Monday, 18 January 2010

Poirot Investigates (1924)

Plot: More early cases! Missing jewels, ancient curses and prime ministers for Poirot.

This collection of Poirot short stories shares several familiar themes. Risking mild spoilers, I'm going to lump them as follows:

Don't trust the servants!

The Jewel Robbery At The Grand Metropolitan and The Mystery Of Hunter's Lodge and The Italian Nobleman all demonstrate this in different ways - all complicated puzzle box mysteries where the only possible solution is that the only people who could have done it are the people you're not supposed to notice. In one case, the butler actually does it.


Christie's fascination with disguise and identity runs through the collection. Two of the above stories are about servants who aren't servants, but we also get The Disappearance Of Mr Davenheim (a thief who isn't a thief), The Million Dollar Bond Robbery (naughty nurse and fake passenger), The Cheap Flat (substitute victims), The Western Star (impostor jewels), and the Kidnapped Prime Minister (guess who isn't quite what they appear to be here?).

Of course, this lumping is a gross simplification - each is just a facet in a constantly recut puzzle. But, if you want to solve-along-with-Poirot, it's a wise bet to keep a suspicious eye on the servants, overlapping alibis, and people who might not be who they claim to be.

If we're going to carry on in this slightly facetious mood, we'll miss the fun. The Egyptian Tomb, for instance, could be said to be about faked symptoms and false curses, but that's to ignore an atmospheric tale of foreign travel, mysterious shadows and, of course, the contemporary fun of Tutankhamun's Tomb.

The Tragedy Of Marsden Manor has a similar dance - it's pure atmosphere, even featuring a ghost. The ghoulish aspects of the story become enormously enhanced in the telly version, which looks like a prototype Jonathan Creek.

The fun-from-beyond-the-grave continues with The Missing Will, an adventure where a dead man sets his niece a puzzle - there's an interesting parallel here with Miss Marple's final cases, which are pretty much concerned with hidden wills, mysterious legacies and impossible disguises.

These stories may be slight, but there's plenty of time to fit in the odd thriller - The Cheap Flat looks like it might be about the difficulties of renting somewhere nice in London, but it's actually about an international spy ring. The Kidnapped Prime Minister pulls off the same trick of global scandal happening around Poirot, who plays the eye of the storm, even famously stating his methods - refusing to fly about Europe or look for cigarette ash, he simply pounds his head and announced "The clues are within HERE!".

And that's kind of the summary of these cases, where Poirot is the calm eye of the storm, quietly, patiently solving all manner of outlandish mysteries. Or just about managing to unmask yet another fake servant without rolling his eyes.

NEXT: Miss Marple solves The Thirteen Problems


  1. It would be lovely if you could submit your posts each time to the Agatha Christie Blog Carnival. The site will explain all. I don't mind how many posts you submit :-)

  2. I just adore your posts. I'm slowly reading my way through AC, and so enjoy this blog.

  3. I wonder why Poirot let the murderer go in The King of Clubs? I was quite shocked at that decision!