1 April 2024

Review: POIROT INVESTIGATES, Agatha Christie

  • this edition from my local library published by Vintage Books Jan 2023
  • first published 1924
  • ISBN 978-0-593-31188-3
  • 237 pages


Poirot Investigates is a short story collection written by English author Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by The Bodley Head in March 1924.[1] In the eleven stories, famed eccentric detective Hercule Poirot solves a variety of mysteries involving greed, jealousy, and revenge. The American version of this book, published by Dodd, Mead and Company in 1925,[2] featured a further three stories. 

The American edition of the book, published one year later, featured an additional three stories which did not appear in book form in the UK until 1974 with the publication of Poirot's Early Cases.

    The Chocolate Box
    The Veiled Lady
    The Lost Mine

The original 11 stories

  1. The Adventure of the Western Star
  2. The Tragedy of Marsdon Manor
  3. The Adventure of the Cheap Flat
  4. The Mystery of Hunter's Lodge
  5. The Million Dollar Bond Robbery
  6. The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb
  7. The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan
  8. The Kidnapped Prime Minister
  9. The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim
  10. The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman
  11. The Case of the Missing Will

My Take

You will find that I have read all these short stories previously. See also here.  

I am re-reading them to discuss with my U3A Agatha Christie group. So here rather than look comprehensively at each story, I will just make a few notes, and perhaps some questions that I want to ask the group in our discussion. Please excuse me if I inadvertently release a few spoliers.

At the beginning of the collection there is a warning that the plots of these original stories may differ from the television versions of them. 

There is also a warning that the book as published in 1925 contained some offensive cultural representations and language that may detract - and distract- from the value of the work. A certain amount of sanitisation has taken place.  Do the group think that sanitisation is justified?

I am interested in how Poirot was depicted. Generally he is nimbler than in later books and also poses at times as a handyman, such as a plumber.

These stories all pre-date the appearance of Miss Lemon. Poirot and Hastings have a landlady.

The stories are all narrated by Hastings, basically set after  World War One, and he sets the tone in the first story (The Adventure of the Western Star) with his complaint that Poirot has made an absolute laughing stock of him. His complaint is basically that Poirot never confides what he is thinking and just lets Hastings blunder along.  Poirot says Hastings is "always in a mental fog". Of course this allows Poirot to demonstrate how superior his "little grey cells" are.

The stories demonstrate the breadth of the consultations are that Poirot undertakes. In the second, The Tragedy of Marsdon Manor, Poirot is asked to investigate a possible insurance fraud.

I found the plot of the third one, The Adventure of the Cheap Flat, rather convoluted and didn't think Christie pulled it off particularly well. It does demonstrate the breadth of Poirot's international connections, and also introduces Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard who will appear regularly in Poirot stories and novels.

In the Mystery of Hunter's Lodge Poirot is in bed with influenza and he allows Hastings to go instead of him. At Lodge he meets up with Japp who refers unkindly to "the cart without the horse". In this case Poirot solves the case from his sick bed, but Hastings and Japp combined, who are on the spot, are unable to secure the culprits. Hastings observes though that justice is finally done.

The Million Dollar Bond Robbery makes us aware of Poirot's chronic mal der mer as well as his ability to think outside the box. 

In The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb Christie gives us a time frame determined by the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922. In 1923 and 1924 there were stories of a curse having been activated by the desecration of the tomb, so this story would have had a very contemporary feel for the readers.

In The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan, Hastings announces his plan to take Poirot away to Brighton for the weekend.  Hastings reminds us that Poirot is inclined to underestimate Hastings' mental capacities. A pearl necklace is stolen but Poirot solves the case while hasting misses all the clues.

The Kidnapped Prime Minister is set a little earlier than some of the stories, probably in 1919 during the peace conferences and Hastings reveals the role that Poirot played in averting an international crisis. In this story we have a description of Japp as "ferret-faced" which is quite at odds with the way he has been portrayed in TV series. 

In the Disappearance of Mr Davenheim Poirot assures us that he approaches the business of detection as an exact science, a mathematical precision.  He regards himself as a "consulting specialist", able to solve mysteries without moving from his chair, providing he is given the right information. But he asks such peculiar questions that Japp privately considers his abilities have deserted him. Japp emphasises his age and war experiences are catching up with him. But in the end Japp loses a five pound wager to Poirot.

The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman looks like an Italian vendetta but Poirot is not convinced. He realises that they are reliant on the evidence of one man, and what if that is not true?

The Case of the Missing Will  features Poirot and Hastings and a New Woman who impresses Poirot but not Hastings. Poirot solves her problem but Hastings feels they have not "played fair".

So that brings us to the end of the original 11 stories. They have all been designed to show us what a clever mind Poirot has, and how much superior to both Japp and Hastings. The remaining 3 stories seem a little shorter than the earlier ones.

In The Veiled Lady Poirot is bored - he imagines that he is making such a name for himself in London that criminals are not presenting any interesting cases. In this case Poirot and Hasting break into a  house in the dead of night in search of a Chinese Box containing some compromising letters. 

In The Lost Mine Poirot recounts an old adventure of his to explain to Hastings why he does not invest in shares. And in The Chocolate Box he tells Hastings of one of his rare failures, a case where he let natural justice take its course.

So in general, these stories range in quality. Each of them has a puzzle for the reader to solve. However, there are times when the author does not give the reader everything they need to solve the puzzle. At times Poirot is privy to information that we do not have. However the stories in general move quickly and the problem is resolved.

My rating: 4.3

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