagonist and an amateur detective in Agatha Christie's detective fiction novels. He is notable for his stolid good sense, and he relies in part on the appearance of being a stupid or unimaginative police officer as a means to investigating his cases.
He serves as the deuteragonist of The Secret of Chimneys (1925) and its sequel, The Seven Dials Mystery (1929), a major protagonist in Cards on the Table (1936), a supporting protagonist in Murder is Easy (1939) and the main protagonist in Towards Zero (1944).
He is portrayed by David Westhead in Agatha Christie's Poirot, albeit with new characteristics and was renammed as Superintendent Wheeler to differentiate him from the original character.
Battle is in many respects typical of Christie's police officers, being (like Inspector Japp), and is more careful and intelligent than the police officers of early detective fiction, who had served only as foils for the brilliance of the amateur sleuth.
Battle is notable for his stolid good sense, and he relies in part on the appearance of being a stupid or unimaginative police officer as a means to investigating his cases. His moustache is impressive, even to Hercule Poirot.
Until Towards Zero the reader knows nothing of his domestic arrangements, but in this novel we learn that he has a wife and five children, the youngest of whom (Sylvia) unwittingly provides a key clue to the mystery. In the Hercule Poirot novel The Clocks, the pseudonymous secret agent Colin Lamb is heavily implied to be the son of the now-retired Battle.
The 1944's Towards Zero is the only novel of Agatha Christie that Battle served as its only main protagonist. The story starts with a meeting of guests in the a seaside room Gull's Point, owned by the stern Lady Camilla Tressilian, including Battle who had just solved a problem concerning his daughter, who was coerced to take fall for a theft she didn't commit.
The major characters besides Battle include but not limited to:
- Nevile Strange (23 years old), a famous athlete who is skilled in swimming and is a famous tennis player. He is the ward of Lady Tressilian's deceased husband, and the widow's adopted son.
- Kay Strange (23), Nevile's second and current wife, whom Lady Tressilian despised. Nevile brought his wife AND ex-wife together to the meeting.
- Audrey Strange (23), Nevile's ex-wife.
- Mary Aldin (mid 30s), Lady Tressilan's companion.
- Thomas Royde: Audrey's cousin.
- Angus MacWhirter: The book's triangonist. A formerly suicidal man who attempted to kill himself in a cliff near Lady Tressilian's house, until he was saved by Audrey and became her friend. He happened to witness the story's crime scene and became a key for Battle to solve the case.
- Ted Latimer: A friend of Kay.
- Mr. Treves (about 80 years old): A solicitor and friend to Lady Tressilian.
At the beginning of the meeting, Mr. Treves told everyone about his opinion of a serial killer may start planning many schemes all the way towards the comepletion of his goal, or in his words, "towards zero." He then told everyone a story about h their whereabouts are unknown. Mr. Treves also claimed he would recognized that killer since the said killer had a physical feature different to others.
At the same night, Mr. Treves discovered that someone hanged a "out of function" sign on the door of the house's lift (elevator in American English). Unknowing that the elevator was still functioning, Mr. Treves was forced to climb upstairs but soon he died of heart attack and exhaustion because of his age and frail health. It was soon revealed to be fake, leading to one conclusion: That psychopathic child, now grown up, is hiding amongst the guests
Soon, the second death had occured when Lady Tressilian was murdered on her bed, with her maid drugged, right after Lady Tressilian had an arguement with Nevile Strange about his infidelity and marriage. Her heir would be none other than Nevile and Audrey. At first, Nevile was accused of the murder after a golf club, suspected to be the murder weapon, was discovered with Nevile's blood. However, he was soon declared of innoncence when a maid declared she saw Lady Tressilian still alive after the said arguement.
Then, the only suspect remained was Audery. Negative evidence began to surface when the bloodstained gloves of Audery was discovered, together with the real murder weapon, fashioned from the handle of a tennis racket and the metal ball from the fireplace fender in Audrey's room. Much to Battle's discomfort, Audery even admitted herself of murdering Lady Tressilian. However, Battle suspected Audery was taking fall for someone else unwillingly, just like his daughter did just days ago. Meanwhile, Angus MacWhirter came to Battle to reveal something he saw. Soon, Battle discovered the truth and then uncovered the real culprit.
What Angus revealed was that he saw a man swimming from the sea at the same night when Lady Tressilan was murdered, before climbing up to the residence with a rope. He saw the man on the very same cliff where he once tried to take his own life a year ago. With Mary Aldin's help, Angus discovered the crucial evidence: a large damp rope in an otherwise dusty attic. Thomas also revealed the true nature behind Audrey's relationship with Nevile.
Soon after Audery's arrest, Battle managed to gather everyone on a motor launch and revealed Angus' discovery to them. The only two individuals that fit the condition is Nevile and Ted, but Ted can't swim. Therefore, the only swimmer - or, the only athlete - in the guests is the culprit. So in conclusion, the true culprit is none other than Nevile Strange, who is also the psychopathic child Mr. Treves mentioned.
Originally, it was said that Nevile ended their marriage to pursue Kay, but instead, it was actually Audery who ended their relationship since she grew afraid of him (as revealed by Thomas). After her divorse to Nevile, Audery was supposed to marry a new husband named Adrian Royce, the brother of her cousin Thomas, but Adrian was killed in a car accident. Nevertheless, it was revealed that Nevile is actually behind this so-called accident and murdered Adrian to spite Audery.
In the meeting within Gull's Point, Nevile attempted to use this as a chance to seek vengeance against Audery for divorcing him. When he heard about Mr. Treves speaking about his dark past, Nevile was afraid that the old man would recognize him, so he hanged the lift sign that misled Mr. Treves to climb upstairs and died out of exhaustion.
The murder of Lady Tressilan was made with great care, with Nevile faking his alibi, murdered with Audery's gloves, and put the golf club in the crime scene to fake his innocence. When the suspicions arouse him faded, people will definitely suspect Audery for the murder, so that she would be hanged. Audery actually knew it was Nevile who killed Lady Tressilian, but she complied out of fear.
After being forced to confess, Nevile revealed that he was behind everything unfortunate happened to Audery and to the guests, and all he wanted was to let Audery to be hanged, spiting her for divorcing him long ago. Suffering from a nervous breakdown, Nevile ranted about how much he wanted Audrey to be hanged, and was soon arrested by Battle, broken and fazed.
By the end of novel, Battle visited Audery, now released from police custody, and said Nevile would be put on court, now a broken man who may or may not withstand his trial. Battle revealed how Audery resembled his daughter in their similar circumstances, taking fall for someone else unwittingly. He encouraged her to move on from Nevile and embrace a new life.
- In Agatha Christie's Poirot, Superintendent Wheeler (who is loosely based on Battle) us made an additional suspect in the murder, in that Poirot learns that he had a shady involvement with Shaitana: he had been in a homosexual relationship with him and allowed himself to be photographed in compromising positions. Wheeler breaks into Shaitana's house, a few days later, to recover the photographs, but fails to find them; his knowledge of Shaitana's nationality gives away his connection to the victim, and he later has the photographs returned to him by Poirot, who retrieved them from a photography studio.