Cards on the Table

Title: Cards on the Table
Author: Agatha Christie
Pages: 213
Reading Level: 14 & up
Star Rating: ★★★★

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—–

The little Belgian with the mustachios returns.

The Story.

An interesting man, Monsieur Shaitana. A man most enamored of himself – a man who derives an obsessive delight from his bizarre collections. He is an eccentric – not a benevolent one, but a dangerous one. A scheming one…

His newest collection, he informs Monsieur Poirot, is a collection of murderers. He now has four of them who frequent his home for parties and dinners. They are not professing murderers, no, no nothing so obvious as that. But he, Shaitana, great perceiver of the sins of others, he can tell. And he has an idea for a little game.

He invites Monsieur Poirot and three other detective friends – Ariadne Oliver, Colonel Race, and Superintendent Battle – to join him for a dinner. His four murderers – Dr. Roberts, Mrs. Larrimer, Major Despard, and Miss Meredith – will be there as well. Together they can enjoy an exciting evening together.

All eight guests duly arrive at Shaitana’s mansion. As they visit over dinner, it is hard to imagine that half of the guests are murderers. But it is not until the guests are divided to play bridge that the real adventure of the night begins. Because when the games are over, Monsieur Shaitana is found – murdered.

All of Shaitana’s pet murderers – and no one else – were present in the room from the moment that Shaitana seated himself near the fire to the time that his corpse was discovered. But which of these murderers has returned to the game of murder?

Discussion.        

As Christie herself says in the Foreword to Cards on the Table, it is easy to approach a mystery novel from the perspective that the ‘least likely’ person to have committed the murder is probably the murderer. I admit to having operated that way myself – Who is the author trying to keep in the background of this scene? Who hasn’t been mentioned in a while? So-and-so hasn’t appeared for several scenes. I bet SHE’S the murderer!

But Cards on the Table rebelled against such a simplistic reading. It is a story which boasts four suspects – suspects who have each murdered before, who each had opportunity to commit the murder, and who each had a desperate motive for killing the victim. The solution of this case lies, not in the discovery of clues, but in the background and psychology of each of the suspects. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so uncertain when trying to pin down the murderer. But Poirot managed to. Magnificent little man!

I really enjoyed meeting Mrs. Oliver. She’s hilarious. She is reputed to be a tongue-in-cheek portrait of Christie herself, and I can easily believe it. I have included a quote from Mrs. Oliver later in my review, which I am sure is straight from the heart from Christie. Now, Mrs. Oliver is an interesting character. She is reputed to be a “hot-headed” feminist, and she does occasionally vociferate upon the superiorities of women. But her character – a combination of down-to-earth bluntness and dunder-headed oblivion – almost mocked at her position. While she occasionally blunders upon an important piece of evidence or a freakishly accurate character assessment, she usually is far wide on her predictions.

The question of justifiable murder pops up several times in this story. Mr. Shaitana, the early victim of the story, calls murder “an art” and says that he believes that a “really successful murderer” should be celebrated. Monsieur Poirot, although agreeing that there are some people who deserve to be murdered, nevertheless, disapproves of all murder because of the effect that it has on the murderer. He believes that it is dangerous for a man to “exercise the right of private judgment” in the punishment of a crime because then one has “usurped the functions of le bon Dieu.” [pg. 134]

Quotes.

What I love about Poirot is that although he is a proud little man of great brain, he behaves and speaks exactly like a child on some occasions.

“We all make mistakes, Monsieur Poirot.”

“Some of us,” said Poirot with a certain coldness possibly due to the pronoun the other had used, “make less than others.”

Despard looked at him, smiled slightly and said:

“Don’t you ever have a failure, Monsieur Poirot?”

“The last time was twenty-eight years ago,” said Poirot with dignity. “And even then, there were circumstances – but no matter.” [pg. 106]

: ) Quite. Others are less impressed with Poirot’s skills. This after Poirot summons Anne to an interview.

“I don’t see why he wants to see me.” Anne was obstinate.

“To put one over on the official police, of course,” said Rhoda impatiently. “They make out that Scotland Yard are all boots and brainlessness.”

“Do you think this man Poirot is clever?”

“He doesn’t look a Sherlock,” said Rhoda. “I expect he has been quite good in his day. He’s gaga now, of course. He must be at least sixty. [pg. 160]

When Superintendent Battle points out a few inaccuracies in Mrs. Oliver’s latest novel, Mrs. Oliver responds thus.

“As a matter of fact I don’t care two pins about accuracy. Who is accurate? Nobody nowadays. If a reporter writes that a beautiful girl of twenty-two dies by turning on the gas after looking out over the sea and kissing her favourite Labrador, Bob, goodbye, does anybody make a fuss because the girl was twenty-six, the room faced inland, and the dog was a Sealyham terrier called Bonnie? If a journalist can do that sort of thing I don’t see that it matters if I mix up police ranks and say a revolver when I mean an automatic and a dictograph when I mean a phonograph, and use a poison that just allows you to gasp one dying sentence and no more. What really matters is plenty of bodies! If the thing’s getting a little dull, some more blood cheers it up. Somebody is going to tell something – and then they’re killed first! That always goes down well. It comes in all my books – camouflaged different ways of course. And people like untraceable poisons, and idiotic police inspectors and girls tied up in cellars with sewer gas or water pouring in (such a troublesome way of killing anyone really) and a hero who can dispose of anything from three to seven villains singlehanded. I’ve written thirty-two books by now – and of course they’re all exactly the same really, as Monsieur Poirot seems to have noticed – but nobody else has; and I only regret one thing, making my detective a Finn. I don’t really know anything about Finns and I’m always getting letters from Finland pointing out something impossible that he’s said or done. They seem to read detective stories a good deal in Finland. I suppose it’s the long winters with no daylight. In Bulgaria and Roumania they don’t seem to read at all. I’d have done better to have made him a Bulgar.” [pg. 55-56]

Cautions.

Mild innuendo – several of the previous murders committed by the suspects were related to romantic situations, but nothing along those lines happens within the story.

‘Damn’ is used seven times, ‘hell’ twice. Several versions of God’s name are used a total of four times.

Conclusion. Fun, fun, fun, and (I thought) cleaner than most of Christie’s stories.

Mrs. McGinty’s Dead

Title: Mrs. McGinty’s Dead
Author: Agatha Christie
Pages: 238
Recommended Ages: 14 & up
Star Rating: ★★★★

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—–

Monsieur Poirot has already retired, but perhaps he can be tempted out of his solitude…

The Story.

Superintendent Spence has just popped round to Poirot’s apartment. He wishes to consult with Poirot on a matter – a matter of murder. Poirot is only too pleased to help.

See, there’s been a murder down in Broadhinny – a charwoman it was, knocked on the head by her lodger and her money stolen. Or at least, that’s what Spence thought when he first reviewed the case. But now, he’s not so sure…

Bentley, the lodger, just doesn’t seem the right type. All the evidence points to him, it is true, but he doesn’t have the right attitude, the right presence. Spence is being trundled off to Scotland and can no longer investigate the case, but would M. Poirot mind…?

Poirot graciously accepts and begins poking around in Broadhinny without delay. The villagers there have accepted the official story and moved on – there is no suspicion in their mind who the murderer is! But Poirot drops hints – insinuations that the official story is not true and that he, Hercule Poirot, will catch the real murderer. He expected a reaction from at least one person. And he got it.

When a second murder shatters the calm of Broadhinny, even the dullest of citizens awake to the knowledge that there is a murderer in their midst. But which of them is it?

Discussion.

Just one Mrs. Oliver quote before we get on with the cautions. This when she is introducing Poirot to a friend of hers.

“That’s very nice of you,” said Mrs. Oliver, looking uncomfortable and twisting her hands in a schoolgirlish way. “Oh, this is M. Poirot, an old friend of mine. We met by chance just outside here. Actually I hit him with an apple core. Like William Tell – only the other way about.” [pgs. 96-97]

: )

We learn of several romantic indiscretions – that is to say, affairs. They’re mostly mentioned, not really discussed. The term ‘sex appeal’ is used a couple of times, and one woman is described as being “sexy”.

Mrs. Oliver is working wth Robin Upward to write a play about her detective, Sven Hjerson. Robin insists on including a “sex antagonism” theme, much to Mrs. Oliver’s chagrin. They have a few conversations on the subject, arguing the pros and cons of such an inclusion.

A variety of beliefs are briefly mentioned including environmental determinism, Mrs. Oliver’s peculiar brand of feminism, and a belief in ghosts.

Poirot lies to ferret out information.

‘Damn’ is used ten times, ‘hell’ five, and ‘bitch’ once. Variations of God’s name are used a total of ten times.

Conclusion. Interesting, exciting, and more comedic than the typical Poirot case.

Elephants Can Remember

Title: Elephants Can Remember
Author: Agatha Christie
Pages: 160
Recommended Ages: 14 & up
Star Rating: ★★★★

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—–

It is the little man himself that returns in these pages. And what is this? Mrs. Oliver as well? C’est magnifique!

The Story.

It really is a nuisance the way these people just come up gushing about one’s books. It really makes a person feel uncomfortable. Just because she’s written gobs of books doesn’t make accepting compliments any easier for Mrs. Oliver. But it’s something that must be borne. And Mrs. Oliver was prepared for the gushing. But she was not prepared for what actually happened.

A Mrs. Burton-Cox approached her. Asked if she had a god-daughter named Celia Ravenscroft. Which, as it happened, she did. But then the woman asked the most amazing question. She asked, “Can you tell me if her father murdered her mother or if it was the other way around?”

Mrs. Oliver knew, of course, that the Ravencrofts had died in what was considered to be a double suicide. But what a thing to ask the first time you meet a person! Still, it’s got her thinking…

Will Monsier Poirot consent to aid Mrs. Oliver in her attempt to solve a mystery that has long been cold?

Discussion.

Alright. So, I hate to say it, but this one was easy. I was able to guess the correct solution to the mystery in the first third of the book and build my hypothesis from there with the obvious clues which were provided. Now, on one hand, I liked this. It was fun to be rightly interpreting the clues as they happen. Also, I sometimes feel that Christie’s clues are equivocal – they could go any way she chose to swing them – but such was not the case with Elephants Can Remember. They pointed in one direction and one direction only. So I liked the honesty of Elephants, but I disliked its simplicity. There was such scope for how it could have ended.

The story is named Elephants Can Remember to refer to the long standing memories of the witnesses Mrs. Oliver questions. But Elephants Can Remember has an entire theme of remembrance – various of Poirot’s earlier cases are mentioned and discussed. Because I had read a majority of these cases, I was able to enjoy the memories that were evoked in my own mind.

I loved Mrs. Oliver’s presence in the case. She’s such a hoot – her good natured, blunt eccentricities provide great humor to offset Poirot’s conflated opinion of himself. Here are a few quotes to round off this section.

“Yes, I shall be at home all this evening. Does that mean that I may have the pleasure of a visit from you?”

“It’s very nice of you to put it that way,” said Mrs. Oliver. “I don’t know that it will be such a pleasure.”

“It is always a pleasure to see you, chere Madame.”

“I don’t know,” said Mrs. Oliver. “I might be going to – well, bother you rather. Ask things. I want to know what you think about something.”

“That I am always ready to tell anyone,” said Poirot. [pg. 19]

This section reminded me of Dickens’ writing style.

“Mr. Goby came into the room and sat, as indicated by Poirot, in his usual chair. He glanced around him before choosing what particular piece of furniture or part of the room he was about to address. He settled, as often before, for the electric fire, not turned on at this time of year. Mr. Goby had never been known to address the human being he was working for directly. He selected always the cornice, a radiator, a television set, a clock, sometimes a carpet, or a mat.” [pg. 128]

This passage effectively demonstrates the vagueness with which we often communicate. It occurs when Mrs. Oliver is striking up a friendly conversation with Mrs. Carstairs, one of the elephants.

“She enquired after Mrs. Carstairs’s daughter and about the two grandchildren, and she asked about the other daughter, what she was doing. She appeared to be doing it in New Zealand. Mrs. Carstairs did not seem to know quite sure what it was. Some kind of social research.” [pg. 57]

Cautions.

Because there are no apparent reasons for the deaths of Major and Mrs. Ravenscroft, Poirot and Mrs. Oliver attempt to uncover any love affairs. Several possible romantic attractions are mentioned, but none actually occurred.

Illegitimacy and boyfriends are mentioned several times.

An insane woman’s actions are blamed entirely upon her genetic inheritance.

‘Nigger’, ‘darn’, and ‘dieu’ are each used once.

Conclusion. A fun story with lots of interaction between Poirot and Mrs. Oliver.

The Mystery of the Blue Train

Title: The Mystery of the Blue Train
Author: Agatha Christie
Pages: 248
Reading Level: 14 & up
Star Rating: ★★★★

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—–

Grey cells at attention!

The Story.        

The Blue Train. Ah, but it is magnifique! All of the luxury, all of the wealth – all of the wealthy people…

But when one of those wealthy people is found lying in her compartment with her head bashed in and her famous ruby necklace stolen, the case, it is not so pretty. Who could have killed Ruth Kettering? Was the murder done as revenge? Or was it for the beautiful Heart of Fire ruby?

Thankfully, Poirot, the funny little detective man was on the train. He saw. He knows!

Discussion.

There is nothing so typically or wonderfully Christie as a train mystery. There is something about a train that gives a mystery twice the fun, twice the adventure, and twice the suspense. The Mystery of the Blue Train, although it does not take place entirely on a train, is no exception to this rule. Here are a few of the wonderfully Poirot-ish quotes.

“Voila,” said the stranger, and sank into a wooden arm-chair; “I am Hercule Poirot.”

“Yes, Monsieur?”

“You do not know the name?”

“I have never heard it,” said Hippolyte.

“Permit me to say that you have been badly educated. It is the name of one of the great ones of this world.” [pg. 210]

=)

“I never prophesy he [Poirot] declared pompously. “It is true that I have the habit of being always right – but I do not boast of it. Good-night, Mademoisell, and may you sleep well.” [pg. 71]

Ah, the beautiful arrogance of Hercule Poirot.

Cautions.

The basis of The Mystery of the Blue Train is the failing marriage of Derek and Ruth Kettering. Both are engaged in extra-marital affairs, one with an exotic dancer, the other with a phony count. There are no scenes, but the affairs are considered as motives for murder.

It is mentioned after we learn who the murderer was that Katherine believes that Ruth’s spirit returned to tell her who the murderer was. She was right in who she believed was the murderer.

‘Damn’ is used eleven times, ‘darn’ eleven, and ‘hell’ four times. Variations of God’s name are used a total of nineteen times. ‘Ass’ is used twice to refer to unintelligent people.

Conclusion. A very fun though not perfect story.

Murder in Mesopotamia

Title: Murder in Mesopotamia
Author: Agatha Christie
Pages: 228
Recommended Ages: 14 & up
Star Rating: ★★★

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—–

Poirot ventures into the world of archaeology.

The Story.

Mrs. Leidner is a frightened woman. She believes that a person is following her – stalking her. She claims to have received notes from this person to the effect that he intends to kill her. She is certain that if she is not protected, she will soon fall victim to a murderous killer. But others aren’t so sure…

Her husband and all of her friends at the archaeology dig believe that she is in no real danger – that it is only her nerves at work. Still, Dr. Leidner hires Nurse Leatheran to look after his wife in the hopes that a constant companion will soothe her nerves. And it works – Nurse Leatheran comforts and assures Mrs. Leidner; makes her feel more secure. But none of them are prepared for the day when Mrs. Leidner is murdered…

But who killed Mrs. Leidner? Was it the mysterious stalker? Or was it someone nearer to home… Only Poirot can unravel this case!

Cautions.

The narrator attempts to solve the mystery by relieving the murdered woman’s last few hours. The narrator does this in the hopes that she might be mediumistic. Her method is to “hypnotize” herself – telling herself over and over that she is Mrs. Leidner, that it is half-past one, that the door is opening, etc. She succeeds in very thoroughly spooking herself and feeling like a fool.

We learn towards the end of the story that Mrs. Leidner was conducting an affair with Mr. Carey. There are a few comments made which indicate this fact prior to Poirot’s final revelation of it. This fact plays a part in the motive for murder.

Poirot begins his final revelation “In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.” [pg. 195]

Pottery is said to be 7,000 years old.

‘Damn’ is used eight times, ‘hell’ four, and variations of God’s name seven times.

Conclusion. An interesting story with a twistastic ending!

Hickory, Dickory, Dock

Title: Hickory, Dickory, Dock
Author: Agatha Christie
Pages: 191
Recommended Ages: 14 & up
Star Rating: ★★★★

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—–

Mon ami! The great Poirot returns!

The Story.

It is inconceivable to Hercule Poirot. But it is the truth. Miss Lemon, his efficient secretary, has made three mistakes in one letter. Three mistakes in three years, he might understand, but this? Ce n’est pas. Even more monstrous is the cause of this irregularity. Miss Lemon has received a letter from her sister. Her sister? Can Miss Lemon really belong to a family? Has she not been born of a machine?

But it is true. And this sister of Miss Lemon, one Mrs. Hubbard by name, has written of a set of trivial disappearances. Mrs. Hubbard is the matron of a student hostel where students from the nearby university lodge. Random items have disappeared – electric light bulbs, a silk scarf, a cookery book – nothing important. And yet, Monsieur Poirot is worried. There seems to be no pattern to the disappearances. What can they mean?

When a girl is found dead in her room at the hostel, Poirot’s worst suspicions seem to have come true. Was it a suicide? Was it murder? If suicide, why? If murder, who?

Cautions.

There was actually far less romance than I expected in Hickory, Dickory, Dock considering that it took place in a university hostel. One couple gets engaged, but there are no romantic scenes. Romantic entanglements are speculated as the cause of different deaths. One student is said to possess pornographic postcards.

The main characters of Hickory, Dickory, Dock are students from the university. As such, they represent a wild diversity of philosophical positions. Many of these are quite modern. Poirot is not amused.

‘Lord’ and ‘Dieu’ are each used five times, ‘God’ three. ‘Hell’ is used twelve times, ‘damn’ three, and ‘ass’ twice (as an label for idiots).

Conclusion. Engaging. Hickory, Dickory, Dock actually reminded me of Cat Among the Pigeons which was also set amongst a group students, only I think I found Hickory, Dickory, Dock more interesting.

Cat Among the Pigeons

Title: Cat Among the Pigeons
Author: Agatha Christie
Pages: 256
Reading Level: 14 & up
Star Rating: ★★★

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—–

Mon ami!

The Story.

There is so little time. Prince Ali Yusuf has trusted Bob Rawlinson with his fortune in jewels, and now Bob is to hide them, get them out of the country. The only hiding place Bob can think of is in his sister, Joan Sutcliffe, and niece, Jennifer Sutcliffe’s luggage. But while he is hiding them, a person spies through the window…

The fall semester has begun at Meadowbank, England’s most exclusive school for young ladies. The teachers are chosen, the students – including Jen and her friend, Julia Upjohn – are settling into their rooms. Shortly after commencement, a woman is found murdered in the Sports Pavilion.

What was Miss Bulstrode doing in the gym that night? Who could have killed her? And is there any connection between the murder and the treasure?

Cautions.

It is a matter of some importance in the investigation of the murders to determine why various teachers and students are sneaking out in the middle of the night. Romantic entanglements are offered as one of the various explanations.

Ronnie, a secret agent, works undercover at Meadowbank as a gardener. He is the subject of interest on the part of the teachers and students. He flirts mildly with a few of them to gain information.

One of the teachers is scandalized that a student is wearing a push-up bra. A conversation on the subject ensues.

One woman admits to having an illegitimate child.

A reference to Candide’s unsavory illustrations.

A few of the girls have unappreciative relationships with their parents.

Secret agents lie to preserve their reputations.

Diverse philosophies are represented.

‘Hell’ is used four times, ‘damn’ three,’ ‘good Lord’ and ‘bitch’ twice, and ‘bastard’ and ‘ass’ once each.

Conclusion. A fun mystery that features a swirl of staid English manners and adventurous Middle Eastern treasure.

Taken at the Flood

Title: Taken at the Flood
Author: Agatha Christie
Pages: 192
Recommended Ages: 14 & up
Star Rating: ★★★★

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—–

The self-professed greatest of all detectives graces the pages once again!

The Story.

No one in the family could have possibly foreseen it – or dreamt it. Yet here it is, a patent nightmare for all of them. Because Gordon Cloade, the only real money holder of the family – the man who promised to leave all of his money to his siblings and cousins – has married. And what’s worse, before he could make a new will, he died. By law, all of his estate is passed on to his new wife, Rosaleen.

They all hate Rosaleen. Lynn Marchmont and her mother Adela; Rowley Cloade; Mr. and Mrs. Lionel Cloade; Mr. and Mrs. Jeremy Cloade – all of them. The only person who doesn’t hate Rosaleen is her brother, David who lives with her and directs her affairs. A dark one, he is – never lets the girl think for herself and governs her money with a strict hand. And so arrogant the way he sneers at the Cloade clan. The two of them are just asking to be killed…

But oddly enough, it’s a stranger who’s found murdered one morning at the Stag. Who was he? Why was he in Warmsley Vale? And why would anyone want to kill him?

Cautions.

Lynn Marchmont (the sort-of main character) is a young woman just returned from war. Although initially delighted to be back at home where “everything is the same”, she becomes restless and irritated by her relations – mostly her mother. Although engaged to marry Rowley Cloade, a steady, reliable farmer, she is attracted by the dangerous David Hunter. For most of the novel, she is trying to decide which of them she will marry. There is only one scene that could be termed ‘romantic’ – one of the men kisses her and then rushes off, leaving her confused.

Kathie Cloade, Lynn’s aunt, believes in spiritualism and often consults with Ouija boards, mediums, and the like. There are no scenes in which these consultations take place, only references to them. Kathie is portrayed as a fluttery, distractable woman – not someone to be taken seriously – but she often offers occult explanations for occurrences. Poirot takes advantage of her beliefs in one scene, pretending that he too is being directed by a spirit (this is a patent falsehood).

A reference is made to an illegitimate child.

‘Damn’ is used eighteen times, ‘God’ nine, ‘hell’ seven, ‘Lord’ six, and ‘by Jove’ twice. One woman who is portrayed as being small-minded and having distinct racial prejudices speaks of ‘niggers’.

Conclusion. Interesting and engaging. I put all of my little gray cells to the problem to no avail. Score for Poirot.

The Clocks

Title: The Clocks
Author: Agatha Christie
Pages: 246
Reading Level: 14 & up
Star Rating: ★★★

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—–

Mon ami! Hercule Poirot returns!

The Story.

As an accomplished typist, Sheila Webb is accustomed to her services being specifically requested through the typing bureau where she works. Still, it’s strange that this Miss Pebmarsh is asking for her specifically when they’ve never worked together before. Oh, well – she’s sure it’ll be fine.

When Sheila arrives at Miss Pebmarsh’s home at Nineteen Wilbraham Crescent, no one answers her knock. She lets herself into the house (as she was instructed to do), only to find that four of the six clocks in the sitting room have the wrong time. And these four all have the same time – 4:13. As an uneasy feeling arises in her, Sheila begins to pace about the room. It is then that she finds the body. It is sprawled behind the couch. Stabbed.

Strange things are afoot. Miss Pebmarsh, the blind occupant of Nineteen Wilbraham Crescent, claims to have never met the murdered man. She also claims that she never rang up the typing bureau to ask for secretarial service. Which means, if she is to be believed, that someone decided to implicate Sheila before they committed this crime. Why would anyone want to do that?

Can Colin Lamb and his good friend, Monsieur Poirot, free Sheila from the web of evidence against her? Or will they be forced to admit that she is guilty?

Cautions.

Innuendo. The word ‘sex’ is used as an adjective and as an abstract several times. Scandalous activities are ascribed to a few of the characters (although nothing “happens” in this book).

Many of the characters in The Clocks work at a typing bureau where lurid paperbacks are edited. One of the titles is mentioned on the second page of the book, and on the third is a quote from one of the books. It is included as a point of humor (a typo ruins the erotic atmosphere), but the sentence is far more than suggestive.

A few of the relationships reflect secular (though not “immoral”) values.

‘Damn’ is used fourteen times, ‘hell’ four. ‘My God’, ‘good Lord’, and ‘mon Dieu’ are each used once.

Conclusion. Not as fun as some as Poirot’s other cases, but still enjoyable.

Poirot Investigates

Title: Poirot Investigates
Author: Agatha Christie
Pages: 245
Recommended Ages: 13 & up
Star Rating: ★★★★

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—–

I had thought of Poirot as a detective only of novel-length cases. I did not realize that he was also featured in short stories. Yay!

The Stories.

1.      The Adventure of “The Western Star”. A famous movie actress has been receiving mysterious notes which threaten to steal her precious diamond, the Western Star. Can Poirot determine from whence these notes come? And can he forestall the robbery?

2.       The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor. A man’s body has been found. It was the body of Mr. Maltravers, a middle-aged man who had recently fallen on hard times and had just taken out a large insurance on his life. So the question is – death by natural causes, suicide, or murder?

3.       The Adventure at the Cheap Flat. Mr and Mrs. Robinson have just snapped up a flat in one of the most fashionable parts of town for the price of £80. They are ecstatic over their good luck, but Poirot is suspicious. Why would anyone let out a flat for £80 when they could have easily charged £350?

4.       The Mystery of Hunter’s Lodge. An old man is dead. The only people who would seem to have a motive all have air-tight alibis – or do they? With Poirot sick in London, it is Hastings and Japp who do all of the footwork, but the magnificent Poirot who solves the case!

5.       The Million Dollar Bond Robbery. Mr. Phillip Ridgeway is in deep trouble. Specially commission by his uncle’s bank, he was sent to America with a million dollars worth of bonds in a suitcase, only to have them stolen before ever reaching the shore. Was this robbery incidental, or was it specially planned beforehand?

6.       The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb. For years the natives dared not to open the tomb of King Men-her-Ra for fear that the terrible curse would fall upon them. But now several Englishmen have excavated it and one by one are dropping dead. The sacrilege must end! Or perhaps the curse is only a cover…

7.       The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan. The beautiful – and extremely valuable – pearls of Mrs. Opalsen have been stolen right from under the very nose of Mrs. Opalsen’s maid, Celestine. Or could they have been stolen by the maid? It might even have been the mistress…

8.       The Kidnapped Prime Minister. It is of the utmost importance that David MacAdam, England’s Prime Minister be present at the Allied Conference tomorrow evening. His presence there may make the difference between war and peace. But he has disappeared! Where can he be? And who could have taken him? It is up to Poirot to apply his grey cells to the problem!

9.       The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim. Mr. Daveheim has disappeared from his luxurious coutry home, The Cedars. Shortly after his absence, the house was burglared. Are these two events unrelated, or are they part of a complicated web woven by the criminals?

10.   The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman. Count Foscatini has been found dead in his own flat – his head smashed in by a marble statuette. From the testimony of Foscatini’s valet, it would seem that blackmail was somehow involved in the case. But who was blackmailing whom? And what were the stakes?

11.   The Case of the Missing Will. Miss Violet Marsh’s foxy old uncle played one last trick before he died. He made a will stating that his estate and fortune would go to charitable institutions unless Violet could employ her wits to find the second will, a will which would make Violet his heir. Violet immediately turns to Poirot – who else could have the brains to outsmart the sly Andrew Marsh?

12.   The Veiled Lady. Poirot is in despair. It seems that all of the criminals in London are hiding, hiding from his grey cells. There are simply no cases any more! But then, a beautiful young lady comes to him for help. She is being blackmailed by a man who holds a compromising letter penned by her hand. Can Monsieur Poirot recover it and save her from utter financial and marital ruin?

13.   The Lost Mine. A Chinese man of great financial importance has suddenly disappeared from the very heart of London. Can Poirot find the man – or his murderer?

14.   The Chocolate Box. A French statesman has died – the cause is believed to be heart failure. But a beautiful young lady appeals to Poirot; will he investigate to see if the man was done away with by some political enemy? In this case, Poirot takes us on a journey to the beginning of his career as a detective to the one case in which he “made a fool of himself”.

Cautions.

In one case, Poirot is trying to trap a woman into making a confession. He does so by discussing spiritualism/séances to get her into the right mood, then hires a man to dress up as the ghost of the victim. In a different case, several men die back to back after opening an Egyptian tomb on which there was supposedly an ancient curse. Poirot goes along with this perspective, even studying Egyptian magic in the hopes of lulling the murderer into a false sense of security.

While interviewing a woman, Poirot encourages her to tell him of the love affairs of a suspect, but she refuses.

One woman explains her reason for killing the victim by saying, “He had a strange and terrible power over women. I saw it coming. I was powerless to prevent it. He had no intention of marrying her. The time came when she was ready to yield everything to him. Then I saw my path clear.” [pg. 242] She apparently felt that it would be better to kill him than to allow a young girl’s virtue to be destroyed.

The opening case involves a couple who had once spent time in California. While there, each had committed indiscretions of a romantic nature, and now the wife is being blackmailed on account of a few letters she wrote.

Poirot has no qualms about lying to achieve desired ends. He often lies to suspects and witnesses so that they will become frantic and tell all they know.

God’s name is used in vain under different forms a total of nine times. ‘By Jove’ is also used once and Poirot himself uses ‘mon Dieu’ seven times. ‘Damn’ and ‘hell’ are each used once, and ‘ass’ is used four times to refer to stupid people.

Conclusion. I do not think that Poirot Investigates is quite as brilliant as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, but it is very good. I enjoyed Poirot’s little community – himself; Captain Hastings, companion and narrator; Miss Lemon, secretary and supplier of information; and Inspector Japp, secondary detective and good friend. They make a fun team, although the mysteries that they solve are not so well developed as Mrs. Christie’s larger novels. I actually solved one of them on my own! *shocking*