Three Grand Dames: Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie

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Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie Read by David SuchetIf you look up Poirot Investigates Agatha Christie in the reviews on Amazon, you will find a wide variety of stories listed as being part of this short story book, so to clarify, this review will cover the version available on Audible and narrated by David Suchet, who so admirably plays Poirot in the movies and television adaptations of the books and stories. These short stories help to develop the nature of Poirot’s character, especially giving lots of emphasis to the detective’s trademark that, while present in the first two books, doesn’t stand out very strongly there.

Poirot does not stand for technology and running around sniffing out clues, which is what Captain Hastings thrives on. Christie could just as well described Hastings in her depiction of a different detective, Inspector Slack of the Miss Marple books, who loves to dash around, that’s being “his bread of life” (The Body in the Library). Poirot, in contrast, believes in as little physical activity as possible, instead sitting to use his “little gray cells.” By pondering on a mystery, he believes that he can solve it without even stirring. These ten short stories help to illustrate this point, as well as provide entertainment.

“The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim”

Poirot’s good friend in Scotland Yard, Inspector Japp, comes to him with a complicated case: Mr. Davenheim, a leader in the banking world, has disappeared without a trace and his safe rifled. Poirot bets Japp that he can solve this mystery without even leaving his apartment, a bet that Japp likens to taking candy from a baby until Poirot takes the money from him!

“The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan”

Captain Hastings treats Poirot to a nice weekend away, only for them to get embroiled in the theft of a valuable pearl necklace. With both the maid and the chambermaid present in the room the entire time, with the exceptions of two very quick stops by the maid into the next room, the answer seems unsolvable, but of course Poirot, using his customary orderliness and method, finds the solution to this mystery.

“The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman”

A doctor friend is visiting Poirot when he gets a frantic phone call from the Count Foscatini of distress, only to be cut off in the middle of the call. Upon arriving at the gentleman’s full-service flat, where the building operates a restaurant through a dumb-waiter, they find evidence of three people’s having eaten there and the Count’s having been hit from behind. Only Poirot can solve this perplexing case.

“The Adventure of the Western Star”

Mary Marvell, a famous movie star, seeks out Poirot because she has been getting threatening letters that the large and valuable diamond given as a wedding present from her husband is really the Eastern Star, one of a pair taken from the eyes of a Chinese god and that a Chinaman [sic] will soon take back his god’s eyes. As soon as Poirot goes out, the owner of the other half, the Western Star, arrives to pour out her troubles to Hastings. Things come to a head when, at her home, the necklace is ripped off her neck and a red scrap of silk found on the floor. It is up to Poirot to figure out what is really going on.

“The Kidnapped Prime Minister”

This story takes place during the First World War and related as if only now will national security allow its being related. Just as Hastings is reading to Poirot about a shooting at the Prime Minister, Poirot is approached about a greater problem: The Prime Minister has been kidnapped on his way to a peace conference by German agents! Along with several other detectives and a couple of men assigned to assist Poirot, he and Hastings travel from Dover to France, where the car was found abandoned and the secretary tied up. But instead of running right away to scour the countryside, Poirot holes himself up in an inn, where he sits and thinks for five long hours before getting back on the boat to England to start his investigation from the start. Hastings thinks Poirot is making a fool of himself, but the is method in the madness of this detective!

“The Tragedy at Marsden Manor”

Poirot is hired by an insurance company to verify that the recent death of man who only of late had taken on a large life insurance policy indeed is due to natural causes and not suicide. Being Poirot, of course, he comes up with the solution to the death in the end.

“The Case of the Missing Will”

A young woman hires Poirot to help her find the most recent will of her sexist, rich uncle, a farmer who disapproved of education for women and thus specified that his educated niece would have his property for a year to prove that her education has been worthwhile, and when she fails, the estate will revert to charity. In this story, Poirot almost gives up, but in the end of course he discovers the uncle’s secret.

It is worth noting that this is the first of three hunts for secret fortunes found in an inheritance. Miss Marple has a hunt in _Miss Marple’s Final Cases_, while Tommy and Tuppence carry out a similar hunt while playing as Blunt’s Brilliant Detectives in _Partners in Crime_. Both those cases have the added drama that the woman who should inherit cannot marry the man she truly loves unless she can find the money, which will be able to support them.

The Mystery of Hunter’s Lodge”

Poor Poirot is home sick, so when a man asks for his help after getting a telegram that his uncle has been murdered and to bring a detective, he sends Hastings and solves the case via telegraph, once again showing his skills as a real armchair detective.

“The Million Dollar Bond Robbery”

A young lady approaches Poirot on behalf of her fiance, an employee of a bank who add entrusted with bonds being sent to America on a ship. As the ship comes in to port, he discovers the lock tampered with and the bonds missing. Unless Poirot can get to the truth, her fiance not only is likely to be out of job but also may be arrested for the theft of the bonds.

“The Adventure of the Cheap Flat”

This story begins with Hastings having a night out with his friends, and the conundrum seemingly innocuous. How did his friends get a flat to rent for ridiculously below the market price and why was the flat not snapped up by flat-hunters long ago? Poirot suspects a more sinister situation and goes to work to protect Hastings’ friends.

“The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb”

The archaeological expedition that has uncovered an even older mummy than King Tut, who had recently been discovered upon this writing, seems cursed. People keep dying from different and curious causes, leading many to suspect a mummy’s curse. When the son of the now-deceased head of the expedition determines to go to the dig, his mother hires Poirot to get to the bottom of things.

This story is particularly entertaining to see the enormous discomfort the normally fastidious Poirot undergoes as he travels in dusty Egypt on the hated filthy camels, eventually ending up riding a little donkey!

This collection is where Poirot’s character really gets developed, though the mysteries don’t have the same pathos of later short story collections.

The narration, as stated earlier, is performed by David Suchet and is excellent. You would never recognize his voice as that of the Hercules Poirot played on television! Suchet has won awards for his narration, though if truth be told, I would choose Hugh Fraser over him if given the opportunity.

Because the stories in Poirot Investigates are very interesting, I want to give it a high score, but not quite five stars because they lack the degree of human interest found in later stories. Thus, I’d offer it four stars.

Poirot Investigates is available in multiple forms. To order from Amazon, click this link. You may also find it in your local library (which probably carries downloadable books as well as hardcopy) or bookstore.

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