A collection of six short stories, the first three longer than the average for Christie.
1. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding – Poirot is tasked with finding a stolen ruby and preventing a foreign royal scandal. This runs along similar lines to one of the earliest and most well known Christmas mysteries. In the Foreword Christie explains that the Christmas Day she describes is based on those of her childhood. A delightful seasonal tale.
2. The Mystery of the Spanish Chest – you might put a body in a chest temporarily but why leave it there overnight to be discovered by your valet? This was a great episode of the David Suchet series and the way it was shown made this one of the most horrifying murders in the series.
3. The Under Dog – Lily Margrave asks Poirot to investigate the murder of Sir Reuben Astwell but tries to put him off at the same time – intrigued Poirot visits “Mon Repos” to disturb the sleeping dogs and flush out the murderer.
4. Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds – in which Poirot gives a killer his just desserts.
5. The Dream – could a recurring suicidal nightmare have caused millionaire Benedict Farley to take his own life? Poirot is not convinced.
6. Greenshaw’s Folly – I expected this to be related to Dead Man’s Folly but later found I was thinking of the homophonic Greenshore Folly so it was a nice surprise to find this was a Miss Marple short story. There are some nice ideas in this and I felt it could easily have been expanded into a novella or even a novel but overall it seemed a bit rushed.
Recurring Character Development
Wears a nightcap.
Is investigating fraud at a large oil corporation before getting involved in (2).
Has met Inspector Miller before (2).
Piles up wooden blocks as an aid to concentration (3).
Has replaced his large turnip-faced watch with a neat wrist-watch (5).
Is 48 in (2).
Lived in Croydon Heath at one time.
Signs of the Times
Poirot is offered and accepts “hard sauce” with his plum pudding. I was puzzled by this but found that it is basically brandy butter (1).
In (4) Mr Bonnington says “None of your French kickshaws now. Good well-cooked English food.” Kickshaw, meaning delicacy, is a corruption of the French “quelque chose” which literally just means “something”.
Based on the date quoted in (4) of Thursday 3rd November and the publication date of 1940, this is likely to be set in 1938.
References to previous works
In (2) to a Russian countess (Vera Rossakoff) from The Big Four and other stories.
(2) takes place after Hickory Dickory Dock as Poirot is aware of Miss Lemon’s sister.