- Poirot's Early Cases
name = Poirot's Early Cases
image_caption = Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
cover_artist = Margaret Murray
language = English
Collins Crime Club
release_date = September 1974
media_type = Print (
pages = 256 pp (first edition, hardcover)
isbn = ISBN 0-002-31312-X
preceded_by = Poems
followed_by = Curtain
"Poirot's Early Cases" is a
short storycollection written by Agatha Christieand first published in the UK by Collins Crime Clubin September 1974."Collins Crime Club – A checklist of First Editions" Chris Peers, Ralph Spurrier and Jamie Sturgeon. Dragonby Press (Second Edition) March 1999 (Page 15)] The book retailed at £2.25. Although the stories contained within the volume had all appeared in previous US collections, the book also appeared there later in 1974 [Cooper and Pyke. Detective Fiction - the collector's guide: Second Edition (Pages 82 and 88) Scholar Press. 1994. ISBN 0-85967-991-8] [http://home.insightbb.com/~jsmarcum/agatha68.htm American Tribute to Agatha Christie] ] under the slightly different title of "Hercule Poirot's Early Cases" in an edition retailing at $6.95.
In the collection, Christie charts some of the cases from
Hercule Poirot's early career, before he was internationally renowned as a detective. All the stories had first been published in periodicals between 1923 and 1935.
The Affair at the Victory Ball
Chief Inspector Jappasks Poirot to assist Scotland Yardin the strange events which took place at a recent costumed Victory Ball. A group of six people, headed by the young Viscount Cronshaw, attended dressed in the costume of the Commedia dell'arte. Lord Cronshaw was Harlequin, his uncle, the honourable Eustace Beltane, was Punchinello and Mrs. Mallaby, an American widow, was Punchinella. In the roles of Pierrotand Pierette were Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Davidson (he being a stage actor) and finally, Miss 'Coco' Courtney, an actress who was rumoured to be engaged to Lord Cronshaw, was Columbine.
The night went badly from the start when it was obvious to the party that Cronshaw and Coco were not on speaking terms. The latter was crying and asked Chris Davidson to take her home to her flat in Chelsea. When they had gone, a friend of Cronshaw's spotted Harlequin in a box looking down on the ball and called up to him to join them on the main floor. Cronshaw left the box to join them but then disappeared. He was found ten minutes later on the floor of the supper room, stabbed through the heart with a table knife, his body suffering a strange stiffness. To compound the tragedy, Coco Courtney was found dead in her bed with an overdose of cocaine, it being found out afterwards at the inquest that she was addicted to the drug.
Poirot starts to investigate, finding out to everyone's puzzlement that Cronshaw was emphatically opposed to drugs, that Beltane's costume had a hump and a ruffle and that a curtained recess exists in the supper room.
He arranges a get-together of the people involved at his flat where he puts on a shadowed presentation across a back-lit screen of the six costumes but then reveals that there were actually five. Underneath Pierrot's loose garb is that of the slimmer-fitting Harlequin. Davidson leaps forward and curses Poirot but is quickly arrested by Japp.
Poirot reveals that the strength with which the knife was plunged into Cronshaw meant that a man was responsible for the crime. The stiffness of the body meant that he had been dead for some time and not killed in the ten minute interval between being seen in the box and then being found dead on the floor, therefore the figure seen as Harlequin was one of the others. It could not have been Beltane as his costume was too elaborate to change quickly. Davidson killed Cronshaw earlier, hid the body in the curtained recess, took Coco home where he fed her an overdose of the drug. He did not stay there for a while as he claimed but returned immediately. His motive was one of self-preservation as it was him who was supplying Coco with her drug and Cronshaw was on the point of finding out and exposing him.
The Adventure of the Clapham Cook
Poirot is not interested in investigating some of the cases which appear in the
newspapersand which Hastings tries to bring to his attention. These include a bank clerk who disappears with fifty thousand pounds of securities, a suicidal man and a missing typist. He is put on the spot though when visited by a Mrs. Todd who is determined that he investigate her missing cook. With some humour, and to avoid an argument, he agrees to take on the trivial case.
Eliza Dunn, a middle-aged woman, walked out of her job and the Todd's house in
Claphamtwo days ago without working her notice and has not communicated with her employer since, except for sending for her trunk that day. Interviewing the maid in the house, Poirot finds out that the trunk was already packed, meaning that Eliza had planned to leave even though her departure was swift. The other occupants of the house are Mr. Todd, who works in the city, and their lodger, Mr. Simpson, who works in the same bank that appeared in the paper regarding the missing clerk, Mr. Davis. Struck by this coincidence as he is, Poirot cannot see a connection between an absconding bank clerk and a missing cook.
Poirot places advertisements in the newspaper enquiring as to the whereabouts of Eliza and several days later he is successful in locating her when she visits Poirot's rooms. She tells him a story of having come into a legacy of a house in
Carlisleand an income of three hundred pounds a year, dependent upon her taking up the offer and immediately leaving domestic service. This legacy was communicated to her by a man in the street that approached her as she was returning to the Todd's house one night, the man supposedly having come from there to see her. The money came from a friend of her late grandmother who had settled in Australiaand married a wealthy settler. Eliza had immediately taken the train north and a couple of days later received her belongings from Clapham, although wrapped in paper parcels and not in her old trunk, which she supposes had been kept behind by Mrs. Todd in a fit of pique.
Poirot rushes back to Clapham with Hastings and explains matters on the way. Simpson knew what his colleague Davis was up to at the bank. He killed the man for the securities and needed an old, inconspicuous trunk in which to hide the body and that meant diverting Eliza out of the way. It was Simpson in disguise that approached her in the street. On arriving at Clapham, Simpson has already disappeared but is traced to an ocean liner bound for the US. The trunk with Davis' body inside is located at a
Glasgowrailway station. Poirot views the link between a disappearing cook and a murder to be one of his most interesting cases.
The Cornish Mystery
Poirot receives a visit from a Mrs. Pengelley, a middle-aged woman who is afraid that she is being poisoned by her husband, a dentist. She has been ill after eating but her doctor states that she is suffering from acute
gastritis. She and her husband live in Polgarwith, a small market town in Cornwall. She has no proof of the allegation, only that she only suffers when her husband is at home, not when he is away at the weekends and a bottle of weedkiller, supposedly unused, is half-empty. There could be no financial motive to suggest why Mr. Pengelley should try to murder his wife but she suspects an affair with his young receptionist. Another resident in the house was her niece, Freda Stanton, but that lady rowed with Mrs. Pengelley the week before and left the house after living there for eight years. Mrs. Pengelley is vague as to the cause of the row but states that she has been told by a Mr. Radnor to leave Freda to come to her senses. Radnor is described as "just a friend" and a "very pleasant young fellow".
Poirot and Hastings travel to Cornwall the next day and are shocked to find that Mrs. Pengelley died half an hour before. The maid who answers the door makes it clear that she too suspects the husband. Poirot interviews Mrs. Pengelley's doctor who at first denies that anything could be wrong but is then astounded to hear that the dead woman came to London to consult the detective.
Their last visit before leaving Cornwall is to Mrs. Pengelley's niece. They meet Freda Staunton and Jacob Radnor and discover that they are engaged and that the cause of the row between Freda and her aunt was Mrs. Pengelley's own infatuation with Radnor, a far younger man. The situation became so bad that Freda had no option but to move out.
Poirot and Hastings return to London but are able to follow events in the papers as rumour spreads leading to Mrs. Pengelley's body being exhumed and traces of
arsenicfound. Mr. Pengelley is arrested and charged with murder. Attending the committal hearing, Poirot invites Radnor back to his flat where he produces a written confession for the man to sign. He planned to get rid of both the Pengelley's, one through murder and the other by execution, and his new wife – Freda – would then inherit their money. Mrs. Pengelley fell for Radnor because he made sure that she would, flirting with the lady to the point of infatuation whilst at the same time planting doubts in her mind to the effect that her husband was trying to poison her. Poirot offers him twenty-four hours escape if he signs the confession before he hands it over to the policeand dupes the man into thinking that Poirot's flat is being watched. Radnor signs and hurries out. Poirot confesses to an angry Hastings that he didn't possess a shred of evidence about Radnor's guilt and this stunt was his only option to get Pengelley acquitted. He is sure that Scotland Yard will catch up with Radnor, even with his twenty-four hours start.
The Adventure of Johnnie Waverly
Poirot is called in to investigate the kidnapping of three-year old Johnnie Waverly, the son of Marcus Waverly from his old family home, Waverly Court in
Surrey. For several days prior to the kidnapping, the family received anonymous letters which threatened to take the boy unless twenty-five thousand pounds was paid. Mr. Waverly took the letters to the police who took little interest until a final letter was received which stated that the boy would be kidnapped at twelve o'clock the next day. On the day that the threat was due to take place, Mrs. Waverly was mildly poisoned and a note was left on Mr. Waverly's pillow which stated, "At Twelve O'Clock". Horrified that there was someone inside the house who was involved, Mr. Waverly sacked all of the staff except for his long-time Butler, Tredwell and Miss Collins, his wife's trusted secretary-companion.
At the appointed time, Mr. Waverly, his son and Inspector McNeil of Scotland Yard were in a locked room in the house with police posted in the extensive grounds. Dead on twelve, the police found a tramp sneaking toward the house who had on him cotton wool,
chloroformand a post-kidnap note ready to plant. Mr. Waverly and the Inspector dashed outside to see what was happening and the boy was taken then – driven off in a car through a now unguarded gate. The astonished people then heard the village clock chiming twelve and realised that the main clock in the house had been put forward by ten minutes. A car with a small child in it was stopped some time later but found not to be the one that the police were looking for. The tramp claims he was employed by Tredwell but the butler has an alibifor the time that he was supposedly meeting the tramp as he was in the house with Mr. Waverly at the time.
Poirot travels to Waverly Court and is told of the existence of a
Priest hole. In it, he finds the footprint of a small dog in one corner but no one knows of any such creature small enough in the house. After questioning the child's sacked nurse, Tredwell and Miss Collins, Poirot concludes his investigation and confronts Mr. Waverly. He 'kidnapped' his own son to get money from his rich but very careful wife. The poisoning of the wife to incapacitate her, the note on the pillow and the re-setting of the clock point to an inside job and only Mr. Waverly could sack all of the servants to reduce the level of protection around the child. Tredwell was in on the matter being a devoted servant of his master and he did indeed employ the tramp. The footprint of the 'dog' in the priest's hole was that from a toy kept there to amuse the boy until he could be spirited away afterwards. A shamefaced Mr. Waverly confesses to Poirot and reveals that the child is presently with his old nurse.
The Double Clue
Poirot is called in to investigate a jewel robbery by Marcus Hardman, a collector of various antique precious objects. The theft occurred from his safe when he was holding a small tea party at his house. He showed his guests his collection of medieval jewels and later discovered that the safe had been rifled and the objects taken. Four of his guests had the opportunity take the items – Mr. Johnston, a
South African millionaire only just arrived in London; Countess Vera Rossakoff, a refugee from the Russian revolution; Bernard Parker, a young and effeminate agent for Mr. Hardman and Lady Runcorn, a middle-aged society lady whose aunt is a kleptomaniac.
Poirot examines the scene of the crime and finds a man's glove and a
cigarettecase with the initials "BP". He visits Bernard Parker who appears suspicious when he states that the glove isn't his but vehemently denies owning the cigarette case, nevertheless Poirot finds the twin of the glove in the hallway of Parker's house.
Later that day, Poirot receives a visit from the Countess Rossakoff who is indignant that Poirot is pursuing Parker. Previously suspicious that the Countess is a real
Russian, Poirot is forced to admit that the impressive lady is who she says she is. That evening, Hastings is surprised to see Poirot studying book on Russian grammar. The next day, he visits Hardman and tells him who the thief is. The little collector is astonished and leaves Poirot to pursue to matter without the involvement of the police. Poirot and Hastings then visit the Countess and Poirot calmly tells the lady that his taxi is waiting and that he would be obliged if she would give him the jewels. She, equally calmly, does so. They part on good terms, the Countess admitting that Poirot is one of the few people she fears. He in turn is very impressed with the Russian lady.
He tells Hastings that it was the double clue of the glove and the case which made him suspicious. If both were planted to incriminate Parker, it would have been too false therefore only one of the items must have been genuine and the other a deception. As the cigarette case was not Parker's, that must have been the genuine clue. The case belonged to the Countess whose initials – VR – are BP in the
Cyrillic alphabet, hence Poirot's perusal of the book on Russian grammar.
The King of Clubs
Poirot and Hastings discuss a report of a death that appears in a newspaper. A family called the Oglanders were playing bridge in the drawing room of their house in
Streathamthe previous night when the French windows burst open and a woman staggered in, blood on her dress. She managed to say, "Murder!" and then fell to the floor. The family fetched both a doctor and the police who called at the next-door villaand found the body of Henry Reedburn, the theatrical impresario, dead in the library with his skull split open by some unknown weapon. The woman has since been identified as the famous dancer, Valerie Saintclair.
In connection with the newspaper story, Poirot receives a visit from Prince Paul of Maurania, who hoped that the dancer would be his wife. In doing so he would be going against the snobbery and wishes of his imperial family but he has heard various stories of her origin, one of which is that her mother was a Russian grand duchess which Valerie has told Prince Paul happens to be true. Reedburn was in love with Valerie although his feelings were definitely not reciprocated. Prince Paul and Valerie saw a clairvoyant the previous week who turned over the king of clubs in her pack of cards and saw a man who threatened danger to her. The prince is afraid that Valerie interpreted this to mean Reedburn and attacked him.
Poirot and Hastings go to Streatham and first visit the scene of the crime. The
libraryis on the ground floor and runs the length of one side of the house. At either end are curtained recesses with French windows, one to the garden and the other to the drive. It was in the recess facing the garden that Reedburn was found. The dead man had a female visitor that night that he let into the house himself but the servants didn't see who it was. Poirot sees a marble seat in the recess whose arm-ends are carved in the form of lion's heads and wonders if they could have caused the wound to Reedburn's head however the angle at which the body was lying and the lack of blood on the seat works against this theory.
From the French window, the Oglander's house can be seen and the two visit there next, going by the garden path that was used by Miss Saintclair. In the drawing room, its walls covered with family
portraits, the table with the cards for the interrupted bridge game is still in place. Miss Saintclair is still in the house, ill in bed. They are permitted to see her and she tells them that Reedburn held a secret of hers and threatened her but she did not kill him. She went to his house by prior appointment and was pleading with him when a man dressed like a trampattacked him from behind the curtained recess. She fled from the house through the window and garden towards the lights of the Oglander's house. Returning to the drawing room Poirot suddenly realises that the king of clubs is missing from the pack of cards on the bridge table and realises the mistake he made in drawing his own conclusion to the case. They return to Reedburn's house and in the curtained recess that leads to the drive they find a twin of the marble seat, again with lion's head arms but this one has a faint bloodstain on it. Poirot sees that Reedburn was killed at this end of the room and his body dragged to the recess facing the garden. He also has the missing king of clubs – it is in his pocket, he having taken it from the card box before he left the Oglander's house. He returns there and assures Mrs. Oglander that the police will not find out what happened and he returns the playing card to her, telling her it was their only slip-up.
On the way back to their flat he reveals to Hastings what happened: no bridge game was taking place and this was hurriedly set up after the event as an alibi for the four members of the family but by mistake one card was left in the box. The son of the family killed Reedburn when he went with Valerie to plead with the
blackmailer. The reason for this support is that she an estranged daughter of the Oglanders, the family resemblance being obvious from the portraits in the drawing room. Despite the breach in the relationship, she turned to them in her moment of need and they assisted. Her story of the tramp will stand and she is free to marry Prince Paul.
The LeMesurier Inheritance
Sometime during the latter days of the
first world war, having recently met up again at Styles, Poirot and Hastings have dined at the Carlton when they meet Captain Vincent LeMesurier, who Hastings knew in France. He is there with his uncle Hugo when a cousin of theirs called Roger rushes in with the news that Vincent's father has had a serious fall from a horse and is not expected to last the night. Vincent and Uncle Hugo rush off leaving Roger with Poirot and Hastings.
Hastings is surprised at Vincent's shocked reaction to the news (knowing that he and his father were never close) but Roger tells him that it is partially due to the fact that the LeMesurier
cursehas struck again and informs the two of the fate which hangs over the family. The story dates from medieval times when an ancestorsuspected his wife of being unfaithful and his young child of not being his own. In a fit of rage he killed them both – possibly by walling them up alive. His wife cursed him before she died that no first-born son of his descendants would ever inherit. After her death, her husband discovered that she was entirely innocent and spent the remainder of his days in absolute repentance. Nevertheless, the curse has come true time and again over the centuries.The next day, Poirot and Hastings learn that Victor himself died when falling from the train on the way to see his dying father. His death is put down to a mental breakdown, on top of the shell-shock he suffered on the western front. Over the next few years all of Vincent's uncles except for Hugo die, leaving the latter the inheritor of the family estate.
One morning, Poirot receives a visit from Hugo's wife. She is an American and a former actress and doesn't believe in the curse however she is concerned about the elder of her two young sons, Ronald, who is eight. He has had three narrow escapes from death in the past few months. One of them was when the boy was climbing up some
ivyon the wall of their home and it supposedly collapsed under his weight, however she saw for herself that the branch had previously been cut. In the house are Roger LeMesurier, who seems to have survived the curse over the years, the children's governess and Mr. LeMesurier's secretary, John Gardiner.
Poirot and Hastings travel to the home in
Northumberlandand remake their acquaintance of Hugo. He has aged badly over the years since they last met; believing implicitly that his son is doomed. He also tells Poirot that he soon will die as he has an incurable disease. Poirot and Hastings also meet the other people in the house.
Several days later, Ronald is stung by a bee and Poirot is immediately concerned. He tells Hastings not to go to sleep but to keep a hidden vigil with him in Ronald's room. Quicker than expected, a figure creeps into the darkened bedroom and is about to inject the young boy when Poirot and Hastings overpower him. It is Hugo, the boy's father, driven insane by the curse and his actions over the past few years in murdering his brothers to gain the estate.
Hugo dies in an asylum some months afterwards. Mrs. LeMesurier marries John Gardiner who Poirot suspects is Ronald's real father, bearing in mind the similarity of their hair colour.
The Lost Mine
Poirot and Hastings are discussing
investmentsand Poirot informs Hastings that he has no thing of that kind except for fourteen thousand shares in BurmaMines Ltd which were given to him as a gift for services rendered. He offers to tell the story of what service he provided and Hastings gladly listens...
The mines in question were originally silver mines, discovered by the Chinese in the fifteenth century. The
silverwas all worked out but plenty of leadremained, not considered being of value at the time but definitely worthy of exploitation at the time of the story. The mine itself was lost, the only clue to its location being old papers in the hands of a Chinese family. The head of the family, Wu Ling, agreed to negotiate a sale of the papers and travelled to England to complete the transaction. Wu Ling was supposed to be met by one of the syndicate company directors, Mr. Pearson, in Southamptonbut his train there was delayed with the result that Wu Ling made his own way to London where he booked into the Hotel Russell Squareand telephoned the company to say that he would see them the next day. He failed to appear at the meeting and the hotel was contacted. They said Wu Ling had gone out earlier with a friend. He still failed to appear at the offices throughout the day. The police were contacted and the next evening the Chinaman's body was found floating in the Thames.
Poirot was called in and immediately started to investigate people who shared the voyage to England with Wu Ling. He was able to ascertain that one of them, a young bank clerk called Charles Lester, was the man who called for Wu Ling at his hotel on the morning of the disappearance. Mr. Lester was quickly tracked down and told a story of having been asked by Wu Ling to call for him at 10.30am. Instead his servant appeared and asked him to accompany him to where Wu Ling now was. Their taxi took them to
Limehousewhere Lester started to get nervous and got out of the taxi before they reached their destination and that was the end of his supposed connection with the affair.
However Wu Ling was proven to have no servant and the taxi driver was tracked down who said that he took both men to a known opium den from where Lester alone emerged looking ill half an hour later. Lester was arrested but the papers about the mine could not be found.
Mr. Pearson suggested to an outraged Poirot that they go in disguise to Limehouse themselves and investigate the opium den. Poirot did go (but not in disguise) and, pretending to be "customers" overheard a conversation between some of the Chinamen about the death of Wu Ling and the fact that Lester certainly had the papers. Poirot and Mr. Pearson managed to get out of the den quietly.
Poirot quickly found the papers – Pearson had them. He had indeed met Wu Ling in Southampton (everyone had his word only that he had failed to meet the visitor) and taken him direct to Limehouse where Wu Ling was killed. However, one of the opium dealers had already been put into the Hotel Russell Square to impersonate the man and, hearing of Lester's invitation to visit the hotel from Wu Ling himself, Pearson set the young man up to take the blame for the murder. Lester did indeed enter the opium den and was drugged. Having only a hazy recollection and losing his nerve, he at first denied entering the den. Pearson's insistence in taking Poirot to Limehouse was an elaborate charade to divert the detective's suspicions but it had the opposite effect. Pearson was arrested and Poirot became a
shareholderin a Burmese mine.
The Plymouth Express
A young naval officer undertakes a train journey on the
Plymouthexpress and finds the dead body of a woman underneath one of the seats in his carriage. The woman is later identified as Flossie Halliday, latterly the Honourable Mrs. Rupert Carrington, the daughter of an American steelmagnate who asks Poirot to take the case on.
Poirot knows of the woman and saw sight of her once in
Paris. Some time ago she was caught up with an adventurer called Countde la Rochefour but her father took her back to America to get her away from the Count. She later married Rupert Carrington who was to prove just as unsuitable a husband, being a gambling addict and deep in debt. They soon drifted apart and were about to announce a legal separation.
Poirot and Hastings call on Mr. Halliday at his rented house in Park Lane. He tells them that his daughter was going to a house party in the
West Country. She travelled by train from Paddington and changed at Bristolfor the train to Plymouth (although she would be getting off before Plymouth). Her maid travelled with her in a third-class carriage. Mrs. Carrington was carrying with her jewels amounting to a value of almost one hundred thousand pounds to wear at the house party. At Bristol the maid, Jane Mason, received a surprise: Mrs. Carrington told her to wait at the station for a few hours while she travelled on to some unspecified destination. She would return in a few hours and they would get a later connection for the Plymouth line. When she was being given these instructions, Mason could see the back of a man in Mrs. Carrington's compartment but he was staring out of the opposite window and she did not see his face. After waiting at Bristol for most of the day, Mason checked into a hotel for the night and read of the murder in the next day's paper. Mrs. Carrington had been chloroformed and then stabbed and the jewels are missing. Mrs. Carrington's will leaves everything to her estranged husband who was away from town at the time of the tragedy.
Mason is called and confirms the facts of her part of the story. She is also able to say that the build of the man in the carriage was possibly that of Mr. Carrington and she confirms what. Mrs Carrington was wearing at the time. Mason is dismissed and Poirot pushes Mr. Halliday to tell him what he is holding back. Halliday produces a note found in his daughter's pocket from the Count de la Rochefour. It appears that the romance of the two has been restarted and Poirot guessed as much since Mr. Halliday was not pushing for the investigation to concentrate on his son-in-law, despite his evident dislike of him.
Over the next day or so, enquiries are made by Japp into the whereabouts of Rupert Carrington and the Count de la Rochefour at the time of the murder but nothing substantial comes to light. When Japp next visits, Poirot immediately guesses that the knife used to kill Mrs Carrington has been found by the side of the line after between Weston (the first stop after Bristol on the Plymouth line) and Taunton (the next stop after that) and that a paper boy who sold items to Mrs Carrington has been interviewed. Despite being astounded at this deduction, Japp confirms that this is exactly what has happened. Japp is able to tell Poirot something he doesn't know – that one of the jewels has been pawned by a known thief called 'Red Narky' who usually works with a woman called Gracie Kidd but he seems to be alone this time. Poirot and Hastings immediately go to Halliday's house and the Belgian asks to be taken to a room on the top floor. Rummaging through a trunk Poirot finds clothes like the ones worn by Mrs Carrington when she was murdered. An angry Halliday joins them followed by quick succession by Mason who Poirot introduces as Gracie Kidd. She and 'Red Narky' probably murdered Mrs Carrington before Bristol. The story about the man in the carriage at the Bristol interchange was a blind as was the knife thrown off the train before Taunton and the newspaper boy. In the latter instance, Gracie dressed in similar clothing to the now-dead woman and bought two items off the boy, drawing attention to herself by mentioning the colour of her clothes being the same colour as a woman's dress on the cover of a magazine she was buying and by leaving a large tip. By making the murder appear to have taken place later than it was, Kidd was provided with an alibi.
The Chocolate Box
In their flat one night, the conversation between Poirot and Hastings turns to the latter's belief that Poirot has never known failure in his professional career. The little Belgian tells him that is not the case and tells Hastings of one occasion when he did not succeed in unravelling a crime:
The event was the death of Paul Deroulard, a French Deputy who was living in
Brussels. The time was the strife over the separation of church and state and M. Deroulard was a key player in these events as an anti-catholic and a potential minister. He was a widower, his rich young wife having died from a fall downstairs some years before. He inherited her house in Brussels and, although abstemious in terms of drinking and smoking, he had a reputation as a ladies man. He died suddenly in his house from reported heart failureon the eve of his promotion to minister of the state at a time when Poirot was a member of the Belgian detective force. He was taking a vacation when he received a visit from Mademoiselle Virginie Mesnard who was a cousin of M. Deroulard's dead wife who was convinced that the death was not natural. M. Deroulard's household consisted of four servants, his aged, but very infirm aristocratic mother, Mademoiselle Mesnard herself, and on the night of the death, two visitors: M. de Saint Alard, a neighbour, and John Wilson, an English friend.
Poirot was introduced into the household under a false pretext by Mademoiselle Mesnard and he began by investigating the meal served on the night of M. Deroulard's death but found no leads there. Looking in the study where the death actually occurred, Poirot spotted an open but full and untouched box of chocolates and found out that M. Deroulard eat some chocolates every night after dinner and finished the previous box on the night of his death. Poirot then spoke to the dead man's doctor and discovered that M. de Saint Alard was an ardent catholic whose friendship with M. Deroulard was being tested to breaking point by the political turbulence at the time. The doctor was also able to furnish examples of the types of poison that could be introduced into the chocolates which would have induced the type of death suffered. This caused Poirot to question local chemists where he found out that apart from eye drops for the aged Madame Deroulard, a prescription was made up for John Wilson of trinitrine within tiny tablets of chocolate (the medication being given to lower blood pressure) enough of which would act as a poison.
This latest development caused a problem for Poirot as Wilson had the opportunity but not the motive whereas the position was reversed for M. de Saint Alard. Poirot then wondered why John Wilson had not come from England with enough of his medication to last him throughout his visit and he discovered from a maid in the house that a bottle of the tablets had been "lost". He decided to investigate the house of M. de Saint Alard in the
Ardennesand, using the disguise of a plumber, he discovered in the bathroom cupboard there the empty bottle of medication. He returned to Brussels and it was then he obtained a summons from Madame Deroulard. Having discovered that Poirot was a police officer, she confessed to the murder of her son. Some years before she had seen him push his wife down the stairs and had realised the sort of man she had brought into the world. Afraid of the persecution that his new role would bring upon the church, she resolved to kill him. She took John Wilson's tablets and opened a new box of chocolates before seeing that one remained in the previous box. Into this she put the tablets and she put the empty bottle into M. de Saint Alard's pocket thinking that his valet would throw it away, not put it in the cupboard.
Madame Deroulard died a week later of her infirmities leaving Poirot to consider his mistakes: He knew Madame Deroulard had bad eyesight so no one else would have missed the unfinished box of chocolates before opening a new one. Also, if M. de Saint Alard had been the criminal, he would never have kept the empty bottle. To this day, Poirot laments the failure of the little grey cells on that occasion - although as Hastings notices not enough to prevent him boasting of the other times when they have served him well!
The Submarine Plans
Poirot is summoned urgently by special messenger late at night to 'Sharples', the home of Lord Alloway, head of the Ministry of Defence and a potential future Prime Minister. Travelling there with Hastings, he is introduced by their host to Admiral Sir Harry Weardale, the
First Sea Lordwho is a guest at Sharples together with his wife and son, Leonard. The reason for the summons is that the secret plans for the new 'Z'-type of submarinewere stolen some three hours ago.
The facts of the case are that the ladies of the party – a Mrs Conroy and Lady Weardale – retired to bed at 10.00pm as did Leonard Weardale. Lord Alloway instructed his secretary, Mr. Fitzroy, to place the various papers that he and the Admiral would require to do their evening's work out on the table in the study while the two men walked on the terrace and finished their cigars. Lord Alloway fancies that as they turned back on the terrace he saw a shadow move away from the open French window that leads into the study, although the Admiral is dismissive of this idea. Going into the study, the submarine plans, having being moved by Fitzroy from the safe to the table, were gone. Fitzroy himself had been distracted by a scream from the stairs outside the study and had gone out to find Mrs. Conroy's maid claiming that she had seen a
ghost. It was then that the plans were apparently stolen.
By torchlight, Poirot examines the grass outside the study window and finds no trace of footprints, even though it rained earlier in the evening and that means someone in the house is responsible. He questions all of the people concerned although at Lord Alloway's insistence, he doesn't reveal to them that the plans have been stolen. Fitzroy is discounted as, Lord Alloway points out, the man has access to the safe and could have copied the plans at any time. The prime suspect is Mrs. Conroy whose past life is something of a mystery and who moves in diplomatic circles. She was specifically asked down for the weekend in order that they could keep an eye on her.
Questioning her maid, Poirot correctly guesses that she screamed when Leonard Weardale sneaked an unexpected kiss from her and she quickly made the story up when her cry attracted Fitzroy's attention.
At this juncture, Lady Weardale reappears and asks Poirot if the matter could be dropped if the plans were returned. He agrees that that could be arranged and she promises that they will be within ten minutes. Poirot puts this offer to Lord Alloway, without mentioning any names, and leaves.
Driving back, Hastings questions this unexpected turn of events, suspecting Lady Weardale of really have rumoured bridge debts. Poirot points out that as the story of the shadow of an intruder leaving the study turned out to be incorrect, the plans must have been taken by Fitzroy (who they have previously discounted) or by Lord Alloway himself – the logical conclusion. Hastings is dubious of this deduction but Poirot points out that the man was rumoured to be involved in share scandals years before, although he was later exonerated, but suppose the rumours were true and he was being blackmailed, in all probability by Mrs Conroy, a foreign agent? He would hand over fake copies of the plans to her, with suitable adjustments in them to make them useless, and then pretend they had been stolen while all the time ensuring that his loyal secretary wasn't suspected. Leonard Weardale was busy with the maid at the time of the supposed theft and Lady Weardale couldn't be the thief as she needed ten minutes to get the plans back whereas she would need a lot less time than that if she had taken them and hidden them. The theory Poirot has also explains why Lord Alloway didn't want the guests told of the theft of the plans – he wanted the foreign power to receive the false plans.
Hastings remains unconvinced but on the day in the future when Lord Alloway becomes Prime Minister, Poirot receives a cheque and a signed photograph from him, dedicated to "my discrete friend". He also hears that a foreign power attempted to build their own version of the submarine and it ended up a failure.
The Third Floor Flat
Four young people, two women and two men, are returning after a night out to the home of one of the women – Patricia Garnett. She is annoyed as she cannot find the key to her flat on the fourth floor of her apartment block in her handbag. The porter doesn't have a spare key, nor is there a fire escape, but the suggestion is made that the two men, Donovan Bailey and Jimmy Faulkener, make their way up through the coal lift and let the women in.
They go to the basement and make their way up. Exiting the lift, they find the kitchen in darkness and Donovan instructs Jimmy to remain where he is while he locates the light switch. He does so but the light fails to work and Donovan makes his way through the dark to the sitting room. He switches on that room's light and they suddenly realise that they have miscounted the floors and that they are in the flat below which, according to a pile of letters, seems to belong to a Mrs Ernestine Grant. They make their way up to the next floor again via the coal lift and let Pat and the second lady, Mildred Hope, into the former's flat. It is then that they notice that Donovan has cut himself as there is blood on his hand. He washes it off but cannot find a cut to explain the blood and voices his fears to Jimmy. Again using the coal lift, they return to Mrs Grant's flat below and soon spot a foot sticking out from under a curtain – it is the dead body of Mrs Grant. Back on the landing with the girls, they are discussing calling the police when a voice interrupts them, agreeing with their plan of action. It is the occupant of the fifth floor flat who introduces himself as Hercule Poirot, the famous detective that the four people have heard of. Going into Mrs Grant's flat, Poirot finds it curious that the light switch in the kitchen now works. He also sees that the red tablecloth disguises a patch of blood – it is this that Donovan touched to get the blood on his hand. The body was moved after death.
The police arrive and Poirot and the four people go back to Pat's flat where she makes them a much appreciated omelette. Inspector Rice questions them and tells them that Mrs Grant was shot with an automatic pistol some five hours earlier in the kitchen. They have found a note from someone signed "J.F." saying that he would be there at half-past-seven (the approximate time of death), the pistol she was shot with and a silk handkerchief used to wipe the prints from the gun and which is named "John Fraser". Poirot is suspicious – why would the murderer wipe his prints and yet leave his own handkerchief as evidence behind?
The police leave but the Inspector gives Poirot permission to inspect the flat himself. He goes down there with Donovan and Jimmy. He immediately starts to search in the kitchen bin and soon finds a small bottle. He sniffs the corked top carefully but says that he has a cold and Donovan impetuously pulls the stopper out and sniffs the contents for him. The results are almost immediate – Donovan drops in a faint to the floor provoking a cry of "Imbecile!" from Poirot. Jimmy fetches his friend a drink and Donovan recovers and decides to go home.Jimmy remains and Poirot tells him the case is solved. There is no such person as John Fraser as the letter and handkerchief were put there in purpose to hide the murderer's identity. The bottle in the bin was a ruse which Donovan fell for – it contained ethyl chloride and Poirot placed it there when he was apparently searching the bin. When Jimmy was getting the drink for his friend, Poirot searched Donovan's pockets and found two things – Pat's missing flat key which Donovan had abstracted earlier in the evening and a letter sent to Mrs Grant which arrived by the late evening post. Poirot had been struck by the fact that the light switch in the kitchen supposedly didn't work when later on there seemed nothing wrong with it. Donovan needed to get Jimmy out of the kitchen into the other room whilst he found the letter he was so desperately searching for and if he switched the light on in the kitchen as soon as they arrived in the coal lift he wouldn't have had the opportunity as their "mistake" in counting the floors would instantly have been noticed.
The letter is from a firm of solicitors agreeing that the marriage between Donovan Bailey and Ernestine Grant some eight years before in a foreign country was entirely lawful. Donovan wanted to marry Pat but his previous marriage was stopping him. By chance his first wife moved into the same block as his proposed future wife and Donovan killed her earlier in the evening but had to return for the solicitor's letter which he knew was on the way but hadn't arrived in time.
Poirot, as a result of spreading fame, has been overworked and Hastings suggests he rests by accompanying him on a week's holiday to the south Devon coastal resort of Ebermouth. On their fourth day there, Poirot receives a note from the theatrical agent Joseph Aarons who asks him to travel to Charlock Bay on the north Devon coast as he needs to consult him on a matter. The two are planning to go by train but Hastings sees a notice for a motor bus tour from the one resort to the other which will save time on changing trains. Poirot reluctantly agrees, afraid of the uncertain English climate and the drafts of air which will invade the bus. They book their tickets at the office of the company concerned where Hastings is taken with another customer, an auburn-haired girl, whereas Poirot is intrigued by a young man who is attempting to grow a feeble moustache.
The next day on the bus the two find themselves sat with the young girl who introduces herself as Mary Durrant. Her aunt is in Ebermouth and runs an antiques shop where she has managed to make something of a success for herself. Mary has started to work with her aunt as opposed to becoming a governess or a companion and she is travelling to Charlock Bay to take a valuable set of miniatures to an American collector there by the name of J. Baker Wood for perusal and purchase.
The bus stops for lunch at Monkhampton and Miss Durrant joins Poirot and Hastings at a table in a café. Part way through their conversation, she rushes outside and returns saying that she though she saw through the window a man taking her suitcase with the miniatures off the bus, when she confronted him she realised his case was almost exactly like hers and that she was in error. She does however describe the young man that Poirot and Hastings saw the previous day in the booking office.
The bus arrives in Charlock Bay and both Poirot and Hastings and Miss Durrant book into the Anchor Hotel. They have barely started unpacking when a white-faced Miss Durrant appears and tells them that her suitcase has been unlocked somehow, the despatch case inside containing the miniatures has been forced open and the items stolen. Having heard that Poirot is a detective, she asks him to investigate. Poirot telephones Mr. Wood who tells him that he had a visit half-an-hour ago from someone representing themselves as calling on behalf of Elizabeth Penn, Mary Durrant's aunt, and he paid her five hundred pounds for the miniatures.
Poirot and Hastings go to visit Mr. Wood, Poirot voicing his puzzlement over why the thief took the time to force the lock of despatch case while leaving it in the suitcase instead of taking the inner case away with them and opening it at their leisure.
The two meet Mr. Wood and take an instant dislike to the brash, vulgar man. He gives them a description of the seller: "a tall woman, middle-aged, grey hair, blotchy complexion and a budding moustache". Poirot finds out that the young man on the bus, Norton Kane, has an alibi for the period in question.
The next day, having sorted out Joseph Aaron's problem, Poirot and Hastings return to Ebermouth but, at Poirot's insistence, this time by train. They call at Elizabeth Penn's shop and Poirot almost immediately accuses the elderly lady of being Mr. Wood's visitor of the previous day in disguise and meaningfully tells the two women their scam must cease. Miss Penn, white-faced, agrees.
Poirot points out to Hastings again the absurdity of the despatch case being forced but left in the suitcase. When they were booking their tickets on the excursion, he saw Miss Durrant watching Mr. Kane and wondered why she was so interested. He expected something to happen on the trip and it did. Mr. Wood would have had to return the miniatures as they were officially stolen goods and the two women would have had his five hundred pounds and still possessed the miniatures to sell on again. Their plan was to pass suspicion on to Mr. Kane and have Poirot and Hastings as two duped witnesses.
The Market Basing Mystery
Poirot and Hastings, at the suggestion of Japp, have gone to stay with him for the weekend in the small countryside town of Market Basing. Sat in their inn and enjoying Sunday breakfast, the three are interrupted when the local constable requests Japp's help with a problem. Walter Protheroe, the reclusive owner of a local large mansion, has been found dead in his house, supposedly by suicide, but the local doctor states that this is impossible.
The three go to Leigh House as requested and meet Dr. Giles who was called in by Miss Clegg, the housekeeper of some fourteen years, when she was unable to raise her master in his bedroom. Constable Pollard also arrived at the same moment and he and the doctor broke down the oak door. Inside they found Protheroe, shot through the head and his pistol clasped in his right hand. The problem is that the bullet has been fired in behind the left ear and such a shot is impossible. As they examine the room Hastings is puzzled as to why Poirot sniffs the air so keenly and also why he examines so carefully a handkerchief lodged up Protheroe's right sleeve. Hastings can smell nothing in the air, nor can he see anything on the handkerchief.
The key is missing from the lock of the door and Japp supposes that this is the murderer's one big error in trying to make a murder look like suicide. Staying in the house are a couple called Parker who according to Miss Clegg have not stayed in the house before and whose arrival did not seem to please Protheroe. She knew that he kept a pistol, although she has not seen it for some time, but she cannot state why the windows of the room were locked and bolted when they were usually open at night.
The inquest takes place two days later and a tramp comes forward who states that he heard Protheroe and Parker rowing about money at midnight on the night of the death. It comes to light that Protheroe's real name was Wendover and he was involved with the treacherous sinking of a naval vessel some years earlier and Parker was blackmailing him over this. On the suspicion of killing Wendover and making it look like suicide, Parker is arrested.
At the inn, Poirot receives Miss Clegg who was summoned there by him. He has guessed that Wendover did in fact kill himself – but with his left hand holding the gun – and that Miss Clegg found him in the morning. In love with her employer and knowing Parker to be the cause, she changed to pistol to the right hand to throw suspicion on the blackmailer in an effort to bring him to some sort of justice but neglected the change the handkerchief up the right sleeve over to the left sleeve as well. She also locked and bolted the windows to prevent it looking like a potential murderer escaped by that method and was therefore someone in the house, however the fireplace grate was full of smoked cigarettes and Poirot was puzzled as to why the air in the room smelled so fresh. The windows of the room must have been open at night otherwise the tramp could not have overheard the conversation he did.
Sat on the garden terrace of his large house on a summer evening, John Harrison is delighted to receive an unexpected visit from Hercule Poirot. The detective tells him that he is in the locality to investigate a murder but amazes Harrison by admitting that the murder has not yet been committed but that it is better to prevent one happening first. He then cryptically turns the conversation round to a wasp's nest on a tree that he sees nearby and Poirot and Harrison discuss the destruction of it. A friend of Harrison's called Claude Langton is going to handle the task for him using petrol injected by a garden syringe but Poirot tells him that earlier that day he saw the poison book in a local chemist's and an earlier entry made by Langton for the purchase of
cyanide, despite Langton having told Harrison that such substances shouldn't ever be used. Poirot asks a quiet question: "Do you like Langton?" and they talk of Harrison's engagement to a girl called Molly Deane who was previously engaged to Langton. As they discuss Langton's disposition towards Harrison, Poirot's meaning becomes quite clear to him – he is being warned. Poirot asks when Langton is returning and is told nine o'clock that evening. Poirot tells him that he will return at that time, wondering as he goes if he should have waited behind.
Poirot returns just before the appointed time to find Langton leaving, the nest still intact. Harrison seems to be fine and Poirot hopes that he is not feeling any ill-effects of having digested the harmless washing soda that he put there. Harrison is surprised. Poirot tells him that he substituted the cyanide for the soda when they met earlier on. He still has the potassium on him and he quickly mixes a solution which he uses to destroy the nest. Poirot met Langton after leaving the chemist's and heard from him that Harrison had insisted on the use of cyanide over petrol, despite Poirot having once heard Harrison stating that cyanide should not be made available for purchase. He has also witnessed the early signs of Langton's romance with Molly Deane being rekindled and Harrison leaving a
Harley Streetconsultant having obviously been given bad news and Harrison now confirms that he has been given two months to live. Having also seen signs of Harrison's hatred for Langton, Poirot guessed that he was planning to commit suicide and make it appear that Langton had killed him, thus ensuring that his rival would be hanged for murder. Poirot's earlier conversation included several traps for the man, including the time of Langton's appointment – Poirot already knew Langton was due to return at eight-thirty but Harrison said it was later, by which time he hoped to have committed the deed. Having realised what he would have done, Harrison expresses his fervent gratitude for Poirot having visited and spoiled his plans.
The Veiled Lady
Poirot is bored with the lack of interesting cases which come his way, telling Hastings that the criminals of England fear him too much and he dismisses the suggestion that most of them don't even know that he exists. Hastings remembers a recent matter in which a jeweller's shop window in
Bond Streetwas broken and a perpetrator, despite being quickly arrested, only having paste copies of the six stolen stones on him, he having immediately passed the real jewels onto an accomplice. He suggests this as a case of interest but Poirot feels that although the matter was well-planned, it was not of real interest.
It is then that they receive a visitor: heavily-veiled she reveals that she is Lady Millicent Castle Vaughan whose engagement to the Duke of Southshire has recently been announced. During the war, she wrote a letter to a man who was subsequently killed and this letter, whose contents could be misinterpreted, has fallen into the hands of a Mr Lavington, a blackmailer who is demanding twenty thousand pounds for its return, a sum she can in no way afford. She tells him that she went to Lavington's house in Wimbledon to plead with him but it was useless. He showed her that the letter was kept in a Chinese
puzzle boxbut he told her that this was secreted in a place that she could never find it.
Lavington calls on Poirot at his invitation but laughs at his request to return the letter, saying that he will reduce his demand to eighteen thousand pounds and Lady Millicent has until Tuesday when he returns from
Paristo find the sum.
Stung by this rebuke, Poirot decides that the only course of action is to seek in Lavington's house. He calls there in the morning, knowing that the owner is away and presents himself to the housekeeper as a man recommended by Scotland Yard who can fix burglar-proof locks on the window. He then uses the opportunity to leave the window unfastened and he and Hastings return that night. After a long search, they find the puzzle box hidden within a joined-together log of wood in the coal-bin.
The next day Lady Millicent calls for the letter. Delighted, she asks for the puzzle box as a souvenir but Poirot is too quick for her and prevents her taking it. In another compartment in the box are the six missing jewels from the Bond Street robbery. Japp appears from another room and recognised the lady as Gertie, an accomplice of Lavington – real name: Reed – who was attempting to double-cross his fellow gang members and who was killed in Holland a day or so before. The gang members knew that both the jewels and the bogus letter were kept in the puzzle box and decided to use Poirot to retrieve it. Japp takes the lady away and Poirot tells an astonished Hastings that it was the cheap shoes she was wearing that made him suspicious that she wasn't who she pretended to be. He is pleased though – not only do the criminals of England know him, they even try to use him when their own efforts come to nothing!
Problem at Sea
Poirot is undergoing the trial of a sea voyage to
Egypt, supposedly as a vacation. Not enjoying one bit the motion of the waves, he joins in the conversations of the other passengers. Among them is a General Forbes who is angrily dismissive of a man who calls himself Colonel Clapperton. He states that he is a former music hallperformer who, injured during the war, got himself into a society lady's nursing home and then received her patronage to find him a job at the War Office. The other passengers on the boat are more sympathetic towards Clapperton, particularly as he demonstrates continuing patience with his difficult and demanding wife. She is something of a hypochondriac, complaining of her heart trouble but at the same time stating that she keeps extremely active, despite her husband's constant entreaties to take life easier. Even Poirot seems to incur her wrath when he responds a little too dryly to her conversation. Somewhat annoyed with him, she marches out of the smoking room where they have been conversing, dropping the contents of her handbag on the way. She leaves behind a piece of paper – a prescription for digitalin.
Two young girls on the boat, Kitty Mooney and Pamela Creegan, take a shine to the Colonel and decide to "rescue" him from his wife. They talk him for a walk on the boat deck while his wife plays bridge, a game which the Colonel won't play. Later on, Poirot sees the Colonel demonstrating amazing card tricks to the two young girls who have taken him under their wing. Able to deal out hands of exact suits to the others, the Colonel makes them realises why he won't play cards – he would be able to cheat and win every time – or at least suspected of doing so – and it would be better for him not to take part.
The boat reaches
Alexandriaand many of the company go ashore. Mrs Clapperton refuses, shouting from to her husband from behind her locked cabin door that she has suffered a bad night and wants to be left alone. When everyone has returned later on, Mrs Clapperton is still not answering her door. A steward opens it for her worried husband and they find the lady dead – stabbed through the heart with a native daggerand money and jewellery stolen. Several bead sellers were allowed on the boat at the port and they are questioned, particularly as one of their wares was found on the floor of the cabin. Poirot though is puzzled: the door to the cabin was locked from within and he cannot see a reason why Mrs Clapperton would open it to a bead seller, nor why such a person would murder her and lay himself so open to suspicion. That evening, at Poirot's request, the other passengers are assembled in the lounge. Poirot addresses them and unwraps a ventriloquist's doll which speaks and repeats the words used by Mrs Clapperton from behind the locked cabin door to her husband. The man himself jumps up…and promptly collapses, dead of a heart attack.
Poirot explains: Mrs Clapperton was already dead when her husband, witnessed by Poirot, Kitty and Pamela, heard her "speak" to him from inside the cabin but it was her husband using his music hall act. He showed his card trick to the others to divert attention away from his real skill. Poirot's use of the doll in the lounge was helped by a stewardess behind a curtain providing the voice. Poirot is not surprised that Clapperton died of a weak heart – digitalin would have produced symptoms of dilated
pupilswhich he didn't see in Mrs Clapperton but he did see in her husband and the prescription was for him.
How Does Your Garden Grow?
Poirot receives a strange letter for assistance from an old lady called Miss Amelia Barrowby who lives at Rosebank in Charman's Green. She is extremely vague in defining exactly what the problem is but states several times that discretion is paramount and that family is involved. The letter intrigues Poirot who has Miss Lemon draft a reply saying that he is at the lady's service.
Five days later Miss Lemon sees an announcement in the "personal column" of "
The Morning Post" about the death of Miss Barrowby. He sends a letter to Rosebank saying that he will call on Miss Barrowby but this is to provoke a response from the next of kin and he duly receives a reply from Mary Delafontaine, the lady's niece, saying that his services are no longer required. Nevertheless, he goes to the house and admires the well-maintained garden with its spring flowers and edging of shells. Let into the house by a maid, the first person he meets is a young Russian girl called Katrina Reiger who speaks cryptically of the money that by rights is hers. She is interrupted by Mrs Delafontaine and her husband who dismisses Katrina and they meet Poirot. They seem shocked to find that he is a detective.
Poirot interviews the local police inspector who tells him that they now know that Miss Barrowby died from a dose of
strychninebut the problem is that the victim and her two family members all ate the same meal. The Delafontaines are suspected as they will inherit a large sum of money which they very much need however Katrina is known to have given her employer her medicinal powders and it is possible the strychnine was in those. The problem is that she would not benefit from the death of Miss Barrowby as she would then be out of a job. The next day however brings the news that Miss Barrowby left most of her money to Katrina, thereby providing a motive and she has duly been detained. A packet of strychnine powders is then found under Katrina's mattress which seems to clinch the matter. Poirot though is not convinced and arranges matters in a methodical order in his own mind. It is then he remembers the garden. He sends out Miss Lemon to make particular enquiries and then interviews Katrina who confirms that she ate separately to the family, as she always did, but had the same food as them.
Having met Miss Lemon and ascertained the results of her enquiries, he calls at Rosebank and sees Mary Delafontaine. At the front door, he points the unfinished row of shells – the only unsymmetrical item there – and points out they are
oystershells. Miss Lemon has found the fishmonger who sold the oysters to the Delafontaines. They gave Miss Barrowby the poison in the oysters, thus disguising the taste and then planted the shells in the garden as they didn't want Katrina or the maid to know that an extra item had been included in the family meal. Mrs Delafontaine confesses that she and her husband have been taking money from her aunt for many years and couldn't have her money go to Katrina as their frauds would have been discovered.
Literary significance and reception
Maurice Richardson in "
The Observer" of September 22, 1974 described Hastings as, "so dumb at times he makes Watson look like Leibnitz" and concluded, "Many date from an early period before she found herself as a Mystifier, but all communicate that unique Christien euphoria." ["The Observer" September 22, 1974 (Page 39)] Robert Barnard: "A late collection of early stories (most from the 'twenties), which had been published in the States but not in Britain. This may suggest discarded chips from the workshop, but in fact the standard here is distinctly higher than the stories in " Poirot Investigates", which were the ones Christie did publish at the time." [Barnard, Robert. "A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie" - Revised edition (Page 203). Fontana Books, 1990. ISBN 0006374743]
References or Allusions
References to other works
* "The Submarine Plans" mentions the events recounted in the 1923 short story "The Kidnapped Prime Minister" and also references the fictional Prime Minister of that story, David McAdam.
* "Double Sin" references the theatrical agent Joseph Aarons who had previously appeared in "
The Murder on the Links" (1923).
* In "The Market Basing Mystery", Hastings slightly misquotes the anonymous piece of
Doggerelverse which in full reads:
:The rabbit has a charming face::Its private life is a disgrace.:I really dare not name to you:The awful things that rabbits do;:Things that your paper never prints - :You only mention them in hints.:They have such lost, degraded souls:No wonder they inhabit holes;:When such depravity is found:It only can live underground.
References to actual history, geography and current science
* Although the date of the events depicted in "The Chocolate Box" are not specified, the French law on the separation of the church and state was eventually passed on December 9, 1905 although the debate over the issue took place for many years before this date.
* In "Double Sin" Mary Durrant speaks of the miniatures she is transporting as being by Cosway. This is a reference to
Richard Cosway(1742 - 1821), one of the most successful practitioners of that art of the Georgian era.
*In "The Chocolate Box" Christie confuses the events of the separation of church and state as being a French issue that affected Belgium whereas the incidents were wholly confined to the French state.
References in other works
* "The Double Clue", first published in 1923, features the first of three appearances of the character of Countess Vera Rossakoff. Her other two appearances were in the series of stories in "The Sketch" magazine in early 1924 that eventually made up the contents of "The Big Four" (1927) and in "The Capture of Cerberus", the final story of "The Labours of Hercules" (1947). Poirot's admiration of the lady mirrors that of Conan Doyle's
Sherlock Holmesfor Irene Adleras described in " A Scandal in Bohemia" (1891).
* "The Double Clue" also features the use of the Cyrillic alphabet as a deception, a trick that Christie would reuse in "
Murder on the Orient Express" (1934).
* The plot set-up contained in "The Market Basing Mystery" of a suicide being made to look like murder to trap a blackmailer was expanded by Christie into the
novella-length story " Murder in the Mews" published in the collection of the same name in 1937.
* The plot set-up contained in "How Does Your Garden Grow?" of a vague letter for assistance from a woman who soon dies was expanded by Christie into the full-length 1937 novel "
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
"Wasp's Nest" was the very first Agatha Christie story to be adapted for television with a live transmission taking place on June 18,
Agatha Christie's Poirot
Fifteen of the eighteen stories in the collection have been adapted for episodes in the ITV series "
Agatha Christie's Poirot" with David Suchetin the role of Poirot, Hugh Fraser as Hastings, Philip Jackson as Japp and Pauline Moranas Miss Lemon.
The adaptations (in order of transmission) were:
*"The Adventure of the Clapham Cook": January 8, 1989
*"The Adventure of Johnnie Waverly": January 22, 1989
*"The Third Floor Flat": February 5, 1989
*"Problem at Sea": February 19, 1989
*"The King of Clubs": March 5, 1989
*"The Veiled Lady": January 14, 1990
*"The Lost Mine": January 21, 1990
*"The Cornish Mystery": January 28, 1990
*"Double Sin": February 11, 1990
*"How Does Your Garden Grow?": January 6, 1991
*"The Affair at the Victory Ball": January 20, 1991
*"Wasp's Nest": January 27, 1991
*"The Double Clue": February 10, 1991
*"The Plymouth Express": March 3, 1991
*"The Chocolate Box": February 21, 1993
*1974, Collins Crime Club (London), September 1974, Hardcover, 256 pp, ISBN 0-002-31312-X
*1974, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1947, Hardcover, 250 pp, ISBN 0-396-07021-3
GK Hall & Company Large-printedition, Hardcover, 491 pp, ISBN 0-816-16265-4
*1978, Fontana Books (Imprint of
HarperCollins), Paperback, 224 pp, ISBN 0-006-15676-2
*1990, Ulverscroft large-print edition, Hardback, ISBN 0-708-92326-7
First publication of stories
All but five of the stories were first published in the UK, unillustrated, in "
The Sketch" magazine. Christie wrote them following a suggestion from its editor, Bruce Ingram, who had been impressed with the character of Poirot in " The Mysterious Affair at Styles". The stories first appeared in "The Sketch" as follows:
"The Affair at the Victory Ball": March 7, 1923 - Issue 1571 (This was Christie's first published short story).
"The Adventure of the Clapham Cook": November 14, 1923 - Issue 1607.
"The Cornish Mystery": November 28, 1923 - Issue 1609.
"The Adventure of Johnnie Waverly": October 10, 1923 - Issue 1602 (under the title "The Kidnapping of Johnny Waverly").
"The Double Clue": December 4, 1923 - Issue 1610.
"The King of Clubs": March 21, 1923 - Issue 1573 (under the title "The Adventure of the King of Clubs").
"The LeMesurier Inheritance": December 18, 1923 - Issue 1612.
"The Lost Mine": November 21, 1923 - Issue 1608.
"The Plymouth Express": April 4, 1923 - Issue 1575 (under the title "The Mystery of the Plymouth Express"). The plot was later reworked as the novel "
The Mystery of the Blue Train" (1928).
"The Chocolate Box": May 23, 1923 - Issue 1581 (under the title "The Clue of the Chocolate Box").
"The Veiled Lady": October 3, 1923 - Issue 1601 (under the title "The Case of the Veiled Lady").
"The Submarine Plans": November 7, 1923 - Issue 1606.
"The Market Basing Mystery": October 17, 1923 - Issue 1603.
The remaining stories were published as follows:
"The Third Floor Flat": First published in the January 1929 issue of "Hutchinson's Adventure & Mystery Story Magazine".
"Double Sin": First published in the September 23, 1928 edition of the "
"Wasp's Nest": First published in the November 20, 1928 edition of the "
"Problem at Sea": First published in issue 540 of "The Strand" magazine in December 1935 (under the title of "Poirot and the Crime in Cabin 66").
"How Does Your Garden Grow?": First published in issue 536 of "The Strand" magazine in August 1935. The story was illustrated by R.M. Chandler.
"The Submarine Plans" had previously been expanded and published as "The Incredible Theft" in the 1937 collection "
Murder in the Mews". The 1974 version reverts to the original 1923 text.
"The Market Basing Mystery" had previously appeared in book form in the UK in the 1966 collection "Thirteen for Luck!", which otherwise reprinted stories which had previously appeared in book collections.
US book appearances of stories
Although "Poirot's Early Cases" was published in the US, all of the stories had previously appeared in the following US collections:
Poirot Investigates" (1924) - "The Chocolate Box", "The Veiled Lady", "The Lost Mine" (US version only).
The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories" (1939) - "Problem at Sea", "How Does Your Garden Grow?".
Three Blind Mice and Other Stories" (1950) - "The Adventure of Johnnie Waverly", "The Third Floor Flat".
The Under Dog and Other Stories" (1951) - "The Affair at the Victory Ball", "The King of Clubs", "The Plymouth Express", "The Market Basing Mystery", "The Submarine Plans", "The Adventure of the Clapham Cook", "The Cornish Mystery", "The Le Mesurier Inheritance"
Double Sin and Other Stories" (1961) - "The Double Clue", "Double Sin", "Wasp's Nest".
* [http://uk.agathachristie.com/site/find_a_story/stories/Poirots_Early_Cases.php "Poirot's Early Cases"] at the official Agatha Christie website
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