Agatha Christie

Poirot Investigates

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Poirot Investigates is a collection of eleven short stories involving the famed eccentric detective; first there was the mystery of the film star and the diamond... then came the ‘suicide’ that was murder... the mystery of the absurdly cheap flat... a suspicious death in a locked gun-room... a million dollar bond robbery... the curse of a pharoah’s tomb... a jewel robbery by the sea... the abduction of a Prime Minister... the disappearance of a banker... a phone call from a dying man... and finally, the mystery of the missing will.
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Early Apprentice Pieces... (Short Stories, 1924) I am reading the “Facsimile Edition” of 2007, first copy, newly acquired by me in 2016. The original dates back to 1924, the US-american version was published by Dodd, Mead and Company in 1925 and containts three additional stories. Those latter were not published in the UK until 1974 as “Poirot’s Early Cases”, along with other stories, their German translation dates back to the year 1986 (“Poirots erste Fälle” / Hercule Poirot’s größte Trümpfe, Scherz Verlag - The Chocolate Box - Die Pralinenschachtel - The Veiled Lady - Poirot geht stehlen - The lost Mine - Die verlorene Mine German title is “Poirot rechnet ab” and was first published in 1959, as translated by Ralph von Stedman for Desch Verlag München, Wien, Basel. Later, the rights went to Scherz Verlag, which was taken over in 2003 by Fischer Verlag (sources Wikipedia and book header pages). O.k. – I admit to rather not being a friend of short stories – I prefer to really sink into a plot instead of being torn out of it at short notice, and again – and again – and again. Yes, if short stories have been cleverly designed, it may be fun to analyse them. Yes – there is quite some possibility that this may lead to over-analysis. So, taking this into consideration, I cope pretty well with this collection – all of it is about Poirot, after all, told by Watson as first-person narrator. Still, it took and takes me ages (more than 11 days!) to read those short stories, although only 17-38 pages each, with considering each case, each deduction, each solution and scribbling down my notes. Aah, those little grey cells! Recommendation to start with i.e. to figure out if you like Poirot or want to get the book from the store: The Million Dollar Bond Robbery – Der raffinierte Aktendiebstahl 1 The Adventure of „The Western Star“ P.3 – 41 (38 p.) = Die Augen der Gottheit "The Western Star" is the nickname of a great diamond, owned by US-actress Mary Marvell. She is married to fellow actor Gregory B. Rolf, this is their first visit to England. As she receives anonymous letters she turns to Poirot: “The great diamond which is the left eye of the god must return whence it came” p 8.:, and that at the next full moon – Friday in three days to come - along with its counterpart for the right eye. Poirot offers to ensure the diamond secured until then, but on the upcoming Friday, Mary Marvell and her husband are rather supposed to visit Lord and Lady Yardly at Yardly Chase to discuss about filming there and Mary insists to wear the diamond for the occasion. The Yardlys possess the diamond which is supposed to have been the right eye. A nice study on how Watson dislikes being exposed to the ridicule by Poirot – despite of his self-assigned possession of “the deductive sense in a marked degree” p 16. So he bolts forward – none the wiser, of course. Contemporary: Chink is common language for a lady to be used at that time (p. 8). 2 The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor P 43 – 67 (24 p.) – Die Tragödie von Marsdon Manor Poirot has been asked to investigate the death of a Mr. Maltravers by the insurance company where the latter just recently had insured his life for 50.000 pounds. They suspected the man, who was on the verge to go bankrupt, to have committed suicide in order to provide his much younger wife with the insurance money. One gets to wonder about the elderly doctor…”life is full of discrepancies…” p. 52 And which role is Captain Black having? Those who know Poirot well will also meet up again with Inspector Japp. 3 The Adventure of the Cheap Flat P. 69 – 94 (25 p.) – Die mysteriöse Wohnung As Hastings points out, this case is not one of deduction, not somewhat backwards from the starting point of the crime, but rather the other way round. Hastings learns one evening from a young couple named Robinson about a too-good-to-be-true price for a Knightsbridge flat – 80 pound a year rather than the usal four to five hundred. But why was someone else told that the flat was already let? Now, that story peaks Poirot’s interest – although Hastings cannot describe much but the pleasant looks of delightful Mrs. Robinson: “Always you have had a penchant for auburn hair” as Poirot will well remark p 76. But why has the couple moved in much earlier than they had told? And again, we will meet Japp. Contemporary: The story is from in between World War I and II – yet there is already knowledge that the Japanese would be interested in naval plans on US harbour defenses. And all Italian villains are Mafia or Camorra, whatever, of course. 4 The Mystery of Hunter’s Lodge P. 95 – 118 (23 p.) – Das Mysterium von Hunter’s Lodge While Poirot is recovering from the flu, a Mr. Roger Havering comes to call. His beloved uncle had been murdered in Derbyshire at Hunter’s Lodge. Hasting offers to go and consult with Poirot daily and carry out his friend’s instructions. Japp is in charge of the investigations: “Rather the case of the cart without the horse, your being here without him, isn’t it?” p. 101 he points out to Hastings much to the latter’s displeasure. So, now what is it with the housekeeper? Contemporary: Nice to learn what the average English will think about the average US person – “Americans that I’ve met are mostly clean-shaven.” P 108 The reader will find this story to have certainly taken place prior to the ages of CSI and so forth. 5 The Million Dollar Bond Robbery P. 119 – 136 (17 p.) – Der raffinierte Aktendiebstahl Again, we learn about Poirot’s “mal de mer” – which prevents him to investigate on board the Olympia where the Liberty Bonds have been stolen. Mr. Philip Ridgeway was in charge of them then and now his fiancée asks for Poirot’s help. Now you will come to see what Hastings describes as Poirot’s “…eyes beginning to flicker with the green light I knew so well.” P. 125. Why is someone trying to break open a lock he has a key for? “ bien to the intelligence of Hercule Poirot the case is perfectly clear, but for the benefit of others, not so greatly gifted by the good God…” p. 130. 6 The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb P. 137 – 164 (27 p.) – Das Abenteuer des ägyptischen Grabes The discovery of the Tomb of King Men-her-Ra in Egypt ist followed by a strange series of death: two of his discoverers die and the nephew of one of them, who had been paying a visit. All occurs within a month. So now, when the son of one of the discoverers decides to take on his late father’s work, his mother is worried enough to ask Poirot for help. Alas, let’s go to Egypt, Hastings! Quite despite the well know issue about being on board a ship… Note: You really learn how AC has a liking for excavations – as seen already in “The Man in the Brown Suit”. No wonder whom she will marry later in life! The author will place other books’ settings in Egypt: “Murder in Mesopotamia” (1936) – „Mord in Mesopotamien” (AC 19, Poirot), “Death on the Nile” (1937) - „Tod auf dem Nil” (AC 22, Poirot) and “Death comes as the End” (1944 für die USA, ’45 für UK) - “Rächende Geister” (AC 35). Agatha Christie also treats paranormal issues several times in her books, such as • a séance in “The Sittaford Mystery” (1931) – “Das Geheimnis von Sittaford” (AC 11), • another in "Dumb Witness" (1937) - "Der ballspielende Hund" (AC 21) • a kind of voodoo in “Evil under the Sun” (1941)– “Das Böse unter der Sonne” (AC 29, Poirot), • some slightly esoteric stories in “The Mysterious Mr. Quin” (1930) – “Der seltsame Mr. Quin” (AC) • and one of the stories from “The Thirteen Problems”(1932) - “Der Dienstagabend-Klub” (AC, Miss Marple),”The Idol House of Astarte” - “Der Tempel der Astarte”. 7 Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan P. 165 – 194 (29 p.) - Der Juwelenraub im Grandhotel Hastings has “money to burn” and makes Poirot join him on a trip to Brighton’s Grand Metropolitan hotel. After dinner, they chat with the rich Opalsens, the wife displaying precious jewelry. Poirot entertains the group with his virtues related to recovering precious gems, so Mrs. Opalsen decides to go upstairs to fetch a particularly wonderful necklace. She will not return downstairs… Hm. How could anybody be sure that someone leaves a room twice? It might have been just once, after all? 8 The Kidnapped Prime Minister P. 195 – 230 (35 p.) – Der entführte Premierminister Hastings goes back in time to right after World War I while he had a recruiting job – before, the story to follow was top secret: Prime Minister David MacAdam has just escaped assassination. Hastings and Poirot are soon to learn from their visitors, that MacAdam had been kidnapped little later – and will need to be freed by tomorrow, so he may attend the Allied Conference at Versailles: “(“The Pacifist propaganda, started and maintained by the German agents in our midst, has been very active. …His absence may have the most serious results – possibly a premature and disastrous peace.” P. 201. Ah, les Boches! We meet Japp again – and Agatha Christie again forces the poor Poirot to go on board of a boat… Contemporary: What to hold against somebody? “he is an Irishman from County Clare” P. 212 (in this case, that is almost as bad as being German – remember the year!) 9 The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim P. 231 – 257 (26 p.) – Das Verschwinden Mr. Davenheims Japp is visiting Poirot and Hastings for tea (or sweet hot chocolate, as for Poirot). He is to investigate where banker Davenheim disappeared to. His safe has been emptied. Might Mr. Lowen help, the last guest that came to visit, but never managed to meet Davenheim? Japp starts to bet against Poirot on who will be quicker to solve the case – well, I rather would not – like robbing a child… 10 The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman P. 259 – 279 (20 p.) – Die Abenteuer des italienischen Edelmannes Dr. Hawker, neighbor, friend and admirer of Poirot’s, drops in time and again. One of those evenings, he gets summoned by his house keeper: his patient, Count Foscatini, phoned to tell he was killed. Hastings, Poirot and the doctor rush for the Count’s flat, only to find him dead. Which role do his two dinner guests have? Now, is it one “of these Italian vendetta things”? p. 270 Hm. Who draws curtains according to some precise timing, though? 11 The Case of the Missing Will P. 281 – 298 (17 p.) – Das fehlende Testament Young Miss Violet Marsh is not the kind of woman that Hastings will like – too self-sufficient, too “modern”. She tells Poirot that she, orphaned, was grown up by her late uncle, who was very opposed to the education of women (although fond of his niece otherwise). Now, his will is somewhat peculiar: his niece may live in his house for a year from his death – “during which time my clever niece may prove her wits” p. 284 – after that, all his belongings pass to charitable institutions. So off the search goes. Spoiler-Alarm, bewusst in deutscher Sprache: Der Spaß besteht für den Leser wohl am ehesten darin, alle Hinweise zu bekommen und mitzuermitteln – um dann am Ende doch gerade noch besser als Hastings dazustehen (natürlich NIE soooo schlecht wie Hastings selbst). Bei diesen Kurzgeschichten hat man irgendwann so eine Art Muster vor Augen, so einen Trick mit doppeltem Boden – das ist dann nicht mehr wirklich so lustig. Lt. Wikipedia hatte sich die Autorin über diese Sammlung mit ihrem Verleger komplett zerstritten und empfand nichts mehr für dieses Werk, weshalb es auch – im Gegensatz zu sonst – keine Widmung hat. Vielleicht erklärt das gewisse Schwächen.
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