Summer 1974, the offices of the Collins Crime Club:
– What’s this year’s “Christie for Christmas” going to be then?
– Good point, she hasn’t submitted anything this year.
– What about that manuscript that’s been locked away for years? Can we do something with that?
– It’s only supposed to be published posthumously. She’s over eighty so there’s every chance that…
– Couldn’t we do something about that?
– Help things along you mean! Are you mad?
– I suppose that would be taking things a little too far. Hmm, how about getting in someone else to write a Poirot novel?
– That’s even crazier than your first idea! As if anyone else could possibly put together a plot worthy of Christie at her best. That’s never going to happen!
– Ah, weren’t there some short stories from the 1920s that have never been anthologised?
– Well, yes, but they weren’t considered good enough for “Poirot Investigates” so I hardly feel…
– Surely they’re better than “Postern of Fate” and we published that.
– Point taken. Let’s do it!
Eighteen stories, which don’t set the world alight, but which, as they were written fifty years before, make a welcome change to Christie’s output of the late 60s and early 70s. The Adventure of the Clapham Cook, The Lemesurier Inheritance, Wasps’ Nest, and The Veiled Lady are my pick of the bunch.
The cases presented are:
The Affair at the Victory Ball (VB) – the first ever Poirot short-story. He solves the case without visiting the scene of the crime as he can deduce certain properties that is must have possessed.
The Adventure of the Clapham Cook (CC) – Poirot investigates the seemingly unimportant disappearance of a domestic servant which leads him to a murderer. This was the chosen to be first episode of the David Suchet TV series.
The Cornish Mystery (CM) – Mrs Pengelly consults Poirot, confiding in him that she thinks her husband may be poisoning her. When he comes down the next day, she is dead. Poirot engages in a neat bluff to gain the murderer’s confession.
The Adventure of Johnnie Waverley (JW) – a ransom is demanded before a kidnapping has even occurred. Can Poirot prevent the crime from being carried out?
The Double Clue (DC) – to leave one identifying possession at the scene of a crime may be regarded as a misfortune; to leave two looks like carelessness. Marks the first appearance of Countess Vera Rossakoff.
The King of Clubs (KC) – a clairvoyant reading the cards sees danger from the king of clubs and (by a one in fifty-two chance) it is that card that leads Poirot to the truth.
The Lemesurier Inheritance (LI) – a tale of a family curse, this features an excellent first line demonstrating Hasting’s pomposity and a killer final remark.
The Lost Mine (LM) – Holmes occasionally told Watson of cases that pre-dated their acquaintance and here Poirot does the same for Hastings with this tale set partly in Chinatown.
The Plymouth Express (PE) – a woman’s body is found in a train compartment and her jewel case is missing. This was expanded into the novel “The Mystery of the Blue Train”.
The Chocolate Box (CB) – Poirot relates a case set in Belgium when as a young policeman he failed. “Chocolate box” is to Poirot what “Norbury” is to Holmes.
The Submarine Plans (SP) – Poirot is asked to find out who has stolen secret documents. This was expanded into “The Incredible Theft” collected in “Murder in the Mews”.
The Third-Floor Flat (TFF) – Poirot investigates a murder that has taken place in his own apartment building.
Double Sin (DS) – reluctantly going for a day trip in a motor coach Poirot finds himself on a busman’s holiday.
The Market Basing Mystery (MBM) – on holiday with Hastings and Japp, Poirot discovers a devious killer.
Wasps’ Nest (WN) – My namesake is helped by Poirot in a nasty case of poisoning.
The Veiled Lady (VL) – Poirot turns burglar to help a damsel in distress.
Problem at Sea (PAS) – despite his well known mal de mer Poirot takes a voyage which ends with a murder to solve.
How Does Your Garden Grow? (GG) – the evidence is not tidied away neatly enough and that is what leads Poirot to the murderer.
Recurring character development
Has a bank balance of four hundred and forty-four pounds, four and fourpence and the only shares he owns are in the Burma Mines Limited (LM).
Assisted Ebenezer Halliday in an affair relating to bearer bonds (PE).
For unexplained reasons he takes a flat in the name of Mr O’Connor (TFF).
Once loved a beautiful English girl, but she could not cook (TFF).
Can speak English confidently with a slight Cockney accent (PAS).
It is specified that he was wounded on the Somme (VB).
His overdraft never seems to grow any less (LM).
Is an ardent botanist in his spare time (MBM).
Signs of the Times
Poirot is going to lay aside his winter coat “in the powder of Keatings” (CC). Keating’s Powder was advertised with the slogan “Kills with Ease, Bugs & Beetles, Moths & Fleas” – it would have made a significant change to the story of Julian Donaldson’s “Superworm”!
The cook’s trunk was taken by Carter Paterson (CC). This road haulage firm was founded in 1860.
References to previous works
David MacAdam, subject of “The Kidnapped Prime Minister” collected in “Poirot Investigates”, still holds that office and that case is explicitly referred to (SP).