Each of my reviews contains an explanation of references that may puzzle the modern reader or are clear indicators of the time of writing, but only the first time they appear in one of Christie’s works. Here they are all collected alphabetically.
Poirot asks Lord Mayfield why neither the police nor the AA scouts were alerted so that they could help trace the thief (Murder in the Mews – The Incredible Theft). 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 car 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.
Tuppence consults an ABC (The Secret Adversary). Published 1853 – 2007, this was a railway guide containing timetables.
Tommy visits an ABC Shop (The Secret Adversary). These were self-service tea rooms, operated by the Aerated Bread Company, with first opened in 1864. The brand continued until 1982.
A young man who talks to Mr Cust is wearing a bright blue Aertex shirt (The ABC Murders). Lewis Haslam, a textile manufacturer, ran experiments with two medical colleagues on trapping air within fabric to provide an insulating effect between the skin and the outside air. In 1888 they formed the Aertex Company to produce this new material. This “Cellular Clothing Company” still operates today.
Rowley plans to install an Aga or an Esse in the kitchen (Taken at the Flood). The former is a cooker that was designed in 1922 by Nobel-prize winning physicist Gustaf Dalén. He was blinded by an explosion and thus forced to stay at home where he found his wife was exhausted by cooking. As is the way with men, rather than just helping with the cooking, he designed a better cooker to reduce her workload!
Poirot meets Major Despard just after he has left the Albany (Cards on the Table). Melbourne House was built 1771-76 by Sir Williams Chambers for the 1st Viscount Melbourne. Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany lived there from 1791-1802. After this the three-storey mansion house, seven bays wide, was converted into sixty-nine bachelor apartments by Henry Holland. Anthony Berkeley’s Roger Sheringham lived here as did Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman – to be reviewed here later this month.
Sir Alington West is an alienist (The Hound of Death – The Red Signal). This is a now old fashioned name for a psychiatrist but is sometimes still used for those who determine whether a defendant is mentally competent to stand trial.
I was surprised by the use of Alistair as a woman’s name (The Hound of Death – The Gipsy).
Poirot refers to “Almanach de Gotha” for information on Count Foscatini (Poirot Investigates – The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman). A European equivalent of “Burke’s Peerage”. Originally published in 1763, with annual editions from 1785. The final edition was published in 1944 as Soviet troops systematically destroyed the archives in 1945.
Poirot proposes that Giraud would explain that the tramp was an apache (The Murder on the Links). Les Apaches, taking their name from their supposed similarity in savagery to the Native American tribe, were gangs of criminals in France in the early 20th century.
In connection with Cosmetics and Beauty, Miss Gilchrist mentions Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubenstein (After the Funeral). Florence Nightingale Graham (1881-1966) started to trade under the name Elizabeth Arden in 1910 when she founded the Red Door salon in New York. By 1929 she owned 150 salons across Europe and the USA. Arden and Rubinstein became life-long rivals, although the latter said in a somewhat backhanded compliment “with her packaging and my product, we could have ruled the world”.
In the context of poisoners, Armstrong is mentioned (The Lernean Hydra – The Labours of Hercules). Herbert Rowse Armstrong (1869 – 1922) was tried and executed for the murder of his wife by arsenic poisoning.
Tommy invents an aunt who at the outbreak of the war drove to the Army and Navy Stores and bought sixteen hams (Partners in Crime – The Clergyman’s Daughter). The Army & Navy Co-operative Society Ltd was founded in 1871 to supply goods to its service personnel members at the lowest possible price. It became a limited company in 1934 and was taken over by another department store chain, House of Fraser, in 1973.
In N or M? Commander Haydock is the local ARP warden, responsible for Air Raid Precautions, particularly the night-time blackout.
Bill refers to King Victor as “this Arsène Lupin fellow” (The Secret of Chimneys). Arsène Lupin is a fictional gentleman thief and master of disguise created by Maurice Leblanc in 1905.
In Crooked House Magda is reading a new play cribbed from Arsenic and Old Lace. This is a 1939 play by Joseph Kesselring, filmed in 1944 by Frank Capra starring Cary Grant.
The ASE, mentioned when trades unions are discussed (The Secret Adversary), were the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, which traced its origins back to 1826. In 1920 it merged with other unions to became the Amalgamted Engineering (AEU), then in 1992 following another merger became the Amalgamted Engineering and Electrical Union (AEEU).
Roddy compares Mary Gerrard to Atalanta (Sad Cypress). She was a huntress in Greek mythology who could beat any man in a footrace until she was tricked by Hippomenes with three golden apples given him by Aphrodite.
The police ask Clemency Leonides if she is working on the atom bomb (Crooked House). Although the UK had worked with the USA on the Manhattan Project which developed the first atomic bombs, cooperation ended after the Second World War. Post-war the British continued their own work conducting their first independent tests in Australia in 1952.
“The Hound of Death” has several First World War references. German forces undoubtedly killed and displaced a significant number of Belgian citizens during their occupation, but these atrocity stories were greatly exaggerated by the British to encourage enlistment into the army.
Tommy jokes that Von Deinim might be “walking out with a Company Commander in the ATS” (N or M?). The Auxiliary Territorial Service was the women’s branch of the army from 1938 to 1949.
Hastings has bought a second-hand Austin (Dumb Witness). Herbert Austin began his car manufacturing career with Wolseley before creating the Austin Motor Company in 1905. In 1952 it merged with Morris Motors with the marque being used until 1987.
Norman Gale’s luggage includes “The Autocar” (Death in the Clouds). This is a weekly English magazine, first published in 1895 and still going strong today.
Louise Leidner’s bookshelf gives Poirot clues to her personality (Murder in Mesopotamia). “Back to Methuselah (A Metabiological Pentateuch)” (1918-1920) is a series of five plays by George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) which run from creation through the present day to the far future.
The two English ladies would “see what they wished to see, assisted by Baedeker, and be blind to everything else” (The Thirteen Problems – The Companion). Karl Baedeker (1801 – 1859) was a German publisher and pioneer in the field of travel guides. The brand is still in use today.
Miss Clark is “banting” (The Thirteen Problems – The Tuesday Night Club). William Banting was a 19th century undertaker. He lost weight under the advice of William Harvey, who had learned from Frenchman Claude Bernard, by restricting the amount of carbohydrates in his diet, especially those of a starchy or sugary nature. He publicised his success in the 1863 pamphlet “Letter on Corpulence, Address to the Public”, hence banting became the term for following his method.
In Mrs McGinty’s Dead Poirot quotes “Beautiful Evelyn Hope is dead” the first line of the poem “Evelyn Hope” by Robert Browning. Someone later quotes “Roses, roses, all the way” from “The Patriot” by the same writer.
They travel from Cape Town through Bechuanaland (The Man in the Brown Suit). The Protectorate of Bechuanaland was established by the British in 1885 and became the independent country of Botswana in 1966.
In Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? when discussing whether people have a double Adolf Beck is mentioned. Beck was the unfortunate victim of a case of mistaken identity, serving five years in prison for frauds which he had not committed. His innocence was only established in 1904 when he was tried a second time for similar crimes.
Hugo says that Gervase had “certainly ‘been places and seen things’ – more than most of his generation” (Murder in the Mews – Dead Man’s Mirror). This could be a reference to a 1935 book of the same name by Kenneth Mackenzie.
“We have first, as your so admirable Mrs Beeton says, to catch the hare” says Poirot (The Horses of Diomedes – The Labours of Hercules) in response to General Grant’s plans for the drug pusher. This phrase does not actually appear in “Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management” (1861). Although I always expected her to be a middle-aged matron, Isabella Beeton actually died at the age of 28. Her husband Samuel founded Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1860 which in 1887 included the first adventure of Sherlock Holmes “A Study in Scarlet”.
Jimmy Lorrimer suggests that Miss Pinkerton was run over because she trusted to a Belisha beacon (Murder is Easy). Named after Leslie Hore-Belisha, Minister of Transport, this familiar British signal was added in 1934 to pedestrian crossings which up to then had only been marked by large metal studs in the road. The black (initially blue) and white stripes were added from 1949 to make the zebra crossing we know today.
Derek Capel was in the running for the Benedick stakes (The Mysterious Mr Quin – The Coming of Mr Quin). Referring to Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing”, this implies that he was likely to get married soon.
Martin Dering’s alibi could be on the Berengaria somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean (The Sittaford Mystery). SS Imperator was built for the German Hamburg American Line in 1912, was briefly used by the US Navy following World War I, before being transferred to the Cunard Line as part of war reparations and renamed RMS Berengaria. The ship was decommissioned in 1938 and scrapped in 1946.
In The Body in the Library mention is made of a “Bergner part”. Elisabeth Bergner (1897-1986) was an Austrian-British actress best known for playing the role of Gemma Jones in “Escape Me Never” on both stage and screen.
In Crooked House on the day of Aristide’s death Magda was in London, lunching at the Ivy and then having a drink at the Berkeley. The Berkeley Hotel started life as the Gloucester Coffee House at some time in the 1800s before taking its current name in 1897.
In They Came to Baghdad Mr Morganthal says “They got the Shah of Persia last year, didn’t they? They got Bernadotte in Palestine.” Folke Bernadotte (1895-1948) was a Swedish diplomat and the UN mediator in the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1948-49. He was assassinated by Lehi a.k.a. The Stern Gang, a Zionist paramilitary organisation.
Poirot refers to the “Bertillon System” in relation to fingerprints (The Murder on the Links). Alphonse Bertillon (1853 – 1914) was a French police officer and biometrics researcher who applied anthropometry to law enforcement by creating an identification system based on physical measurements. The nearly 100-year-old standard of comparing 16 ridge characteristics to identify latent prints at crime scenes against criminal records was based on claims he made in a paper he published in 1912.
Race says that someone was “BF enough to write a big J on the wall” (Death on the Nile). Here this stands for “bloody fool”.
Hastings notes that “The Big Four” has its origin at the Versailles Conference, but could also be a famous group from the film world (The Big Four). The former were Woodrow Wilson, David Lloyd George, Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, and Georges Clemenceau, respectively the leaders of the USA, Great Britain, Italy, and France, who were responsible for negotiating the Versailles Peace Treaty with Germany that formally ended World War I. The latter brought to my mind the founders of United Artists, D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks, but I cannot evidence that – does anyone else have any ideas for this?
Miss Marple says that an Egyptologist can tell by feel whether a scarab is genuine or a Birmingham imitation (The Thirteen Problems – A Christmas Tragedy). The city of Birmingham has a long history of jewellery manufacturing, some of which was either shoddy or deliberately counterfeit, giving rise to the term “Brummagem ware” – Brummagem being a local dialect name for the city. The implication here is of a cheap copy.
Sir Bartholomew Strange (Three-Act Tragedy) received his knighthood in the recent Birthday Honours list. Birthday honours have been awarded in the UK to mark the sovereign’s birthday almost every year since at least 1860. After 1908 these were given on the sovereign’s official birthday, the first, second or third Saturday in June.
Miss Peabody refers to a Bishops sleeve (Dumb Witness). This gets wider as it goes down the arm before tapering at the wrist.
Poirot asks if Shaitana has his own private “Black Museum” (Cards on the Table). An act of 1869 allowed the police to retain or destroy items used in the commission of a crime which previously had to be returned to their owners. In 1874 Inspector Neame and PC Randall collected some of these items together in order to instruct other officers. This was nicknamed the Black Museum in 1877, though is officially known as the Crime Museum.
Gerald Martin refers to “this Bluebeard’s chamber business” (The Listerdale Mystery – Philomel Cottage). A traditional French folktale tells how a young woman tries to escape from her husband, Bluebeard, who has already killed a number of previous wives.
Hugo Trent is in the Blues (Murder in the Mews – Dead Man’s Mirror). This is the cavalry regiment the Royal Horse Guards which merged with the Royal Dragoons in 1969 to become The Blues and Royals.
The Calais-Mediterranée was a luxury night express train which operated from 1886 to 2003. It was known as Le Train Bleu/The Blue Train because of its dark blue sleeping cars.
Victoria flies with BOAC (They Came to Baghdad). The British Overseas Airways Corporation was created in 1939 following the merger of Imperial Airways and British Airways. In 1974 it merged with British European Airways thus going full circle and becoming British Airways again.
Mr Brown’s organisation (The Secret Adversary) includes a Bolshevist, successful in the 1917 Russian Revolution, and would probably have appeared extremely frightening to readers of the time.
Colonel Melchett believes that Sandford’s architectural style shows that he is a Bolshie i.e. Bolshevik, Communist (The Thirteen Problems – Death by Drowning).
Tuppence receives a Bonzo postcard (N or M?). Bonzo was a cartoon dog created in 1922 by George Studdy.
The banned book, “Bootless Cup”, found in James Ryder’s luggage, does not exist (Death in the Clouds).
Robert Gardner tells Nurse Davis to have her tea at Boots on him (The Sittaford Mystery). Boots is a pharmacy chain founded in 1883 and I was unaware that it had ever had cafés, but a little research shows that it also had a lending library service from 1898 until 1966 (local councils became required to provide libraries from 1964). I’ve just realised that a secondhand book that I recently bought has their sticker on the front.
Lady Horbury’s luggage includes boracic powder (Death in the Clouds). Better known as boric acid, this has a number of uses, including acting as an antiseptic.
In Crooked House Edith de Haviland says “Not nice to think one has a Borgia sort of person loose about the house”. The Borgia family produced two 15th century popes and were suspected for a number of murders, often by arsenic poisoning.
Charles Arundell says that he did not eavesdrop as “they were very particular about eavesdropping at Borstal” (Dumb Witness). In 1895 the Gladstone Committee proposed a form of detention to separate juvenile offenders from adult prisoners. The first such institution was opened in the village of Borstal, near Rochester, Kent in 1902. The borstal system was abolished in the UK in 1982 and was replaced with youth custody centres.
In They Came to Baghdad someone refers to “the cleverest swindle since the time of Horatio Bottomley”. Bottomley was a ambitious businessman and fraudster, who sailed close to the wind a number of times before being convicted in 1922 for stealing funds from his Victory Bonds Club.
Japp sees Kellett at Bow Street (Poirot Investigates – The Disappearance of Mr Davenheim). A court was established here in 1740 and in 1749 a group of constables was stationed there, becoming known as the Bow Street Runners, effectively London’s first police force. When the Metropolitan Police Service was establised in 1829, a station house was built there. The court closed in 2006.
Tuppence consults Bradshaw (The Secret Adversary). Published 1839 – 1963, this was a railway guide containing timetables.
Josephine refers to The Brains Trust (Crooked House). This was a radio programme which ran from 1941 (originally under the name Any Questions? which was later used for a different programme) until 1949 when it transferred to television and ran until 1961. Listeners sent in questions which the panellists would debate both seriously and/or comically. Panellists included Aldous Huxley, C. S. Lewis, and Ellen Wilkinson, the Labour MP and author of the 1932 novel “The Division Bell Mystery”.
Miss Arundell was prescribed Brand’s essence by Dr Grainger (Dumb Witness). This is a chicken consommé created in 1820 by Henderson William Brand, chef at Buckingham palace. It is still made today and according to the company’s website scientific studies have shown that consumption improves concentration and memory.
Poirot wishes that he had a some Brasso and a rag to clean Mrs Luxmore’s door-knocker (Cards on the Table). Brasso is a liquid metal polish, created by Reckitt & Sons (now Reckitt Benckiser) in 1905.
An enemy agent refers to “a brave new world, as Shakespeare puts it.” (N or M?) The phrase comes from “The Tempest” and had been used as the title of Aldous Huxley’s 1932 dystopian novel.
Miss Marple feels that the case is of a type that may never be solved like the Brighton trunk murders (The Body in the Library). Two unrelated murders involving bodies found in trunks occurred in Brighton in 1934. Only one lead to a trial in which the accused was found not guilty though he did confess to his crime just before he died in 1976.
Mr Spragge wags his finger at “You Bright Young People” (Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?). Also known as Bright Young Things, this was the nickname given by the tabloid press to a group of bohemian aristocrats and socialites in the 1920s.
Mr Satterthwaite’s quote “Bring me the two most beautiful things in the city, said God” is from the end of Oscar Wilde’s short story “The Happy Prince” (The Mysterious Mr Quin – Harlequin’s Lane).
Halliday read a paper to the British Association (The Big Four). This is probably the British Association for the Advancement of Science (now the British Science Association), founded in 1831 to aid in the promotion and development of science.
Diamonds may have been found by two young men in British Guiana (The Man in the Brown Suit). This country had been settled by the Dutch in 1616 before coming under British control in 1796. Independence was gained in 1966 and the country’s name became Guyana.
Amongst other things, the Misses Tripp are British Israelites (Dumb Witness). British Israelism believes that the people of Britain are the descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel (that is those deported from Israel after the Assyrian conquest c. 722 BC).
Major Burnaby wears a British Warm (The Sittaford Mystery). This is a military greatcoat from World War I with the Scottish firm Crombie’s claiming to have coined the term for their version.
Poirot says it is likely that ABC will be committed to Broadmoor (The ABC Murders). Broadmoor Hospital, Berkshire, is a high-security psychiatric hospital which evolved from the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum founded in 1863.
In Sparkling Cyanide Anthony references a historical Anthony Browne who was chamberlain to Henry VIII. Browne (1500 – 1548) was Master of the Horse. Amongst many other things he travelled with Henry to meet Anne of Cleves and was sent to see her before the king. He came out “lamenting in his heart to see the Lady so far unlike that which was reported”.
Tuppence still plans to use the simple Brownie to take her photographs (Partners in Crime – The Affair of the Pink Pearl). The first Brownie camera was manufactured by Eastman Kodak in 1900. The final model was made in 1986.
Poirot and Hastings hear some Brownies singing (The ABC Murders). Originally called Rosebuds and founded in 1914 as the then youngest section of the Girl Guide movement for girls aged 8 to 11, their name changed to Brownies in 1915. The age range is now 7 to 10.
Nevile has a Burberry coat (Towards Zero). Burberry was founded in 1856 and became known for its waterproof coats. Roald Amundsen, Ernest Shackleton, and George Mallory all wore Burberry on their adventures.
Hastings refers to the “burden of his song” (Dumb Witness). This seems to mean a primary, sometimes recurring, meaning.
David Lee’s face is described as having “the mild quality of a Burne-Jones knight” (Hercule Poirot’s Christmas). Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) was a Pre-Raphaelite artist known amongst other things for “The Merciful Knight” and the “Holy Grail Tapestries”.
The line of Burns quoted by Mr Satterthwaite in Three-Act Tragedy are from “On the Late Captain Grose’s Peregrinations Thro’ Scotland”.
Another act wears enormous “Buster Brown” bows (The Murder on the Links). Buster Brown was a comic strip character created in 1902 who wore a distinctive type of suit with a big bow at the front. The suit was beloved by mothers and loathed by sons.
Mark Gaskell sings “But she is in her grave, and, oh, the difference to me!” (The Body in the Library). This is from William Wordsworth’s 1798 poem “She Dwelt Amon the Untrodden Ways”.
Sandra has no aspirin but when Rosemary asks her for one is able to give her a Cachet Faivre (Sparkling Cyanide). Advertised as being better than aspirin, this was a branded medicine to combat flu, fever, headache, and pain.
Miss Brent wears a cairngorm brooch (And Then There Were None). Cairngorm, also known as smoky quartz, is a type of yellow/brown/grey/black gemstone found in the Scottish mountains of the same name.
The chess player Wilson is said to be a second Capablanca (The Big Four). Jose Raul Capablanca y Graupera was a Cuban chess player who defeated Emanuel Lasker in 1921 and held the world championship until 1927.
During the flight Poirot eats “thin captain biscuits” (Death in the Clouds). These are apparently a hard, fancy biscuit.
The new tenor is said to be a second Caruso (The Mysterious Mr Quin – The Face of Helen). Enrico Caruso (1873 – 1921) was the premier tenor of his generation, and the first major classical vocalist to make numerous recordings of his work.
Sheila’s father was “a follower of Casement in the last war. He was shot as a traitor!”(N or M?) Sir Roger Casement was involved in the Easter Rising of 1916 that tried to win Irish independence and was subsequently tried and executed as a traitor.
In One, Two, Buckle My Shoe Mr Amberiotis refers to “casting your bread upon the waters” which is from Ecclesiastes Chapter 11.
Drs Gerard and King go to Petra with Messrs Castle, the tourist agent (Appointment with Death). I can’t find anything about their history online, which is why I didn’t reference them when reviewing The Secret of Chimneys where Anthony Cade is working for them at the start of that novel. Presumably as they are mentioned in a second book they were a real company.
Japp thinks it is silly to call a dog Cerberus “after a packet of salt” (The Capture of Cerberus – The Labours of Hercules). He is getting mixed up with the company “Cerebos” who also created “Bisto” gravy powder.
One of Mrs Babbington’s sons lives in Ceylon (Three-Act Tragedy). Sri Lanka was called Ceylon by the British who occupied some coastal areas 1796 before taking full control in 1815. Independence came in 1948 but the name was not changed until 1972.
Poirot says that Alfred Craig can be found in the Chamber of Horrors (Mrs McGinty’s Dead). This was originally a “Separate Room” at Madame Tussaud’s waxwork exhibition when it opened in 1802. It took its name from Tussaud’s own advertising around 1843 and over time has housed the likes of Dr Crippen, William Palmer and George Joseph Smith. I was surprised to find that it closed in 2016 and has been replaced with the Sherlock Holmes Experience.
Valentine Chantry has modelled for Chanel (Murder in the Mews – Triangle at Rhodes). Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel began the business which became an international fashion house when she opened a millinery shop in 1909.
Hastings is taken to Chinatown (The Big Four). This was originally in the Limehouse area of the East End of London, which was seriously damaged by bombing during World War II. Modern day Chinatown is a neighbourhood in the City of Westminster.
Mr Maltravers had not consulted with Dr Bernard as he was a Christian Scientist (Poirot Investigates – The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor). The main principles of Christian Science were developed by Mary Baker Eddy in her 1875 work “Science and Health”. This teaches that sickness is an illusion that can be corrected by prayer alone. At its height in the 1930s there were 270,000 adherents in the US alone; this has declined to 100,000 in the 1990s.
Doctor Bower’s visit reminds Tuppence of Clubfoot and so in this case the Beresfords decide to be Desmond and Francis Okewood (Partners in Crime – The Adventure of the Sinister Stransger). The Okewood brothers were created in 1918 by (George) Valentine Williams. “The Man with the Clubfoot” was another of his novels published earlier in the same year.
When discussing whether it is suicide or murder, Major Riddle says “Everything according to Cocker – but for one circumstance” (Murder in the Mews – Dead Man’s Mirror). 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”.
Hank P. Ryder drinks a variety of cocktails (Partners in Crime – The Crackler). An Angel’s Kiss is equal measures of the following layered: crème de cacao, sloe gin, brandy, and light cream. A Horse’s Neck is brandy and ginger ale with a long twist of lemon over the side of the glass. A Martini is gin and vermouth with an olive or twist of lemon. I can’t find what a Road to Ruin is made from.
Tommy wears an eyeshade in order to play Thornley Colton, the blind Problemist (Partners in Crime – Blindman’s Buff). Thornley Colton was created by Clinton H. Stagg c.1913 and operated in New York City. Having recently read a Max Carrados short story in one of the British Library Crime Classics anthologies, I had assumed that he had inspired this one of Christie’s parodies.
David Hunter served in the Commandos (Taken at the Flood). They were formed in 1940 as Winston Churchill desired that the British military forces be able to make quick in and out attacks on German-occupied Europe.
When imagining an image of a fairy on a photograph Tuppence wonders if they should write to Conan Doyle (Partners in Crime – The Fairy in the Flat). Most known for creating Sherlock Holmes, Doyle was very interested in spiritualism and psychic phenomena. He championed as genuine the Cottingley Fairies which appeared in photographs taken by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths in 1917. In 1983 they revealed that the pictures were faked.
Men of fighting age, such as the pharmacist’s previous assistant, are being conscripted into the armed forces (The Mysterious Affair at Styles).
When speaking of a trip to Africa, Anne’s father refers to “Cook’s” (The Man in the Brown Suit). Thomas Cook founded a company with his own name in 1841 to carry temperance supporters between English towns by railway. In 1855 he organised tours to Europe and in 1866 to the USA. Many changes of name and ownership have occurred and today it is called Thomas Cook AG and is owned by the German company C&N Touristic AG.
Whilst Gladys Cooper (1888-1971) was a real film actress, “Palm Trees in Egypt”, mentioned by Lady Tamblin, is not a real film (The Mystery of the Blue Train).
Mrs Jones asks for a bowl of cornflour which ends up being drunk by Miss Clark (The Thirteen Problems – The Tuesday Night Club). I can find no definitive answer as to what this is but when I googled ” a bowl of cornflour” the top results related to Agatha Christie readers asking the same question relating to the same story!
In Hickory Dickory Dock Miss Lemon is said to have no imagination and therefore to be unlike “Cortez’s men upon the peak of Darien” a reference to Keats’ poem “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” which compares his sensations when reading George Chapman’s translation of Homer’s epics, among other things, to the feelings of Hernan Cortez and his men when they first saw the Pacific Ocean. Keats was actually guilty of misremembering his history as it was actually Vasco Nunez de Balboa who was the first European to see the Pacific.
Major Horton has copies of “Country Life” (Murder is Easy). This is a weekly magazine first published in 1897 when its main content was golf and horse racing.
Louise Leidner’s bookshelf gives Poirot clues to her personality (Murder in Mesopotamia). “Crewe Train” (1926) is a novel by Dame (Emilie) Rose Macauley (1881-1958) best known for her last novel “The Towers of Trebizond” (1956).
Crippen is mentioned as being a charming murderer, caught on an ocean liner (The Man in the Brown Suit). Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen fled London in 1910 under suspicion of having murdered his wife. He was recognised by the captain of the SS Montrose, who sent a wireless telegram back to London before his ship sailed outside the range of its transmitter. Inspector Walter Dew of Scotland Yard overtook Crippen by travelling on the faster SS Laurentic, and arrested him on his arrival in Canada. He was found guilty of murder and executed later that year.
The murder occurs on a flight from Le Bourget to Croydon (Death in the Clouds). Croydon Aerodrome was the UK’s main airport until 1946 when London (now Heathrow) Airport opened.
M. Zeropoulos refers to “the most preposterous scarabs ever made in Czechoslovakia” (Death in the Clouds). This country was created in 1918 on the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian empire and had a difficult history due to Nazi and Soviet invasions before splitting amicably into Slovakia and the Czech Republic (now in the process of becoming known popularly as Czechia).
In A Murder is Announced Julian Harmon had to rush writing his sermon as he had been distracted by “Death Does the Hat Trick”, a sadly fictitious book which I imagine involves a triple murder at the cricket club.
Nurse Leatheran has been reading “Death in a Nursing Home” which is a fictional title (Murder in Mesopotamia). Ngaio Marsh’s “The Nursing Home Murders” was published in 1935 and Nurse Leatheran is seen reading this in an adaptation of this book.
The death penalty, which is the reason Spence would like the case reviewed gives Poirot’s investigation urgency, continued to be used in the United Kingdom until 1964, twelve years after the publication of Mrs McGinty’s Dead.
De Beers‘ diamonds play a significant part in the plot of The Man in the Brown Suit. De Beers was founded in 1888 by Cecil Rhodes and until the early 21st century had a virtual monopoly over the international diamond market.
Debenham & Freebody was a department store in Wigmore Street, London and was part of what is now Debenhams plc (Murder on the Orient Express).
Tuppence looks up Lawrence St Vincent in Debrett (Partners in Crime – A Pot of Tea). Debrett’s Peerage and Baronetage was first published in 1802 as Peerage of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Its 150th editon will be published in 2019.
In Taken at the Flood Mellon teases Major Porter that he may be sued for slander “For he enjoyed creating alarm and despondency in such places it was not forbidden by the Defence of the Realm Act”. Shortened to DORA, this was legislation created in 1914 at the start of the First World War which was re-adopted for the Second World War. It included the following: “No person shall by word of mouth or in writing spread reports likely to cause disaffection or alarm among any of His Majesty’s forces or among the civilian population”.
In Mrs McGinty’s Dead Poirot refers to “Deirdre of the Sorrows”. She is, apparently, the foremost tragic heroine in Irish legend and her story is part of the Ulster Cycle.
Henrietta has a Delage car (The Hollow). Louis Delâge (1874 – 1947) founded a car manufacturing business in 1905. It was sold to Delahaye in 1935 and ceased production in 1953.
The girl in the train says: “It’s not everyone who can distinguish between a demi and a duchess. There now, I believe I’ve shocked you again!” (The Murder on the Links). A demi in this context is probably either a demi-mondaine (French) or a demirep (English) – both have similar connotations of a woman of dubious morals.
Luke arrives back in England on the day of the Derby (Murder is Easy), which would make it the first Wednesday in June (since 1995 it has moved to the first Saturday). The Derby was first run in 1780 and is considered the most prestigious of the five annual classic flat races.
In They Came to Baghdad Edward had served in the RAF and won a DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) for “an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy”.
Tuppence says that Tommy looks like a “Dismal Desmond” (N or M?). This was a cartoon dog from the mid-1920s created by Ian Hassall.
In The Body in the Library Mark Gaskell refers to Hugo McLean as “Alias William Dobbin” because of his faithful devotion to Adelaide Conway is like that of Captain Dobbin to Amelia Sedley in Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair”.
In Evil Under the Sun Poirot says “do noble deeds, not dream them all day long”, a slight misquote from Charles Kingsley’s poem “A Farewell” (should be “things” rather than “deeds”).
The newly unemployed George Rowland notes that he won’t even be given the dole due to the quality of his clothes (The Listerdale Mystery – The Girl in the Train). Unemployment benefits were first introduced in the UK in under the National Insurance Act 1911. A “seeking work” test was added in 1921 and an element of means testing in 1922.
The Dorcas Society get a surprise at the end of Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? This is a group, normally church based, with a mission of providing clothing to the poor.
The principle of double jeopardy is referred to (The Mysterious Affair at Styles). The Criminal Justice Act 2003 now allows for a re-trial in serious cases if there is “new and compelling evidence”.
Dover Street underground station was renamed Green Park in 1933 (The Secret Adversary).
Down Street underground station is referred to (The Man in the Brown Suit). This was situated between Hyde Park Corner and Dover Street and was closed in 1932.
In Crooked House Charles’ father says “There’s not even a case to put up to the DPP so far”. In England and Wales the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions reviews evidence gathered by the police and determines whether it is sufficient to be taken to court. Often in GAD fiction although the reader is satisfied that a case has been solved, it is likely that in the absence of the killer’s confession, the defence counsel would tear the solution to pieces.
In Murder is Easy Luke quotes “I do not like thee, Dr Fell, the reason why I cannot tell.” The full quote ends “but this I know and know full well, I do not like thee Dr Fell.” It is said that this was Tom Brown’s (1662-1704) on the spot translation of Martial’s thirty-second epigram which had been set as a challenge by John Fell with the reward being the cancellation of his expulsion from Christ Church, Oxford.
Nurse Leatheran writes “she has ‘fancies’…one knows what that usually means (but I hope not actually D.T.s!)” (Murder in Mesopotamia). She suspects that her new patient has problems with alcohol but hopefully is not suffering from delirium tremens following complete alcohol withdrawal after a significant period of heavy, regular drinking.
Hastings imagines that the Misses Tripp have no sanitation except for “an E. G. in the garden” (Dumb Witness). I presume this is some sort of outside toilet but can’t verify that.
Elinor and Poirot refer to Eleanor of Aquitaine and Fair Rosamund (Sad Cypress). Eleanor (1122-1204) was the wife of Henry II (1133-1189) and Rosamund Clifford (1150-1176) was his mistress. Legend tells that he kept her hidden within a maze but that Eleanor found her and offered her the choice to die by dagger or poison of which she chose the latter.
Japp is reminded in Lord Edgware Dies of the Elizabeth Canning Case where two sets of witnesses swore that Mary Squires, an accused party, was in two different places at the same time. Canning (1734-1773) claimed to have been kidnapped and held prisoner for a month in 1753 and accused Squires and Susannah Wells of having been her captors. The latter were initially found guilty but on further investigation they were release and the former found guilty of perjury. This story was the inspiration for the highly recommended “The Franchise Affair” by Josephine Tey.
In They Do It With Mirrors Ruth says “Well there’s a fashion in philanthropy too. It used to be education in Gulbrandsen’s day. But that’s out of date now. The State has stepped in. Everyone expects education as a matter of right – and doesn’t think much of it when they get it!” In England state primary education had been free since 1891 but state secondary education only became free in 1944.
Mrs Rogers has some Elliman’s on her washstand (And Then There Were None). This is an embrocation first sold in 1847 as a muscle rub for humans and animals and can still be bought today.
Poirot refers to the English Baths Murderer (The Murder on the Links). This was George Joseph Smith, who was found guilty in 1915 of murdering a bigamous wife by drowning her in the bath; evidence of two other similar crimes was admitted at his trial in order to establish a pattern of behaviour.
Jack Renauld had served in the English Flying Corps (The Murder on the Links). This was actually the Royal Flying Corps, the air wing of the British Army, formed in 1912, merged in 1918 with the Royal Naval Air Service to become the Royal Air Force.
Miss Williams is not impressed that Amyas Crale’s work is in the Tate because “so is one of Mr Epstein’s statues, I believe” (Five Little Pigs). Sir Jacob Epstein (1880-1959) was an American born British sculptor.
Paula is happy that the abominable English piano has been replaced by an Erard (The Listerdale Mystery – Swan Song) Sébastien Érard (1752 – 1831) was French instrument maker of German origin who pioneered the modern piano.
Ferguson owns “Erewhon” (Death on the Nile). This is an 1872 novel by Samuel Butler.
Rowley plans to install an Aga or an Esse in the kitchen (Taken at the Flood). The latter is a stove that was created in the nineteenth century. The brand is still going today.
Anthony Cade wonders what the Eugenic Society would make of one of the Comrades of the Red Hand (The Secret of Chimneys). Francis Galton believed that desirable human qualities were hereditary traits and coined the term Eugenics in 1883 and it soon became an academic discipline, spawning the British Eugenics Education Society in 1907. Support for the idea peaked in the years before the Second World War, and then declined once the consequences of its implementation had been demonstrated by the Nazi regime in Germany. The related ethical issues are being considered again as varying degrees of genetic engineering become possible.
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 (Murder in the Mews – Dead Man’s Mirror).
In Sad Cypress, euthanasia is referenced but not by name. Charles Killick Millard had founded the Voluntary Euthanasia Legalisation Society (now Dignity in Dying) in 1935.
Mr Satterthwaite quotes the line about the evil that men do living after them (The Mysterious Mr Quin – The Shadow on the Glass). This is taken from Mark Antony’s speech at Caesar’s funeral in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” which I remember well from Year 9 SATS.
Colonel Johnson says that “fans” is an American term (Three-Act Tragedy). One derivation of “fan” is from “the fancy” to “fance” to “fan” with it being attributed to Charles Von der Ahe, owner of the St Louis Brown Stockings baseball team, in 1882.
When told that the dead man’s pocket contained cereal, Inspector Neele asks if it is breakfast cereal and mentions Farmer’s Glory and Wheatifax (A Pocket Full of Rye). Googling the former I found some promotional wooden figures which had been issued in the 1930s. The brand was owned by Alley Brothers and was a form of toasted wheat flakes, claimed to be the first British breakfast cereal. Searching for the latter only returns the passage from the book in various translations.
Tommy refers to Father Brown, as he is still disguised as a Roman Catholic priest following an unsuccessful case (Partners in Crime – The Man in the Mist). Father Brown is the best-known of G. K. Chesterton’s short story sleuths, first appearing in 1910 and going on to feature in another fifty tales.
Lord Caterham reads The Field (The Seven Dials Mystery). This is the world’s oldest country and field sports magazine, first published weekly in 1853, now published monthly.
In N or M? The government is concerned by the Fifth Column i.e. those living in Britain who are sympathetic with the enemy. The term became popular during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) but had been used as early as 1906.
Arbuthnot and MacQueen discuss international affairs including Stalin’s Five Year Plan (Murder on the Orient Express). The Soviet Union ran a number of centralised economic Five Year Plans, initially to speed up the country’s industrialisation. The first plan ran from 1928-1932 and the second 1933-1937.
Poirot thinks that his fellow patient in the waiting room wishes he had his Flit spray with him (One, Two, Buckle My Shoe). This was a brand of insecticide launched in 1923 by the Standard Oil Company (later Esso). It contained 5% of the now notorious DDT.
King Nicholas IV married an actress of the Folies Bergère (The Secret of Chimneys). This was designed as a Paris opera house and opened in 1869 as the Folies Trévise, but was renamed in 1872. It was at its most popular from the 1890s to the 1920s, but is still operating today.
Miss Hetherington reads a Fontana book (Destination Unknown). Fontana was a paperback imprint of Collins, Christie’s publishers. I found a great page of covers here which includes a number of Christie’s (although one at least is a spoiler of sorts) and other mystery authors.
Lorrimer owns a Ford V 8 (Murder is Easy). This had been introduced in 1932, initially known as the Model 18, but it took its nickname from its flathead V8 engine.
Dr Lord drives a Ford 10 (Sad Cypress). The Model C 10 was built by Ford UK between 1934 and 1937 with the 10 referring to its 10 British Fiscal Horsepower.
Mrs Lorrimer sends a letter to Fortnum and Mason’s (Cards on the Table). This department store was founded in 1707 by William Fortnum and Hugh Mason.
Tuppence is eating muffins and so is taking on the character of Dr Fortune, with Tommy as Superintendent Bell (Partners in Crime – The Ambassador’s Boots). Reggie Fortune was created by H. C. Bailey (1878 – 1961) and appeared primarily in short stories, beginning with the 1920 collection “Call Mr Fortune”.
It appears to be the American Peters, rather than Hilary, who refers to “the four freedoms you talk about in your country. Freedom from want, freedom from fear…” before being cut off (Destination Unknown). This is odd because the four freedoms were defined by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941, with the other two being freedom of speech and freedom of worship.
Tuppence decides they should be Inspector French in “Partners in Crime – An Unbreakable Alibi“. French was the main series detective of Freeman Wills Croft (1879 – 1957) For examples of his work see The Sea Mystery, The Box Office Murders or Mystery in the Channel.
Sally Finch is studying in England on a Fulbright scholarship (Hickory Dickory Dock). In 1945 US Senator J. William Fulbright proposed a bill to create an international student exchange programme to be funded from selling surplus war property and equipment. President Harry Truman signed it into law in 1946.
Coleman introduces Nurse Leatheran to the team as “Sairey Gamp” (Murder in Mesopotamia). Sarah Gamp is a midwife and nurse in Charles Dickens’ “Martin Chuzzlewit”.
Poirot refers to Mahatma Gandhi (The ABC Murders). At this time he was in the middle of his struggle for Indian independence.
Jane and Norman like Greta Garbo (Death in the Clouds). In 1935 Garbo (1905-1990) was at the peak of her career, before retiring in 1941.
“Garnaby Williams, Boy Detective”, read by Albert (The Secret Adversary) sadly appears to be a book within a book, unless anyone has a copy they can produce.
Anthony Cade says that “all will be gas and gaiters” (The Secret of Chimneys). At this time it meant that the outcome would be favourable, whereas the meaning has changed over time to refer to pomposity and verbosity.
When trying to find Kilmorden Castle, Anne refers to a Gazetteer (The Man in the Brown Suit). This is a geographical dictionary or directory to be used in conjunction with an atlas.
Whilst watching a show, Hastings notes that “a comic comedian endeavoured to be Mr George Robey and failed signally” (The Murder on the Links). George Robey (real name Sir George Edward Wade) was one of the greatest music hall performers of his day. He was only modestly successful on the big screen, but did play Falstaff in Laurence Olivier’s 1944 “Henry V”.
German reparations were discussed at dinner (Poirot Investigates – The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor). The Treaty of Versailles (1919) and the London Schedule of Payments (1921) required Germany to pay 132bn gold marks (approximately £8bn) to cover civilian damage during the First World War. At most a quarter of this was paid before a final payment was accepted in 1932.
Julian Harmon used to read Gibbon aloud to Bunch (A Murder is Announced). Given his interest in history this is presumably Edward Gibbon and his “History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” a six volume history published between 1776 and 1789. My school had a copy of this as part of an Everyman Library of hardback classics. I intended to read it but only got a few pages in.
Victoria compares herself to the Saracen maid who knew only her lover’s name “Gilbert” and “England” (They Came to Baghdad). This is based on the legend of Gilbert Beckett, father of Thomas à Becket, and the Fair Saracen, who followed him home from the Crusades knowing only the words “Gilbert” and “London”.
Frankie tells Bobby to stop droning on as though he were recommending a case to the Girls’ Friendly Society (Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?). This is an organisation founded in 1875 with the original aim of addressing the problems of working-class out-of-wedlock pregnancies. Now its three bullet points are: confidence, growth, and friendship.
Miss Waynflete went to Girton College (Murder is Easy). It was founded in 1869 as the first women’s college in Cambridge and was given full college status by the university in 1948.
The constable says that if he touches anything at the crime scene then the inspector will give him beans (Partners in Crime – The Man in the Mist). I hadn’t come across this phrase before, which means to give someone a telling-off.
Mrs Hubbard’s handbag contains a packet of Glauber’s salts which are a type of laxative (Murder on the Orient Express).
The quotation “God’s in His heaven. All’s right with the world” comes into Mr Cust’s head (The ABC Murders). This is from Robert Browning’s 1841 verse drama “Pippa Passes”.
Nurse Hopkins enjoyed watching “The Good Earth” (Sad Cypress). This 1937 film was based on Pearl S. Buck’s 1931 novel of the same name and tells the story of Chinese farmers struggling to survive.
Venetia Kerr’s luggage includes “Good Housekeeping” (Death in the Clouds). This is an originally American magazine, first published fortnightly in 1885, moving to monthly in 1891, with a British edition launched in 1922.
Lady Cynthia uses the song lyric “great big bears and tigers” to refer to Richard Scott, the Big Game man (The Mysterious Mr Quin – The Shadow on the Glass). This may be deliberately ironic as the line appears in the first verse, which is about a trip to the zoo, of a song called “Come Along With Me” taken from the 1903 musical “The Orchid”.
Miss Cram came to offer to help with the Guides (The Murder at the Vicarage). The Girl Guides were formed in 1910 by Agnes Baden-Powell, following the succes of the Boy Scouts formed by her brother, Robert.
Mr Quin recommends that Mr Satterthwaite should study The Harlequinade (The Mysterious Mr Quin – The Coming of Mr Quin). This is an English variant of the Italian Commedia dell’arte and used to be part of a pantomime. The characters are Harlequin, Columbine, Pantaloon, Pierrot and the Clown.
Betterton had been working at Harwell for eighteen months before his disappearance (Destination Unknown). Originally an RAF base during the Second World War, Harwell became home to the Atomic Energy Research Establishment. Its nuclear facilities are currently in the process of being decommissioned with the work due to end in 2025.
Jackie hums “he was her man and he did her wrong…” (Death on the Nile). This is from “Frankie and Johnny” a traditional American song of uncertain origins but possibly based on a real crime where a woman killed her cheating lover.
Poirot refers to the Hearne case (Sad Cypress). An interesting account of the 1931 case against Annie Hearn can be found here.
In The Hollow according to Lady Angkatell, Henrietta’s sculpture “Ascending Thought” looked “rather like a Heath Robinson stepladder”. William Heath Robinson (1872 – 1944) was an illustrator who drew extraordinarily complicated machines that accomplished only minor tasks. As well as embodying this idea a Heath Robinson contraption also has connotations of being ramshackle and rickety and liable to fall to pieces at any moment.
Jane and Norman dislike Katharine Hepburn (Death in the Clouds). In 1935 Hepburn (1907-2003) was at the start of a temporary decline before making a comeback and earning a third of twelve Best Actress Oscar nominations for “The Philadelphia Story” (1941).
Bundle has got rid of the Panhard and now drives a Hispano (The Seven Dials Mystery). Spaniard Emilio de la Cuadra founded a motor car company, under his own name, in 1898. This became Hispano-Suiza after he hired Swiss engineer, Marc Birkigt. They made aircraft engines during the First World War before returning to luxury cars in the 1920s.
George meets a man whose hair cut is en brosse i.e. close shaven and with a moustache of the Hohenzollern persuasion (The Listerdale Mystery – The Girl in the Train). The Hohenzollerns were a European royal family, one branch of which became rulers of Prussia and then Germany. The type of moustache can be seen in this picture of Kaiser Wilhelm II.
In Taken at the Flood David and Lynn both think of “Home is the sailor, home from the sea, and the hunter home from the hill” which is from Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem “Requiem”.
Roger has bought his nephew a Hornby train (Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?). Frank Hornby patented the construction toy set Meccano in 1901 and his company made their first clockwork train under the Hornby brand in 1920.
Miss Marple was staying at a Hydro (The Thirteen Problems – A Christmas Tragedy). This is short for a Hydropathic Spa, where customers would be able to take the water-cure, a range of treatment using hot and cold water, thought to treat many ailments.
Mahmoud’s rushed quote is the first line of Keats’ “I had a dove and the sweet dove died” (Appointment with Death).
General Arundell had served during the Indian Mutiny (Dumb Witness). Taking place in 1857-58 this was an ultimately unsuccessful uprising against the ruling British East India Company.
When Hastings notes that the frozen lamb comes from New Zealand, Poirot responds: “He knows everything – but everything. How do they say – Inquire Within Upon Everything. That is my friend Hastings.” (The Big Four). “Enquire Within Upon Everything” was a how-to book for domestic life, first published in 1856, and regularly updated and reissued up to 1994.
Jane Grey’s trip to Le Pinet was financed from her winnings on the Irish Sweep (Death in the Clouds). The Irish Free State Hospitals’ Sweepstake was a lottery established in 1930 to fund Irish hospitals. Lotteries at this time were illegal in the UK and a 1934 act prohibited the import and export of lottery related materials.
When Poirot begins his exposition, Nurse Leatheran has a vision of the East and thinks of Samarkand and Ispahan (Murder in Mesopotamia). Ispahan (more properly Isfahan) has twice been the capital of Persia and today is the third largest city in Iran.
In Crooked House on the day of Aristide’s death Magda was in London, lunching at the Ivy and then having a drink at the Berkeley. The Ivy is a restaurant founded in 1917, possibly named after the song “Just Like the Ivy, I’ll Cling to You” and became a favourite amongst theatre stars, partly as it opened until midnight.
When asked whether a second murder can be prevented, Poirot refers to the “long-continued successes of Jack the Ripper” (The ABC Murders). Jack the Ripper was a name used by someone claiming to be the Whitechapel Killer who killed a number of women in 1888. The true identity of the murderer has never been resolved.
Lord Caterham attempts to play golf (The Seven Dials Mystery) and hence the following club is referenced: jigger (now a chipper, a lofted putter).
Mr Tomlinson refers to the play “Jim the Penman” (The Mysterious Mr Quin – The World’s End). This was written by Charles Lawrence Young and was filmed in 1915 and 1921.
Aristides was painted by the Welsh artist Augustus John (1878-1961) and his wife by the American artist John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) (Crooked House).
Miss Crabtree’s handbag contained, amongst other things, three newspaper cuttings about Joanna Southcott’s box. (The Listerdale Mystery – Sing a Song of Sixpence). Joanna Southcott (1750 – 1814) claimed to be the Woman of the Apocalypse mentioned in the Book of Revelation. On her death she left behind a sealed box of prophecies with the instruction that it should only be opened at a time of national crisis and in the presence of all the bishops of the Church of England. Psychic researcher Harry Price claimed to have opened the box in 1927 but it is disputed as to whether this was the genuine article.
Reference is made in Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? to “John Halifax, Gentleman”, an 1856 novel by Dinah Craik (1826-1887).
Jim Lazarus says that Nick Buckley will be off to Australia like that girl, but has forgotten her name (Peril at End House). This must be Amy Johnson who became the first aviatrix to fly from Britain to Australia in 1930.
Bobby Jones (Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?) is not “the American-born master of the game”. Robert “Bobby” Tyre Jones Jr. (1902 – 1971) was a successful amateur golfer who later co-founded the Masters Tournament at Augusta National. In 1930 he became the only player to win the original golfing Grand Slam (The Amateur Championship, The Open Championship, The US Open, and the US Amateur).
Quoted in They Came to Baghdad the rhyme beginning “Jumbo said to Alice I love you” was written to protest against the sale of Jumbo the elephant by London Zoo to P. T. Barnum in 1882.
The term “Kafir” (more commonly Kaffir) is used in The Man in the Brown Suit. This was originally used to refer to black Africans, with no negative connotations (inasmuch as that can be said to be possible of a term created by one group and used by them to refer to another group). It is now recognised as being extremely offensive, and has been actionable under South African law since 1976.
In The Hollow Poirot is puzzled that Ainswick was not inherited by Sir Henry ” as he has the title” to which Henrietta responds “Oh, that’s a KCB”. This a Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath which is a non-hereditary award which allows a man to be known as Sir or a woman to be known as Dame. Benito Mussolini, Nicolae Ceausescu, and Robert Mugabe were all members before their infamous deeds prompted their expulsion.
As well as owning an ABC, Mr Partridge’s shelves also include “Kelly’s Directory” (The ABC Murders). Kelly’s, Post Office and Harrod & Co Directory was effectively a Victorian Yellow Pages, containing addresses of businesses and tradespeople for a given locale.
Charles’ father refers to Constance Kent who killed her baby brother (Crooked House). Four-year-old Francis Kent was murdered in June 1860. His 16-year-old half-sister Constance was arrested the next month but was released without charge. Five years later she confessed to the crime and was sentenced to death which was then commuted to life imprisonment. She was released in 1885 and the next year emigrated to Australia to join her brother. She changed her name to Ruth Emilie Kaye and trained as a nurse. She retired in 1932 and died in 1944 at the age of 100. Despite suspicions that she confessed to shield somebody else (possibly her father or brother) she never recanted her confession, even after their deaths.
Poirot suggests that Hastings should write for the Kinema (The Murder on the Links). The “k” is in line with the Greek origins of “kinematography” but I can’t find when that was fully replaced by the French “c” and it became standardised in English as “cinema”.
Miss Marple likens the relationship between Jefferson Conway and Ruby Keene to that of King Cophetua and the Beggar Girl (The Body in the Library). This was originally a 16th century ballad that told the story of how an African king who had previously had no interest in women fell in love at first sight with the beautiful beggar Penelophon.
Amyas’ mother gave him his name because she was a fan of Kingsley (Five Little Pigs). Amyas Leigh is a character in Charles Kingsley’s 1855 novel “Westward Ho!”
Anne receives a roll of Kodak films (The Man in the Brown Suit). Kodak were founded in 1888 and for most of the 20th century were the dominant player in the photographic industry, until they were late in switching to digital, going bankrupt in 2012. The company emerged from bankruptcy in 2013 and now focuses on business printing.
Dr Gerard refers to Kopp’s experiments with digitoxin (Appointment with Death). This could be a reference to Emil Kopp (1817-1875) a French professor of toxicology and chemistry.
Louise Leidner (Murder in Mesopotamia) is compared several times in Nurse Leatheran’s narrative to “La Bella Dame sans Merci” the title character of John Keat’s 1819 poem.
Mr Carter is worried about the possibility of a Labour government (The Secret Adversary). The first Labour government came to power three years after the story is set, and one year after its publication. There are also concerns about the possibility of a General Strike, which whilst being headed off at this time, did come to pass in 1926.
Tuppence mentions a “Lady Molly touch” (Partners in Crime – The Sunningdale Mystery). “Lady Molly of Scotland Yard” was a book of short stories from 1910 written by Baroness Orczy.
Inspector Grange prefers Hedy Lamarr to Veronica Cray (The Hollow). Hedy Lamarr (1914 – 2000) was best known as an actress but was also an inventor in her spare time. During World War II, with composer George Antheil (writer of Death in the Dark under the pseudonym Stacey Bishop), she designed and patented a frequency-hopping system which could not be jammed. It was not used during that conflict but was installed on US Navy ships in the 1960s.
Miss Blacklock was reading Lane Norcott in the Daily Mail (A Murder is Announced). Maurice Lane-Norcott seems to be the person referred to here who had a number of books published including “Out and About with Undertakers or Knee Deep in Bureaucrats”, “Our Dogs”, and “Up the Aerial or Ten Million Listeners Must Be Wrong”.
The chess player Savaronoff is said to be second to Lasker (The Big Four). Emanuel Lasker was a German chess player and world champion from 1894 to 1921.
Norman Gale’s luggage includes “La Vie Parisienne” (Death in the Clouds). This was a weekly French magazine published between 1863 and 1970; a new magazine with the same name has been published since 1984.
Haydock says that Tommy is an LDV (N or M?). The Local Defence Volunteers were those ineligible to join the regular armed forces but who wished to defend their country in the case of an invasion. They were soon renamed as the Home Guard.
The murder occurs on a flight from Le Bourget to Croydon (Death in the Clouds). Le Bourget was France’s only airport until Orly opened in 1932. It closed to international airline traffic until 1977.
Miss Peabody refers to the leg o’ mutton sleeve (Dumb Witness). This is puffy at the shoulder before tapering and fitting tightly from elbow to wrist.
Dr Gerard reads a copy of Le Matin (Appointment with Death). This French daily newspaper was first published in 1884 and edited by Alfred Edwards. Maurice Bunau-Varilla became its president in 1901 and the paper closed in 1944 shortly after his death. Gaston “The Mystery of the Yellow Room” Leroux worked for the paper during its heyday.
Dr Bryant’s luggage includes “Les Maux de l’Oreille” (Death in the Clouds). This is presumably a medical textbook on ear disorders.
In Appointment with Death reference is made to a Liberal government being unexpectedly in power. This is a fiction as the last Liberal government of the UK was Lloyd-George’s between 1916 and 1922.
In Taken at the Flood Lynn thinks of the line “life and the world and mine own self are changed” which is from the poem “Mirage” by Christina Rosett
Jimmy Thesiger applies the quote “Life is real, life is earnest” to Pongo Bateman (The Seven Dials Mystery). This comes from the poem “A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882).
Hastings compares himself in Lord Edgware Dies to the Light Brigade with the quote “mine not to reason why, mine but to do or die”. This is a paraphrase of a line in Tennyson’s poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (1854) which detailed the disastrous outcome of a miscommunication at the Battle of Balaclava which caused the British Light Brigade cavalry to make a frontal assault at the Russian guns.
Louise Leidner’s bookshelf gives Poirot clues to her personality (Murder in Mesopotamia). “Linda Condon” (1919) is a novel by Joseph Hergesheimer (1880-1954) about a woman who never learns to have emotions.
The Armstrong Kidnapping (Murder on the Orient Express) is modelled on the real-life Lindbergh Kidnapping of 1932 where the son of aviator Charles Lindbergh was abducted and murdered.
Dr Lord asks Laura Welman if she has heard of “the Little Ease – you couldn’t stand, sit or lie in it” (Sad Cypress). This is a cell beneath the Tower of London’s White Tower, 1.2m on each side. It is unclear whether it was used to house prisoners but it sounds quite unpleasant.
Hastings hums “Little Man, You’ve Had a Busy Day” (Dumb Witness). This modern classical vocal music song was first recorded in 1934 by Elsie Carlisle and has been covered many times since by varying artists including Perry Como (1958) and Eric Clapton (2016).
Madame Giselle gave money to the Little Sisters of the Poor (Death in the Clouds). This is an order founded in France in 1839 by Jeanne Jugan to care for the elderly.
Lady Westholme and Dr Gerard discuss the League of Nations and the Litvania boundary dispute (Appointment with Death). Litvania was a name sometimes used for Lithuania, which following the First World War had a long-running border dispute with Poland.
In And Then There Were None amidst the murder and mayhem one of the safe topics of conversation is the latest reappearance of the Loch Ness monster. The first modern sighting was in 1933 by George Spicer and his wife and other sightings were publicised during the 1930s.
Charles Enderby considers asking for opinions on the séance from Sir Oliver Lodge and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (The Sittaford Mystery). The former was a physicist involved in the development of the radio; the latter best known as the creator of Sherlock Holmes. Both lost sons in World War I which increased their interest in spiritualism.
Sir Edward is reading a volume of Lombroso when his evening is interrupted (The Listerdale Mystery – Sing a Song of Sixpence). Cesare Lombroso (1835 – 1909) was an Italian criminologist who rejected the classical theory that crime was a characteristic trait of human nature but was instead inherited and that a criminal could be identified by physical (congenital) defects.
In the match with Savaronoff (The Big Four), Wilson opens Ruy Lopez, named after a Spanish bishop of the 16th century.
Miss Pierce is reading “The Love Quest” (Appointment with Death). I can’t find a contemporary book of that name but the title has been used by Anne Cumming for her 1991 volume of autobiography.
Dr Gerard thinks that Nadine Boynton looks like a “Luini Madonna” (Appointment with Death). Bernardino Luini (c.1480-1532) was an Italian painter, said to have worked with Leonardo da Vinci, which has lead to their workings misattributed to each other at various times.
The sinking of the Lusitania by a German submarine could have brought the USA into the First World War two years before they did declare war. Although mainly being used as a passenger liner, the ship also carried small arms ammuntion and (only admitted to salvage teams in 1982) some larger munitions, and was therefore considered a legitimate military target by Germany. 1,198 out of 1,962 on board lost their lives, including 128 out of 139 Americans. The first line of The Secret Adversary states that two torpedoes hit the ship; although the passengers on board may have believed that to be the case, only one torpedo was fired, with a second explosion occurring on board. Published only seven years after the event, this does raise the question of how long a gap is appropriate before making use of a historic tragedy in a work of fiction.
Tommy and Tuppence visit Lyon’s (The Secret Adversary), probably a Corner House, which was more upmarket than an ABC Shop. They existed from 1909 – 1977.
In Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? when discussing whether people have a double the Lyons Mail is mentioned. This was a 1931 film based on Charles Reade’s 1854 play “The Courier of Lyons” which itself was based on a historical case of mistaken identity where it is possible that Joseph Lesurques was executed in place of André Dubosq.
Mention is made of the wonders that M and B makes in treating pneumonia (A Pocket Full of Rye). Sulfapyridine is an antibiotic which was commonly known as M&B 693 as that was the code given to it by May & Baker, the chemical company whose chemist, Lionel Whitby, discovered it.
Princess Dragomiroff refers to Linda Arden playing Magda (Murder on the Orient Express). That would be in Hermann Sudermann’s play “Heimat” (1893) translated into English as “Magda” (1896). The role was taken by prominent actresses of the time such as Sarah Bernhardt and Mrs Patrick Campbell.
One of Sir Charles’ theatre roles was Aristide Duval, the Man with the Limp (Three-Act Tragedy). There are a number of 1920s films called “The Man with the Limp” including one from 1923 written by Sax Rohmer and featuring his most famous creation, Dr Fu Manchu.
Lord Caterham attempts to play golf (The Seven Dials Mystery) and hence the following club is referenced: mashie (now an iron).
Tommy thinks their client is “like those girls Mason writes about – you know frightfully sympathetic, and beautiful, and distinctly intelligent, without being saucy” and so decides to be the great Hanaud (Partners in Crime – The House of Lurking Death). A. E. W. Mason (1865 – 1948) is best-remembered for his 1902 novel “The Four Feathers”, but he also created Inspector Gabriel Hanaud, who first appeared in the 1910 novel “At the Villa Rose”. He was deliberately as different from Sherlock Holmes as he could be: a stout, French, professional policeman, relying on psychological insights rather than physical evidence.
Politics is then added to religion when Chandra Lal mentions the Mau Mau (Hickory Dickory Dock). The derivation of the name is unclear, with the group’s official name being the Kenya Land and Freedom Army. The KLFA rebelled against British colonial rule in 1952 but were defeated in 1956. However their activities paved the way for eventual independence in 1963.
Martin Dering’s alibi could be on the Mauretania somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean (The Sittaford Mystery). RMS Mauretania was built in 1906 for the Cunard Line, held both Eastward and Westward Atlantic crossing speed records, before being decommissioned in 1934 and scrapped in 1935.
Celia danced with Nigel at Cambridge in May Week (Hickory Dickory Dock). This celebrates the end of the university’s exam period and, as the Fourth Doctor observed whilst punting in The Five Doctors, now takes place in June.
Lady Angkatell imagines that Inspector Grange is married with sons and helps them with Meccano in the evenings (The Hollow). Meccano is a metal construction kit invented in 1898 by Frank Hornby and is still made today. A similar toy called Erector was launched in the USA in 1913 and was eventually taken over by Meccano in 2000.
Caroline Sheppard asks her brother to take Poirot some medlar jelly (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd). This is made from a now obscure fruit which has to be ripened to excess – a process known as bletting – before it can be used. Apparently the taste is like sweet cider infused with cinnamon and a touch of allspice, so perhaps it should make a comeback.
Dr Bryant’s luggage includes “Memoirs of Benevenuto Cellini” (Death in the Clouds). This is the autobiography of a 16th century goldsmith.
David was playing Mendelssohn’s “Dead March” shortly before the murder (Hercule Poirot’s Christmas). More properly Opus 62.3 part of “Songs without Words”.
Mr Shaitana (Cards on the Table) is described several times as “Mephistophelian”. In the “Faust” story, Mephistopheles is an agent of the Devil.
Anne Meredith (Cards on the Table) is named after one of Lucy Malleson’s pseudonyms. Under this name she wrote Portrait of a Murderer but is better known as Anthony Gilbert.
Sir Henry Merrivale is referred to (The Flock of Geryon – The Labours of Hercules). He is the main series’ sleuth of Carter Dickson a.k.a. John Dickson Carr.
Norman Gale says that Venetia Kerr would only kill an unpopular MFH which given the context must be Master of Foxhounds, the organiser of a local hunt (Death in the Clouds).
Bella Tanios’ daughter draws a “beautiful picture of Mickey Mouse” (Dumb Witness). Walt Disney asked Ub Iwerks to create a new cartoon character in early 1928. This was to replace Oswald the Lucky Rabbit who had appeared in Disney cartoons but whose rights were owned by Universal Studios. Mickey (originally Mortimer) Mouse was the result. By 1936 he had appeared in a number of films and comic strips.
On seeing the body David says “The mills of God grind slowly…” (Hercule Poirot’s Christmas). The original Greek quotation is “The millstones of the gods grind late, but they grind fine”. The version that we are most familiar with now is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Though the mills of God grind slowly; Yet they grind exceedingly small”.
In After the Funeral Rosamund talks about a revival of “The Miracle”. This is a wordless play from 1911 by Karl Vollmöller which tells the story of a wayward nun.
Mr Right is considered to be an old fashioned expression (The Mysterious Mr Quin – The Bird with the Broken Wing). I would have assumed it to be a relatively recent term but it can be found as far back as 1796.
In One, Two, Buckle My Shoe Japp says of the fur chest “we opened it up – and there was the lady! Mistletoe Bough up-to-date.” The Legend of Mistletoe Bough tells of a bride who hides in a chest in an attic and is then trapped and dies. She is not found at the time and many years later her skeleton is discovered. It first appears in print in 1822 in a poem called “Ginevra” by Samuel Rogers. In the 1830s it became a song called “Mistletoe Bough” by T. H. Bayley and Sir Henry Bishop.
The phrase “being in the Mrs. Harris-like position of ‘there ain’t no such person’” is used (Peril at End House). This is a reference to Charles Dickens’ “Martin Chuzzlewit” where Mrs. Gamp tells stories of how she has helped Mrs. Harris over the years until her friend Betsey Prig realises that no such person exists.
Bill recommends that Babe St Maur “try the legitimate stage – you know, Mrs Tanqueray – that sort of stuff” (The Seven Dials Mystery). “The Second Mrs Tanqueray” is an 1893 play written by Sir Arthur Wing Pinero (1855-1934).
The Hound of Death has several First World War references. The British army won an important victory at Mons and rumours of angels assisting them started to spread after a short story featuring phantom archers from the fifteenth century battle of Agincourt was taken for truth.
In They Do It With Mirrors Edgar claims that various men are his father, including Lord Montgomery. Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery is best remembered for his victory at El Alamein in 1942 which lead to him becoming Britain’s most senior field officer for the remainder of World War II. Winston Churchill, another of Edgar’s potential said of him “In defeat, unbeatable; in victory, unbearable”.
Gervase’s chef had been with the Emperor of Moravia (Murder in the Mews – Dead Man’s Mirror). Moravia was part of Czechoslovakia at the time the story is set and is now part of the Czech Republic.
It is rumoured that Madame Beroldy’s mother had a morganatic marriage with an Austrian archduke (The Murder on the Links). This was a legal marriage, normally between a high-ranking male and a socially inferior female, but where neither she nor any offspring had any claim on his succession rights, titles, or entailed property.
Flora asks Raymond to send the announcement of her engagement to Ralph to The Morning Post and The Times (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd). The former was a conservative daily newspaper published in London from 1772 to 1937, when it was acquired by, and then merged with, The Daily Telegraph.
Morocco is a French colonial possession (Destination Unknown). The French Protectorate in Morocco lasted from 1912-56.
Dr Armstrong drives a Morris (And Then There Were None). William Morris moved from manufacturing bicycles to cars in 1912 and formed WRM Motors Ltd in 1912. From these beginnings he overtook Ford as the UK’s leading seller of cars in 1924. The company went through various mergers eventually becoming part of British Leyland. The Morris brand is now owned by Chinese firm SAIC.
Poirot’s room at the guest house has faded Morris wallpaper (Mrs McGinty’s Dead). William Morris (1834-1896), a founder of the British Arts and Crafts movement, designed at least fifty floral based wallpaper blocks.
Jim Lazarus asks when Nick Buckley is going to get her Moth (Peril at End House). The Moths were a series of aeroplanes made by de Havilland in the 1920s and 30s but Moth was used in the UK to refer to any type of light aircraft.
Mrs McGinty had a newspaper clipping about Mother Shipton’s prophecies (Mrs McGinty’s Dead). Ursula Southeil (c.1488-1561) was an English soothsayer or prophetess. The first book to contain her prophecies was published in 1641. Her most famous prophecy “The world to an end shall come, In eighteen hundred and eighty one” was actually made up by Charles Hindley in the 19th century.
Percival suggests that Lance might climb Mount Everest (A Pocket Full of Rye). Although this book was published in December 1953 after the world’s highest mountain had been conquered in the May, it was probably written before anyone had succeeded in doing so.
In Murder is Easy having not got back on his train Luke rattles off what seems to be a string of four quotes including “The moving finger writes; and having writ moves on” which is from “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” which Christie would later use a the title of a Miss Marple novel.
Sadly “The Mystery of the Seventh Death” – the type of book read by Mrs Russell (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd)– appears to be fictional.
Anthony reflects that his editor is likely to change the title of his story to something rotten life “Murder Most Foul” without so much as asking him (The Listerdale Mystery – Mr. Eastwood’s Adventure). Ironically this became the title of Margaret Rutherford’s third outing as Miss Marple which was loosely based on “Mrs McGinty’s Dead”.
Laura Welman had a musquash coat (Sad Cypress) which is another term for a coat made from muskrat fur.
Linnet Doyle uses Nailex nail polish (Death on the Nile). I can find no such contemporary brand but it is now a product for dealing with ingrown toe nails.
In One, Two, Buckle My Shoe Japp has to stop the official investigation telling Poirot it is “Na Poo! It’s off.” This is army slang from the First World War, possibly a corruption of the French “Il n’y a plus” (there is no more).
Inspector Neele was brought up at the lodge at the gates of Hartington Park, now taken over by the National Trust (A Pocket Full of Rye). The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty was formed in 1895 and given statutory powers in 1907. It became the owner of many country houses and stately homes in the mid-1900s as owners could not afford the upkeep or the death duties.
Henrietta is trying to create a sculpture of Nausicaa (The Hollow). In Greek mythology Odysseus met Nausicaa when shipwrecked on the coast of the island of Scheria. She ends up marrying his son Telemachus.
On first seeing Bridget Conway, Luke is reminded of Nevinson’s “Witch” (Murder is Easy). This is probably “An Inexperienced Witch” painted by C. R. W. Nevinson (1889-1946) best known for his pictures of the First World War.
In Taken at the Flood Mrs Lionel Cloade bought a copy of “Picture Post” instead of her usual “New Statesman”. The latter is a political magazine first published in 1913 and is still issued weekly.
In The Hollow Lady Angkatell says that it would have been all right for the murder to be the leading article in The Observer but not The News of the World. The latter was first published in 1843, as a Sunday newspaper, and was the cheapest at the time. It closed in 2011 following the phone-hacking scandal but was unfortunately just replaced with The Sun on Sunday.
Dr Leidner’s team are excavating a large Assyrian city similar to Nineveh (Murder in Mesopotamia). Excavations were begun at Nineveh in 1842 and continued through the 19th century. They had re-started in 1927 under Campbell Thompson.
Pennington sails on the Normandie (Death on the Nile). This French ship entered service in 1935 and held the Blue Riband for crossing the Atlantic on several occasions. She was seized by the Americans in New York but whilst being converted to a troop ship in 1942 caught fire. Although initially salvaged she was scrapped in 1946.
Nurse Hopkins suggests massage or Norland as opportunities for Mary Gerrard (Sad Cypress). Norland College was founded in 1892 by Emily Ward to train women in caring for and educating children. It has changed locations a number of times and is now based in Bath.
In Murder is Easy the chapter title “O Why Do You Walk Through the Fields in Gloves” is taken from Frances Cornford’s 1910 poem “To a Fat Lady Seen from a Train”. G. K. Chesterton wrote a response in his 1927 poem “The Fat Lady Answers”.
In The Hollow Lady Angkatell says that it would have been all right for the murder to be the leading article in The Observer but not The News of the World. The former is the world’s oldest Sunday newspaper, first published in 1791. Since 1993 it has been part of The Guardian Media Group.
Poirot notes that Fanthorp’s OE tie is the same as that worn by Captain Hastings (Death on the Nile). Here OE stands for Old Etonian.
Tuppence deduces that Tommy is The Old Man in the Corner and that therefore she is Polly Burton (Partners in Crime – The Sunningdale Mystery). This unnamed character, created by Baroness Orczy (probably most remembered for her Scarlet Pimpernel novels), solves crimes in discussion with a female journalist in an A.B.C. teashop.
Miss Crabtree’s handbag contained, amongst other things, “Old Moore’s Almanack” (The Listerdale Mystery – Sing a Song of Sixpence). This is an annual astrological book, first published in Britain by Francis Moore in 1697. It should not be confused with “Old Moore’s Almanac” first published in Ireland in Ireland by Theophilus Moore. Both titles are still published today.
The Orient Express was a luxury train service which originated in 1882 with a round trip from Paris to Vienna. The Simplon-Orient Express used by Poirot ran from Istanbul (also known by Westerners as Stamboul) to Calais via Sofia, Belgrade, Venice, Milan, the Simplon Tunnel, Lausanne, and Paris. The service declined due to the advent of high speed trains with the final service in 2009 being just Strasbourg to Vienna.
Mrs Chandler was painted by Orpen (The Cretan Bull – The Labours of Hercules). Major Sir William Orpen (1878 – 1931) was an Irish portrait painter and also an official First World War artist.
Stephen Farraday (Sparkling Cyanide) was a member of the O.U.D.S. which is the Oxford University Dramatic Society.
Reference is made in Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? to a novel of Ouida’s. Ouida was the pseudonym of Maria Louise Ramé (1839-1908) who wrote more than forty novels.
The day after Poirot’s first visit, the Oxford Group is mentioned at breakfast by Jean (Hickory Dickory Dock). This was a Christian movement founded in 1921 by Frank Buchman as First Century Christian Fellowship, becoming the Oxford Group by the end of the 1920s. In 1938 it became Moral Re-Armament and in 2001 Initiatives of Change.
Mr Quin says there are reasons why he is attracted to the opera “Pagliacci” (The Mysterious Mr Quin – The Face of Helen). It was written in 1892 by Ruggero Leoncavallo and features clowns and a murder, which is presumably what he is referring to.
Anne’s former employer, Mrs Eldon, now lives in Palestine (Cards on the Table). Mandatory Palestine was established following the break-up of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I by the British in 1920. It came to an end in 1948 with the founding of modern Israel.
Commander Chantry wonders if there might be a general election because of “this Palestine business” (Murder in the Mews – Dead Man’s Mirror). 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).
Panhard (originally Panhard et Levassor) is car manufacturer founded in 1887 (The Secret of Chimneys). It ceased production of civilian vehicles in 1967 to focus on military vehicles and was taken over by Renault Trucks Defense in 2005.
In Hickory Dickory Dock, reflecting on the triviality of Miss Lemon’s sister’s problem, Poirot thinks of “the parsley sinking into the butter on a hot day” which is how Sherlock Holmes was drawn into “the dreadful business of the Abernetty family” an unrecorded case mentioned in “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons”.
Jimmy implies that it won’t be a problem for Anthony to travel under his name as they’d probably have the same description on a passport (The Secret of Chimneys). I assumed from this that British passports had no photograph at this time, but they were actually introduced in 1914.
Mrs Dacres shows Egg a blue Patou (Three-Act Tragedy). Jean Patou (1880-1936) was a fashioner designer and perfumier and founded of the House of Patou. The fashion business continued until 1987 but the fragrance brand still exists.
Julia, the waitress, says that her aunt joined the Peculiar People (A Murder is Announced). They were an offshoot of the Methodists, based mainly in Essex, taking their name from Deuteronomy 14:2 and 1 Peter 2:9 in the King James Version. There 43 chapels at one time, but now just 16 and the movement is now known as the Union of Evangelical Churches.
Poirot consults “Peerage” (Poirot Investigates – The Adventure of “The Western Star”) This is almost certainly “Burke’s Peerage”, first published in 1826 and now in its 107th edition. It claims to be “the definitive guide to the genealogies of the titled families of the British Isles”.
Tuppence asks for quiet and Tommy says “Shades of Pelmanism” (The Secret Adversary). Pelmanism was a system taught via correspondence course to expand “mental powers in every direction”.
The Pentonville Murderess referred to by Battle seems to be fictitious (The Seven Dials Mystery).
Ferguson owns Pepys’ “Diary” (Death on the Nile). This is the diary of a naval administrator covering 1660-1669.
Father Lavigny is from the Order of the Pères Blancs at Carthage (Murder in Mesopotamia). The Missionaries of Africa, commonly known as the White Fathers, were founded in 1868 to evangelise and educate people in Africa.
Anne enjoys a weekly episode of “The Perils of Pamela” at the cinema (The Man in the Brown Suit). In real life, there were similar series called “The Perils of Pauline” and “The Exploits of Elaine”, both made in 1914 and then repeated through the 1920s.
The Duponts have been excavating a site near Susa, Persia (Death in the Clouds). Following a diplomatic request in 1935, Western countries started to refer to the country as Iran. The modern town of Shush is located at the site of the ancient city of Susa.
Reference is made to the Phidias in The Sittaford Mystery. This ship was built in 1913 and was sunk in 1941 by a German U-boat.
In Taken at the Flood Mrs Lionel Cloade bought a copy of “Picture Post” instead of her usual “New Statesman”. The former was a photojournalistic magazine published between 1938 and 1957 and was a UK equivalent of the US “Life” magazine.
Clancy notes that Jane does not use the Pitman system of shorthand (Death in the Clouds). Sir Isaac Pitman (1837-1897) created his system in 1837. His brothers took it to the USA and Australia, but it was overtaken in the former by Gregg shorthand, and then more generally by Teeline.
Mrs Curtis says that one of King Charles’ men hid from Cromwell’s men in Pixie’s Cave (The Sittaford Mystery). A similar story is referenced in the 1887 “A Handbook for Travellers in Devon”.
Miss Ramsbottom’s father was a strict Plymouth Brother (A Pocket Fulll of Rye). The Brethren movement actually began in Dublin in 1827 before being introduced to England in 1831 at Plymouth.
Bentley had Young Graybrook allotted to him under the Poor Persons’ Defence Act (Mrs McGinty’s Dead). The Poor Prisoners Defence Act of 1903 allowed for defendants of insufficient means who pleaded not guilty to be represented with the expenses paid for by the state equivalent to those paid to the prosecution. In 1930 this was updated to cover those pleading guilty in some cases. This was further updated in 1949 with the Legal Aid and Advice Act.
Harry refers to George by the nickname “Popeye” (Hercule Poirot’s Christmas). If this comes from their childhood it can have nothing to do with the cartoon character who was created in 1929.
Use of the word “pother” which could have been a typo for “bother” (The Thirteen Problems – Death by Drowning). Here it means a fuss or commotion.
The Prime Minister who appears briefly in The Secret Adversary, although not named, has to be David Lloyd George, who served from 1916 – 1922.
Roddy refers to Elinor as “la Princesse Lointaine” (Sad Cypress). This description of an unattainable woman comes from the 1895 play of the same name by Edmond Rostand (1868-1918).
In Crooked House when discussing poisoners, Charles’ father says “Pritchard was a good mixer”. He is presumably referring to Dr Edward William Pritchard (1825-1865) who poisoned his wife and mother-in-law with antimony for which he was hanged.
Hardman plans to take any remaining whisky back to America in a bottle labelled hair wash (Murder on the Orient Express). Prohibition of alcohol was in force in the USA from January 1920 to December 1933. The novel was published in January 1934.
Mr Rycroft is a member of the Psychical Research Society (The Sittaford Mystery). The Society for Psychical Research was founded in 1882 and continues to publish a quarterly journal and the magazine, Paranormal Review.
Mrs Ackroyd said she was in the study to fetch Punch (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd). Subtitled The London Charivari in homage to a French magazine of the same name, it was a weekly satirical magazine published from 1841 to 1992, with an unsuccessful revival from 1996 to 2002.
Major Burnaby once won the Army Racquets Championship (The Sittaford Mystery). Racquets is the forerunner of squash; the main difference is that it is played with a hard ball as opposed to a rubber ball.
Due to the First World War, petrol is rationed, but due to her charitable activities Mrs Inglethorp can still get some (The Mysterious Affair at Styles). Following the Second World War petrol is again rationed but the police have discretionary powers to allow additional use where necessary (Taken at the Flood). In the same book clothing is also rationed but Lynn has extra demob coupons and so will be able to get more than just “new undies” which most brides have to make do with.
In Murder is Easy having not got back on his train Luke rattles off what seems to be a string of four quotes including “Quoth the raven ‘Nevermore’” which is from Edgar Allan Poe’s 1845 poem “The Raven”.
Tuppence looks up an address in the Red Book (The Secret Adversary), but I can’t find out specifically what that is.
Mrs McGinty, despite being relatively poor, was unable to be removed from her cottage due to the Rent Restriction Act (Mrs McGinty’s Dead). The Rents and Mortgage Interest Restriction Act of 1915 was brought in to prevent profiteering during World War One, and although intended to be a short-term measure, some aspects of it were not finally repealed until 1918. Who knows what legislation being brought in to combat the coronavirus pandemic may be with us much longer than first expected?
The precedent set by Rex v Bailey is mentioned by Tommy (Partners in Crime – The Affair of the Pink Pearl). I believe this to be a fictional case, however R v Bailey from 1983 is an interesting case.
They travel from Cape Town to Rhodesia (The Man in the Brown Suit). The territory of Southern Zambezia became known as Southern Rhodesia, in honour of Cecil Rhodes, in 1895. Eventually the country gained full independence in 1980 as Zimbabwe. Rhodes (1853 – 1902) was a businessman and politician who had a huge impact on the history of Southern Africa. His legacy is highly controversial to this day as shown by the “Rhodes Must Fall” protests at universities in South Africa, the UK, and the USA.
Mr Vyse refers to the play “Riders from the Sea” (The Mysterious Mr Quin – The World’s End). This was written by John Millington Synge (1871 – 1909) and was first performed in 1904.
The violins of Rienzi (The Hound of Death – The Call of Wings) refers to the 1842 opera by Richard Wagner.
When Tommy is told that he must wear a fireman’s costume to the ball he realises that he is to be Riordan to Tuppence’s McCarty (Partners in Crime – Finessing the King). These characters were created by Isabel Ostrander (1883 – 1924) who wrote under her own name and used a number of pseudonyms including Robert Orr Chipperfield, David Fox, and Douglas Grant.
Dr King asks Poirot if his enquiries are “a case of a Roman Holiday” (Appointment with Death). I’d heard of the Audrey Hepburn film before but never seen the expression used anywhere else. I thought it might be like a Busman’s Holiday (as Poirot is on holiday) but actually it means deriving entertainment from the suffering in others, arising from the gladiatorial contests staged on Roman holidays.
Reference is made to a speech by Tylman Roos (The Man in the Brown Suit). Tielman Roos (1879 – 1935) was the South African Justice Minister (1924 – 1929).
In Five Little Pigs Caleb Jonathan quotes “Rose white youth, passionate, pale” which is taken from Oscar Wilde’s 1890 novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray”.
In The Body in the Library when Harper is told that a body has been found in a burnt out car he says “Don’t tell me we’re going to have a Rouse case now!” Alfred Rouse was tried and executed in 1931 for the murder of a (still to this day) unknown person who he burned to death in his own car.
Major Despard had noticed a good eland head in Shaitana’s hall and says that it probably came from Rowland Ward’s (Cards on the Table). James Rowland Ward (1848-1912) was a taxidermist. His premises in Piccadilly were nicknamed “The Jungle”. He published “Records of Big Game” in 1882 which entered its twenty-ninth edition in 2014. The firm is now owned by an American company and operates from California.
The Duponts are going to speak to the Royal Asiatic Society (Death in the Clouds). Formally the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, this was founded in 1824 and publishes a quarterly journal.
In Five Little Pigs Angela Warren lectures at the Royal Geographical Society which was founded in 1830 as the Geographical Society of London.
In connection with Cosmetics and Beauty, Miss Gilchrist mentions Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubenstein (After the Funeral). Helena Rubinstein (1872-1965) started her business in Australia making Crème Valaze before moving to London and then New York. Arden and Rubinstein became life-long rivals, although the latter said in a somewhat backhanded compliment “with her packaging and my product, we could have ruled the world”.
Japp wonders if Poirot thinks that they may find Miss Sainsbury Seale “cut up in little pieces like Mrs Ruxton” (One, Two, Buckle My Shoe). On 15th September 1935 Buck Ruxton murdered his wife, Isabella, and their maid, Mary Jane Rogerson, in their home in Lancaster. Their dismembered bodies were discovered on 29th September 1935 in Dumfriesshire. Forensic entomology suggested that the remains had been there for 12-14 days. Some parts were wrapped in a special souvenir edition of the Sunday Graphic which had only been circulated in the Morecambe and Lancaster region. Ruxton was tried, found guilty, and hanged in 1936.
Valerie works at the shop “Sabrina Fair” (Hickory Dickory Dock). DC McCrae considers the name blasphemous as it is from Milton – specifically the 1634 masque “Comus”. It had been used as the title of a 1953 play by Samuel A. Taylor.
Tommy plans to write a big cheque to St Dunstan’s (Partners in Crime – Blindman’s Buff). Now called Blind Veterans UK, this is a charity founded in 1915 to support blind and visually impaired ex-service personnel.
The Doncaster murder is scheduled to take place on the same day as the St Leger (The ABC Murders). The oldest of the five British Classic horse races, the St Leger was first run in 1776 by Anthony St Leger. It is always the last of the five to be run and takes place in September. The real winner in 1935 was Bahram, who completed the Triple Crown having already won the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby, not the 85-1 outsider Not Half as mentioned in the book.
Miss Marple refers to the marks of St Peter’s thumb on a haddock (The Thirteen Problems – The Thumb Mark of St Peter). A haddock has a dark oval mark below its dorsal fin. The legend is that this is where Peter held the fish when he took a coin from its mouth to pay the Temple tax (Matthew 17: 24-27).
Professor Roche is from the Salpêtrière (The Hound of Death – The Last Seance). L’hôpital universitaire Pitié-Salpêtrière is a teaching hospital in Paris tracing its origins back to 1656.
Poirot says “if you wish you may wait in to put salt on the little bird’s tail”, a phrase that I had not heard before (The Big Four). Apparently folklore says that if you shake salt on a bird’s tail, then you will be able to catch it.
When Poirot begins his exposition, Nurse Leatheran has a vision of the East and thinks of Samarkand and Ispahan (Murder in Mesopotamia). Samarkand dates from the eighth or seventh century BC and was captured by Alexander the Great in 329 BC and Genghis Khan in 1220. Today it is the second largest city in Uzbekistan.
In They Came to Baghdad an unknown man uses the codename “Sanders of the River” after the 1911 short-story collection by Edgar Wallace.
Aristides was painted by the Welsh artist Augustus John (1878-1961) and his wife by the American artist John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) (Crooked House).
Sir Rupert wonders if Rice’s illness is a case of Scheele’s Green (They Came to Baghdad). This is a pigment containing arsenic which may have been the cause of Napoleon’s death as his wallpaper was green and in the damp climate of St Helena may have proved fatal.
Sandra Farraday was wearing a Schiaparelli dress at the second dinner (Sparkling Cyanide). Elsa Schiaparelli (1890 – 1973) was an Italian fashion designer and rival of Coco Chanel.
Miss Waynflete refers to the Science Museum in London (Murder is Easy). This traces its origins back to 1857 when Bennet Woodcroft opened the South Kensington Museum. The Arts parts of this collection became the Victoria and Albert Museum whilst the Sciences elements were split off, finally becoming an independent entity in 1909. The current building was built 1929-1938.
Diana Ashley was one of the beauties of the Season (The Thirteen Problems – The Idol House of Astarte). The Season was the time of year when elite families lived in London, as opposed to on their country estates. This coincided with the sitting of Parliament and lasted from after Christmas until midsummer. It peaked during the 19th century and then declined after World War I.
Tim Allerton has a tube of Seccotine amongst his belongings (Death on the Nile). This is an Irish brand of fish glue.
Miss Pinkerton laments the abolition of second class rail travel (Murder is Easy). Most railways had done this in the late 19th century, although the Great Western Railway did it as late as 1910. Third class was renamed second class in 1956 and then became standard class in the 1980s.
Mr Entwhistle thinks about a number of famous murderers including Seddon (After the Funeral). Frederick Seddon (1872-1912) poisoned his lodger Eliza Mary Barrow and was found guilty, mainly because he chose to give evidence in his own defence and did so very arrogantly and condescendingly.
Dorothy looks like Cleopatra, Semiramis, and Zenobia rolled into one (The Listerdale Mystery – A Fruitful Sunday). Semiramis was the legendary wife of Onnes and Ninus and succeeded her second husband to the throne of the Assyrian empire.
Bobby’s father quotes Shakespeare to the effect that a serpent’s tooth, etc (Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?). The full quote from “King Lear” is “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child”.
In Mrs McGinty’s Dead Poirot quotes from the poem “Settle the Question Right” in which each of the four verses ends “No question is ever settled, Until it is settled right”. This is by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) who was American, although Poirot refers to her as “one of your poets”.
Seven Dials is the junction of seven roads in Covent Garden, London, and also refers to the surrounding area (The Seven Dials Mystery). At its centre was a column with six sundials (it was commissioned before a seventh road was added to the plans). Although a poor neighbourhood when the book was written, it is now quite prosperous.
In Crooked House Magda reminds Charles of Athene Seyler (1889-1990) an English actress.
In They Came to Baghdad Mr Morganthal says “They got the Shah of Persia last year, didn’t they? They got Bernadotte in Palestine.” An assassination attempt was made on Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (1919-1981), the last Shah of Iran, in 1948 but although five shots were fired from a range of three metres, he was unharmed apart from a graze to the cheek.
Colonel Carter claims to have played mahjong at the Shanghai Club (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd). This was founded in 1861 and was the main men’s club for British residents. At one time it had the world’s longest bar. It closed in 1941 following the Japanese occupation and the building was then expropriated in 1949 by the new Communist government.
Bundle says that young people’s unpleasant ideas about love-making come from reading “The Sheik” (The Secret of Chimneys). This is a 1919 novel by Edith Maude Hull, which revived the desert romance sub-genre of romantic fiction. It was made into a 1921 film of the same name starring Rudolph Valentino.
In wanting to help a clergyman’s daughter, Tuppence is mimicking Roger Sheringham (Partners in Crime – The Clergyman’s Daughter). Sheringam was created in 1925 by Anthony Berkeley Cox (1893 – 1971) and appeared in a number of novels, including the wonderful The Poisoned Chocolates Case.
Three girls have shingled heads (The Seven Dials Mystery). This refers to their fashionable bob cuts, where the hair is cut straight around the head, about jaw level, often with a fringe at the front.
Lord Caterham says that Lady Coote is “very like my idea of Mrs Siddons” (The Seven Dials Mystery). Sarah Siddons (1755-1831) was an actress, most famous for her performance as Lady Macbeth.
Mr Brown’s organisation (The Secret Adversary) includes a Sinn Feiner, committed to an independent Ireland (partition of Ireland took place in 1921 following a two year guerilla war), and would probably have appeared extremely frightening to readers of the time.
In N or M? when considering the meaning of Farquhar’s final words he concedes he may have been thinking of “Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts for Soldiers”, a song written in 1914 by R. P. Weston and Herman Darewski.
Poirot has a picture of Lady Horbury taken from The Sketch (Death in the Clouds). This was a weekly journal that ran from 1893 to 1959. Featuring photographs of society figures, it also contained short stories, including forty-nine by Christie herself.
Jane Helier is acting in “Smith” by Somerset Maugham (The Thirteen Problems – The Affair at the Bungalow). “Smith” is a 1909 comedy in four parts. W. Somerset Maugham (1874 – 1965) was a British playwright, novelist, and short story writer.
Inspector Glen says that the railway guide found at Mrs Ascher’s shop was “a big one – kind of thing only Smith’s or a big stationer would keep” (The ABC Murders). Founded in 1792 by Henry Walton and Anna Smith, what is now WHSmith began as a news vendor, before becoming a British retail giant. Of most interest to bibliophiles is that they created Standard Book Numbers which went on to become ISBNs.
Tommy says that he should have a Smoker’s Companion (Partners in Crime – The Affair of the Pink Pearl). Given Tuppence references a corkscrew, this is probably a device for tamping and cleaning a pipe, which implies that Thorndyke, like Holmes, was a pipe smoker – can anyone confirm that?
All the male passengers of the Istanbul-Calais coach are smokers with the possible exception of MacQueen (Murder on the Orient Express).
Sir Eustace is asked to deliver some documents personally to General Smuts (The Man in the Brown Suit). Jan Smuts (1870 – 1950) was Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa 1919 – 1924 and 1939 – 1948.
Norman says that there is a saying about Irish eyes having been put in with a smutty finger (Death in the Clouds). I can’t find where this comes from or quite what it means, but it is used in other works, including “Taken at the Flood” as cited by Clothes in Books.
Dr Gerard’s quote “So I returned and did consider all the oppressions…” is Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 (Appointment with Death).
Both Hastings and Poirot are (shamefaced) readers of “Society Gossip” (Poirot Investigates – The Adventure of “The Western Star”). This could be short-hand for “Broadway Brevities and Society Gossip”, first published in New York in 1916, shutting down in 1925, before enjoying two further short incarnations. Heat Magazine and its ilk are not a new phenomenon.
Michael Seton is attempting a solo round-the-world flight (Peril at End House). An American team using multiple planes had flown around the world in 1924, but it was not until 1933 that a solo trip in a single plane was accomplished by the American Wiley Post.
Jimmy Thesiger talks about “getting a special licence and being married and living happily after” which I presume here refers to obtaining a licence from a registrar and being able to marry the next day, avoiding the three weeks necessary to have banns read (The Seven Dials Mystery). Currently within the Church of England a special licence can only be granted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and allows a couple to marry at a church to which they have no legally recognised connection.
Griselda wishes that the vicar would embezzle the SPG funds (The Murder at the Vicarage). The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts was a Church of England missionary organisation founded in 1701. It has undergone a number of name changes and from 2016 has been called United Society Partners in the Gospel.
Lord Caterham attempts to play golf (The Seven Dials Mystery) and hence the following club is referenced: spoon (now a 5 wood).
Craddock cannot remember if the sudden spell of autumn warmth is St. Martin’s or St. Luke’s summer (A Murder is Announced). It appears that it could be either of them , referring to a spell of sunny weather around their Saint’s Days, respectively 11th November and 18th October.
Mrs Allen was visited by the driver of a Standard Swallow saloon (Murder in the Mews). 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.
Griselda has been reading “The Stain on the Stairs” (The Murder at the Vicarage). This is a fictional title, which was later used for the title of a book written by J. B. Fletcher in the TV series “Murder, She Wrote”.
Parker Pyne cites Lady Hester Stanhope when asked if Lady Esther Carr’s way of life is suitable for a well-born lady (Parker Pyne Investigates – The House at Shiraz). Lady Hester Stanhope (1776-1839), niece of the unmarried prime minister William Pitt the Younger, acted as his private secretary and official hostess. She conducted the first modern archaeological excavation in the Holy Land at Ashkelon in 1815. She settled in what is now Lebanon and lived there until her death.
Fournier refers to the “Stavisky business” (Death in the Clouds). Alexandre Stavisky (1886-1934) was a fraudulent financier with links to the French government. He died from gunshots to the head; the official verdict was suicide but even at the time it was believed that he had been murdered, possibly on orders by those on high. The ensuing scandal caused the prime minister, Camille Chautemps, to resign.
Inspector Crome refers to Stoneman in 1929 who ended by “trying to do away with anyone who annoyed him in the slightest degree” (The ABC Murders). This does not seem to refer to a real case as I can find no trace of it – grimly though the name Stoneman was given to a serial killer who operated in Calcutta in 1989 and was never caught.
Norman Gale’s luggage includes “The Strand Magazine” (Death in the Clouds). This was a monthly English magazine, most famous for publishing the majority of the Sherlock Holmes stories, which ran from 1891 to 1950. It was revived as a quarterly magazine in 1988.
Bobby also enjoyed “The Strange Adventure of the Florentine Dagger” (Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?). This is a fictional work but “The Florentine Dagger” is a 1935 film noir.
In The Hollow Veronica Cray had “views on Strindberg and on Shakespeare”. August Strindberg (1849 – 1912) was a Swedish playwright.
“‘Suddenly, at his residence’ that’s what it said in the paper.” said Cora, nodding her head (After the Funeral). Although standard wording when announcing a death, possibly a hat-tip to Christianna Brand’s 1946 novel “Suddenly at His Residence” aka “The Crooked Wreath”.
Giraud works for the Sûreté (literally “surety” but usually translated as “safety” or “security”) (The Murder on the Links). It was founded in 1812 and inspired the formation of both Scotland Yard and the FBI. In 1966 it formally changed its name to Police Nationale.
The song sung by Mabelle Annesley is “A Swan” with Edvard Grieg’s music added to a poem by Henrik Ibsen (The Mysterious Mr Quin – The Bird with the Broken Wing).
Mrs Belling bought “The Syringa Murders” at Woolworth’s (The Sittaford Mystery). This is a fictional book.
Four members of the house party do table turning (The Mysterious Mr Quin – The Bird with the Broken Wing). This practice was exported from the USA to Europe in 1852 and was a forerunner of the Ouija board which dates from the 1880s.
Miss Logan says that “Lady Radclyffe used to swear by my tansy tea – a wonderful thing for a cold in the head” (Partners in Crime – The House of Lurking Death). Tansy has been used as a flavouring for puddings, as well as a to treat parasitic worms, migraine, neuralgia, and rheumatism. It should be avoided by pregnant women.
Two of Amyas Crale’s paintings were in the Tate (Five Little Pigs). The National Gallery of British Art was founded in 1897. In 1932 modern art was added to it and it was renamed the Tate Gallery after Henry Tate of the sugar manufacturers Tate & Lyle. From 2000 it has been known as Tate Britain.
Nurse Hopkins saw Elinor’s picture in “Tatler” (Sad Cypress). This British magazine, initially published weekly, was created in 1901 by Clement Shorter. It was named after a short-lived literary and society journal of the same name from the early 18th century. It briefly changed its name in the mid-Sixties to “London Life” and is now owned by Condé Nast.
Venetia Kerr’s luggage includes two Tauchnitz novels (Death in the Clouds). Tauchnitz were a family of German publishers who published works by British authors in English for sale on the European market.
Poirot begins his journey on the “Taurus Express” from Aleppo to Constantinople/Istanbul (Murder on the Orient Express). Run by the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits, the service began in 1930 and started in Baghdad, although until 1940 the stage from Kirkuk to Nusaybin was by motor coach. It is now only an internal overnight service from Eskisehir and Adana.
The lines of Tennyson that come to Mr Satterthwaite’s mind in Three-Act Tragedy are from “Lancelot and Elaine”. She is the “lily maid of Astolat”.
Angela Sutcliffe (Three-Act Tragedy) was sometimes spoken of as Ellen Terry’s successor. Dame Alice Ellen Terry (1847-1928) was the leading Shakespearean actress of her day.
Amongst other things, the Misses Tripp are theosophists (Dumb Witness). Helena Blavatsky founded the Theosophical Society in New York City in 1875 before moving to India. Theosophy has doctrine but is not dogmatic. Adherents only have to commit to “forming a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or colour”.
“The Thief of Baghdad” was showing at the local cinema (They Came to Baghdad). Presumably the 1940 version starring Conrad Veidt, best known as Major Strasser in “Casablanca”.
“The Third Bloodstain” is one of Bobby’s favourite works of fiction (Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?). This was a fictional work but the title was later used by Kel Richards for a 1995 novel.
Sergeant Hay feels that “Alice in Wonderland” is the type of content that would appear on the Third Programme, to which he does not listen (A Pocket Full of Rye). This was the third of the BBC’s radio networks after the Home Service and the Light Programme and ran from 1946 to 1967 after which it was replaced by BBC Radio 3. It was deliberately highbrow, criticised as being elitist for reasons such as broadcasting “two dons talking” but was supported by Ellen Wilkinson, the Education Secretary, who had written “The Division Bell Mystery” in 1932.
Magda Leonides wants to put on a play about Edith Thompson (Crooked House). In 1923 she and her lover Frederick Bywaters were found guilty of the murder of her husband Percy, although only he was the only one to stab the victim and there was nothing to suggest that she knew about his plans in advance.
Tommy has bought a very good camera so that he can play the role of Thorndyke and therefore Tuppence is Polton (Partners in Crime – The Affair of the Pink Pearl). Doctor John Evelyn Thorndyke was created by R. Austin Freeman in 1907 and was described as a medical-jurispractitioner, effectively the first fictional forensic scientist. Nathaniel Polton was his lab technician.
In They Do It With Mirrors Alex Restarick shudders when mentioning Christian Gulbrandsen’s collection of “Thorwaldsen’s statuary”. Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844) was a Danish sculptor.
Tom Hartigan says that Inspector Crome is “a bit quiet and lah-di dah – not my idea of a detective” to which Lily Marbury responds “That’s Lord Trenchard’s new kind” (The ABC Murders). Hugh Trenchard, 1st Viscount Trenchard (1873-1956), after having a key role in founding the Royal Air Force , became Metropolitan Police Commissioner in 1931. He instigated a number of changes including establishing separate career paths for lower and higher ranks similar to that in the military. Those with university degrees were encouraged to apply and would often go through the newly created Hendon Police College (now the Peel Centre).
There is old silver at the Old Hall, including trencher salts and a Charles II tazza (The Murder at the Vicarage). The former are salt cellars to go at each place setting; the latter a wide, shallow dish mounted on a stem or foot.
In “Appointment with Death” reference is made to Anthony Trollope agreeing to kill off one of his characters after overhearing his fellow passengers say that “he should kill off that tiresome old woman”. This is particularly appropriate given that Mrs Boynton is, at the very least, a tiresome old woman. Trollope’s character is the awful Mrs Proudie who dies in “The Last Chronicle of Barset”.
In “Towards Zero” Thomas Royde had the childhood nickname of “True Thomas”. Sir Thomas de Ercildoun (c.1220-1298) also known as Thomas the Rhymer or True Thomas was meant to have been incapable of lying and was supposed to have prophesied various events in Scottish history.
The expression “trying it on the dog” is used (The Thirteen Problems – The Affair at the Bungalow). This refers to refining a dramatic work, probably in a provincial location, before bringing it to a major stage e.g. London or New York.
In The Hollow Inspector Grange thinks that the Chief Constable of Wealdshire is “a fussy despot and a tuft-hunter”. Titled undergraduates at Oxford and Cambridge were entitled to wear golden, rather than plain black, tassels on their academic caps. In the late 17th century these became known as “tufts” and this name was then given to the wearers, with those who followed and looked-up to them being known as “tufthunters” so the sense here is an obsequious sycophant. “Tuft” changed over time to become “Toff”.
The tomb of Tutankhamun was opened in November 1922 (Poirot Investigates – The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb). Lord Carnarvon, who had funded the work, contracted blood poisoning and died in March 1923, thus beginning the supposed curse.
For his nocturnal adventure, Charles Enderby completes his toilet after the model of Tweedledee (The Sittaford Mystery). This refers to Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There” where Tweedledum and Tweedledee bring Alice “bolsters, blankets, hearth-rugs, table-cloths, dish-covers and coal scuttles” so that they can prepare for battle. Alice remarks that “they’ll be more like bundles of old clothes than anything else, by the time they’re ready”. The implication is that he must have been wrapped up warmly in a number of layers of clothing, which for December is not surprising.
“The Hound of Death” has several First World War references. Uhlans were German cavalrymen who were dismounted early in the war.
Victoria wonders whether she can make use of UNESCO to get to Baghdad (They Came to Baghdad). The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation was formed in 1946 and followed on from the League of Nations’ International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation. Its first director was Julian Huxley, brother of “Brave New World” author Aldous.
The flight belonged to Universal Airlines (Death in the Clouds). In reality this would have been Imperial Airlines.
Major Burnaby has fond memories of playing “Up Jenkins” – as do I (The Sittaford Mystery). In this game, two teams sit opposite each other across a table. One team passes a coin between themselves until the other team calls “Up Jenkins” whereupon they raise their closed fists above the table. “Down Jenkins” is then called and they have to slam their hands palm down on the table, whilst trying to disguise the sound of the coin. The other team then try to guess which hand the coin is in by a process of elimination.
Sir Eustace has read “The Upper Berth” (The Man in the Brown Suit). This is an 1886 short story by F. Marion Crawford about a haunted ship’s cabin.
Miss Arundell was prescribed Valentine’s beef juice by Dr Grainger (Dumb Witness). This was a health tonic created in the 1870s by an American, Mann S. Valentine II. He founded a museum in Richmond, Virginia, dedicated to the city’s history. They sell Valentine’s Meat Juice t-shirts and recommend them as a Valentine’s Day gift!
Jack Trent won the VC for saving Dermot West’s life (The Hound of Death – The Red Signal). The Victoria Cross is the highest award of the British honours system given for acts of valour in the presence of the enemy. I had believed that most VCs were awarded posthumously but this is only true for 295 out of a total of 1,358. Three men have received a bar (a second award of the same honour) to their VC.
Cynthia Murdoch is working for the Voluntary Aid Detachment (The Mysterious Affair at Styles). The VAD was created in 1909 with the help of the Red Cross and the Order of St John. It was an organisation of civilians who were available to nurse military personnel, but who were outside of military control.
John Cavendish drills twice a week with the volunteers (The Mysterious Affair at Styles).
In Crooked House Magda says that the drawing up of Aristide’s will was like “The Voysey Inheritance”. This is a 1905 play by Harley Granville-Barker (1877-1946).
Virginia refers to visiting the police at Vine Street (The Secret of Chimneys). A watch-house was established there in 1767 and it became a police station in 1829, becoming one of the main stations in Central London. It closed in 1940, was re-opened in 1966, then finally closed in 1997, before being demolished in 2005. Marlborough Street and Bow Street are grouped with Vine Street in Monopoly because they are all associated with the law.
Venetia Kerr’s luggage includes “Vogue” (Death in the Clouds). This began in the USA in 1892 as a weekly newspaper targeted at men. It was bought in 1905 by Condé Nast and switched to being a unisex magazine before being fully targeted at women. British Vogue was launched in 1916 and French Vogue in 1920. It went monthly in 1973.
In Taken at the Flood Lynn searches through the adverts in the newspaper which as well as having “former Wrens” seeking work also mention “Ex-W.A.A.F.” This was the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, created in 1939 and re-named the Women’s Royal Air Force in 1949 until 1994 when it was merged with the Royal Air Force.
Mr Entwhistle thinks about a number of famous murderers including Nurse Waddington (After the Funeral). Frederick Seddon (1872-1912) poisoned his lodger Eliza Mary Barrow and was found guilty, mainly because he chose to give evidence in his own defence and did so very arrogantly and condescendingly. Dorothea Waddingham (1899-1936) turned her house into a nursing home and killed two of her patients with morphine.
Inspector Colgate says that Marshall’s manner is similar to that of Wallace which lead the jury to bring in a Guilty verdict against him (Evil Under the Sun). William Herbert Wallace was tried for the murder of his wife Julia in 1931. The evidence was circumstantial and could be interpreted in different ways but he was found Guilty and it was said at the time by observers in court that his extraordinary composure had harmed his defence. The verdict was overturned on appeal but Wallace had little time to enjoy his freedom, dying in 1933. The case has never been solved.
The Wallace Collection was established in 1897 and can be found in Hertford House, London (The Secret of Chimneys).
Edgar Wallace is referred to in “Partners in Crime – The Crackler“. For more information see my review of The Four Just Men.
The activities of the War Office that Hastings works for were taken over by the Ministry of Defence in 1964 (The Mysterious Affair at Styles).
Waterproof make-up had already been invented by 1936 (Murder in the Mews – Triangle at Rhodes).
Dr Gerard refers to the Weissenhalter reaction (Appointment with Death). The only online reference I can find to this is where the same term is used in a similar context in a piece of “X-Files” fan fiction.
The Wells’ story referred to in Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? about a prince building a palace around his wife’s tomb is “The Pearl of Love” (1925) by H. G. Wells.
Poirot mentions “Charlotte and the poet Werther” (Sad Cypress). This refers to “The Sorrow of Young Werther” (1774) by Goethe.
The guesthouse residents discuss whether France can rally and whether Weygand could pull things together (N or M?). Maxime Weygand replaced Maurice Gamelin as French Supreme Commander following the German invasion of France in May 1940 but was unable to change anything and France surrendered on 25 June 1940.
In Taken at the Flood Jeremy Cloade has “all those old Stanley Weymans in his bedroom”. Stanley J. Weyman (1855-1928) wrote historical romances, often set in France, such as “The House of the Wolf” (1889) and “Under the Red Robe” (1895).
In A Murder is Announced a suggestion is made that a new play should be called “What the Butler Saw”. This had been used as the title of films in 1924 and 1950 and would go on to be the title of Joe Orton’s 1969 play.
In They Came to Baghdad the lines “When you were a King in Babylon and I was a Christian slave” are a paraphrase from “Or Ever the Knightly Years…” by William Ernest Henley. He was one-legged poet and the inspiration for Long John Silver in “Treasure Island”. His daughter called J. M. Barrie her “fwendy-wendy” which lead to the creation of Wendy in “Peter Pan”.
In A Murder is Announced Mrs Swettenham is reminded of her Nannie saying “Where was Moses when the lights went out?” Her answer is “In the Dark” but apparently Huckleberry Finn had an alternative answer, which I won’t spoil. An other answer according to the internet is “In the cellar eating sauerkraut”. It was also the title of a traditional song.
When trying to find Kilmorden Castle, Anne refers to “Whitaker” (The Man in the Brown Suit). This is an almanac, published annually since 1868.
There is a suggestion that ABC drinks White Horse whisky (The ABC Murders). This is a blended scotch, first produced in 1861 by James Logan Mackie. The brand is now owned by Diageo.
“Who’s Who” is referred to for information on a client (Poirot Investigates – The Mystery of Hunter’s Lodge). This has been published annually since 1849 and is now in its 168th edition. Subjects are selected based on their public prominence and are asked by the editors to complete a questionnaire. Some checks are made on their responses, but subjects are free to say or omit what they wish. Once in, they remain in for life.
On seeing the body Lydia says “Who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?” which is Lady Macbeth’s reaction to the death of Duncan in Shakespeare’s Macbeth (Hercule Poirot’s Christmas).
Hastings says that Michael Seton’s endeavours make him feel it is worth being an Englishman to which Poirot responds that it consoles for the defeats at Wimbledon (Peril at End House). In 1932 when this book was published there hadn’t been British winners of the Singles since Arthur Gore in 1909 and Kitty Godfree in 1926. In 1934 there was a British double for Fred Perry and Dorothy Round.
Miss Ramsbottom wonders if Inspector Neele has come about the wireless licence (A Pocket Full of Rye). My Grandma who was born in 1920 always referred to the radio as the wireless. A wireless licence was introduced in the UK in 1923 at a cost of 10 shillings per year following the creation of the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1922. No licence to listen to the radio was required from 1971 onwards.
Bill Coleman “seemed so exactly like a young man out of one of Mr P. G. Wodehouse books” (Murder in Mesopotamia). Sir Pelham Grenville “Plum” Wodehouse (1881-1975) was primarily a comic author, although he also wrote Broadway musical comedies, best known for creating man about town Bertram Wilberforce Wooster and his gentleman’s gentleman, Reginald Jeeves.
Mary Cavendish is working for the Women’s Land Army (The Mysterious Affair at Styles). This was created in 1915 in order to prevent a shortage of agricultural labour.
Mrs Belling bought “The Syringa Murders” at Woolworth’s (The Sittaford Mystery). This started as a five and dime store in the USA in 1878, with the first British branch opening in Liverpool in 1909. The UK stores all closed December 2008 – January 2009.
In Taken at the Flood Lynn Marchmont was a Wren during the war, that is a member of the Women’s Royal Naval Service, which existed 1917-1919 and 1939-1993.
Mrs Marchmont had worked with the W.V.S. during the war (Taken at the Flood). The Women’s Voluntary Service was created in 1938 to recruit women into local Air Raid Precautions Services. It has undergone several name changes and is now the Royal Voluntary Service which helps people in both emergencies and with long-term needs.
The Sittaford Mystery includes a reference to Xmas cards. I had thought that this was a fairly modern word, but it dates back to at least the 18th century. It turns out that Xρ and Xt have been used as abbreviations for Christ since the eleventh century.
Ferguson sings “Yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum” from “Treasure Island” (1883) by Robert Louis Stevenson (Death on the Nile).
Henrietta doodles a tree which she calls Ygdrasil (The Hollow). Yggdrasil is an enormous ash tree in Norse mythology.
Miss Sainsbury Seale collects for the Zenana Missions (One, Two, Buckle My Shoe). Under the purdah system in India, women were confined to special quarters in the home called zenana, where unrelated males were forbidden to go. Female missionaries were able to visit women in the zenana, and as well as teaching them about Christianity also provided medical and educational services.
Dorothy looks like Cleopatra, Semiramis, and Zenobia rolled into one (The Listerdale Mystery – A Fruitful Sunday). Zenobia (c.240 – c.274) was queen of the Palmyrene empire in Syria.