This collection of four longer short stories/novellas all feature Hercule Poirot (but not Arthur Hastings) and comprises:
(1) Murder in the Mews – “Nobody would hear a shot, for instance, on a night like this,” says Inspector Japp to Poirot on Bonfire Night. The next day it becomes apparent that a murder has been committed under the cover of the fireworks.
(2) The Incredible Theft – Poirot investigates a matter of national importance.
(3) Dead Man’s Mirror – Poirot arrives at Hamborough Close only to find that his host has just committed suicide inside a locked room. So why was he sent for?
(4) Triangle at Rhodes – This triangle is not Pythagorean but Eternal and a Greek Tragedy ensues.
(1) is a nice take on a common idea, (2) is not very exciting, (3) could easily have been extended into a full length novel, and the ideas within (4) are explored more fully in a later novel.
Recurring character development
Has previously met Major Riddle, Chief Constable of Westshire (3).
Signs of the Times
Murder in the Mews is probably set in 1935.
Mrs Allen was visited by the driver of a Standard Swallow saloon (1). The Swallow Coachbuilding Company Limited was founded by William Walmsley and William Lyons in 1930. They used a chassis produced by the Standard Motor Company to build the SS 1. The business became Jaguar Cars in 1945.
Poirot asks Lord Mayfield why neither the police nor the AA scouts were alerted so that they could help trace the thief (2). The Automobile Association was founded in 1905 to help motorists avoid speed traps. A test case from 1910 prevented AA patrolmen from indicating to motorists that they were approaching a speed trap. However they then saluted members displaying a badge on their unless their was a speed trap ahead as they could not be prosecuted for failing to salute. The more familiar breakdown service began in 1920.
Mr Hunberly is Prime Minister (2). If this was set when first published (April 1937) then the actual holder of that office would be Stanley Baldwin.
Dead Man’s Mirror is set in 1936.
Gervase Chevenix-Gore’s biography refers to his service during the European War (1914-1918) which would now almost certainly just be referred to as the First World War rather than referencing a specific theatre of action (3).
Hugo Trent is in the Blues (3). This is the cavalry regiment the Royal Horse Guards which merged with the Royal Dragoons in 1969 to become The Blues and Royals.
Hugo says that Gervase had “certainly ‘been places and seen things’ – more than most of his generation” (3). This could be a reference to a 1935 book of the same name by Kenneth Mackenzie.
When discussing whether it is suicide or murder, Major Riddle says “Everything according to Cocker – but for one circumstance” (3). Edward Cocker (1631-1676) was a mathematician and thought to be the author of “Arithmetick”. This book was so popular that when meaning something was correct someone would say it was “according to Cocker”.
Gervase’s chef had been with the Emperor of Moravia (3). Moravia was part of Czechoslovakia at the time the story is set and is now part of the Czech Republic.
Valentine Chantry has modelled for Chanel (4). Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel began the business which became an international fashion house when she opened a millinery shop in 1909.
Waterproof make-up had already been invented by 1936 (4).
Commander Chantry wonders if there might be a general election because of “this Palestine business” (4). In late 1935 Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, leader of the Black Hand, a militant anti-Zionist and anti-British organisation, was killed in a battle with British police in Mandatory Palestine. This sparked the Arab Revolt in Palestine (1936-1939).
References to previous works
Mr Satterthwaite mentions the “Crow’s Nest business”, a reference to Three-Act Tragedy (3).
Vintage Mystery Challenge
Each story was adapted as an episode of the David Suchet series so fulfils “Why – book made into TV programme”.