Hercule Poirot: Novels, Novellas and Short Stories by Agatha Christie (An Update) First Part: Full-Length Novels

PoirotThis is an update from a previous post. If I’m right, the character of Poirot features in some 33 novels and on close to 55 short stories and novellas by Agatha Christie –depending on which ones you would like to take into account. Suffice is to say that some of her short stories were later on expanded into a novella or a full-length novel. I believe I’ve read them all, though for some purist I still have to read Black Coffee and Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly.

  1. The Mysterious Affair at Styles was written in the middle of the First World War, in 1916, and first published by John Lane in the United States in October 1920 and in the United Kingdom by The Bodley Head (John Lane’s UK company) on 21 January 1921. The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha Christie’s debut novel, is also the one in which Hercule Poirot makes his first appearance. The novel also introduces other Christie’s characters like Hastings and inspector Japp. According to different sources, Christie wrote this novel as a result of a bet with her sister, in which she claimed she could write a detective novel where nobody would be able to guess the identity of the murderer. Be that as it may, no-one can deny now-a-days the significance of this book. Christie became the most representative figure of the Golden Age of detective fiction. In fact, The Mysterious Affair at Styles includes all the elements associated with a classic murder mystery novel. The action develops in an isolated environment and there’s a handful of suspects, all of them with something to hide. There’s as well a number of red herrings, some surprising twists, and a perfectly rational explanation to which anyone can access, with only the proper interpretation of the clues scattered all along the narrative. And, obviously, the order, altered by the crime, is finally re-established.
  2. Murder on the Links was first published in the UK by The Bodley Head in May 1923, and in the US by Dodd, Mead & Co in the same year. The story takes place after the events narrated in The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and is told in the first person by captain Arthur Hastings, who shares a room with Hercule Poirot, a former Belgian detective who has just settled in London as private detective. One day, after breakfast, while Poirot takes a look at his mail, a letter written by a certain Monsieur Paul Renauld, of the Villa Genevieve in Merlinville-sur-Mer, on the northern coast of France, attracts powerfully his attention. It is a request for help, Monsieur Renauld believes his life is in serious danger. And without further delay, Poirot and Hastings cross to France. But they arrive too late. On their arrival, the French police informs them that Monsieur Renaud has been murdered during that same night. Apparently two bearded men took him from his bed at two in the morning, leaving his wife bound and gagged in their bedroom. The following morning, his body appeared half-buried in an unfinished golf course that bordered his estate. There’s no shortage of suspects. Besides, there is one other detail that makes this case to be really interesting, the presence of a young French detective, Monsieur Geraud from the Surete in Paris. Geraud, despite knowing Poirot’s reputation, does not have a great appreciation in his methods that, in his opinion, are ineffective and antiquated, what triggers an intriguing confrontation between egos.
  3. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was first published in June 1926 in the United Kingdom by William Collins, Sons and in the United States by Dodd, Mead and Company on 19 June 1926. It is the third novel to feature Hercule Poirot as the lead detective.  In the small English village of King’s Abbot a wealthy widow, Mrs. Ferrars has died victim of an overdose of veronal.  Mrs. Ferrars’ husband died just over a year ago of acute gastritis, helped on by habitual overindulgence in alcoholic beverages. During her mourning period she was secretly engaged to Roger Ackroyd, a wealthy manufacturer. Soon after her death Roger Akroyd is found stabbed to death. Are these three deaths related ? Fortunately a new and mysterious neighbour is in town, a short man with an egg-shaped head, partially covered with suspiciously black hair, two immense moustaches and a pair of watchful eyes. Hercules Poirot has retired from work and has moved to King’s Abbot to grow vegetable marrows. The novel is narrated by Dr. Sheppard the doctor of King’s Abbot. Dr Sheppard plays Captain Hastings role as Poirot’s assistant. Hastings is now living in Argentina with his wife. The book ends with a then-unprecedented plot twist.
  4. The Big Four was first published in the UK by William Collins & Sons on 27 January 1927 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year. Generally considered one of Christie’s more controversial and less successful of her books. I consider it only apt for the most passionate fans of Agatha Christie and, maybe, for completists. Though my view is not always accepted and, obviously, there are some different opinions, I don’t think it’s necessary spending more time to this novel.
  5. The Mystery of the Blue Train was first published in the United Kingdom by William Collins & Sons on 29 March 1928 and in the United States by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year. Agatha Christie acknowledged she disliked this book, written at a particularly hard time for her and only because she really needed the money. Consequently, even admitting that I have found that both the crime as its solution are fairly clever, I honestly believe the novel is poorly implemented and its execution is mediocre and flawed. It’s worth to mention that it’s written in the third person. However, for my taste, her writing is far from her usual standard and, in conclusion, I consider that The Mystery of the Blue Trainis an entirely dispensable novel in Poirot’s canon.
  6. Peril at End House was first published in the US by the Dodd, Mead and Company in February 1932 and in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in March of the same year. Peril at End House provides us with an excellent example of a Poirot mystery. The story is narrated in first person by captain Hastings and is set in Cornwall, where we find Poirot and Hastings on holiday. Poirot has to deal with an extremely difficult case, a crime that has yet to be committed. The reader’s attention is immediately caught from the beginning to the last page, and the story has a wide cast of interesting characters that reflect very nicely the time, between the two world wars, in which the novel was written. Nothing in the narrative of the facts is superfluous and all the clues are there, but it does have some red herrings, besides a surprising twist towards the end, very original in my view, and that undoubtedly will surprise the reader. The action unfolds naturally, at a proper pace, and is a very pleasant read. A highly representative novel of what has come to be called the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, by one of their most influential and charismatic authors. I enjoyed it very much and, therefore, I can recommend it.
  7. Lord Edgware Dies was published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in September 1933 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year under the title of Thirteen at Dinner. Before its book publication, the novel was serialised in six issues (March–August 1933) of The American Magazine as 13 For Dinner. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel, an excellent example of what has been termed the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. The argument is intricate but highly ingenious, and the story is well told. It’s able to keep the reader’s attention trying to guessing what will be the final outcome and provides the reader plenty of clues to be correctly interpreted. In this regard, the entertainment is fully achieved. It has been criticized that it has some aspects that nowadays are politically incorrect, but we should not forget they were perfectly acceptable at the time in which the novel was written. If it had not been for this, I wonder if, Lord Edgware Dies, would not have had a greater recognition today.
  8. Murder on the Orient Express was first published in the United Kingdom by the Collins Crime Club on 1 January 1934. In the United States, it was published on 28 February 1934, under the title of Murder in the Calais Coach, by Dodd, Mead and Company. When the story begins, Hercule Poirot, a former Belgian police officer who now works as a private detective, is heading to Stambul (Istanbul) in the Taurus Express from Aleppo (Syria) with the intention of spending a few days in the Tokatlian Hotel. Upon his arrival, he finds a telegram that forces him to return urgently to London. He should not have trouble finding a first-class ticket on the Orient Express at this time of the year. However, much to his surprise, the train is fully crowded and, despite the good offices of his friend M Bouc a director of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons Lits, Poirot can only find a second-class cabin on the Athens-Paris Coach. Over dinner at the restaurant car, the reader comes to know all the other passengers. As the dinner ended, an American called Mr Ratchett addresses Poirot with the pretension of hiring his services, he has the feeling his life is in serious danger. However, Poirot rejects his offering claiming he doesn’t like his face. Later on M Bouc finds a free site in one other wagon and leaves his first-class cabin to M Poirot in the wagon bound to Paris. During the course of the night Poirot observes some strange events until the train gets stuck in a snow bank. The next morning Poirot finds out that Mr Ratchett has been found dead with twelve stab wounds in his compartment. With the train snow-bound in the middle of nowhere, M Bouc resorts to Poirot in order to find out what has happened, before the arrival of the local police. One of the best Poirot’s mysteries, superbly written and with excellent characterization. A highly entertaining read and a good example of ‘fair play’ in my view.
  9. Three Act Tragedy was first published in the United States by Dodd, Mead and Company in 1934 under the title Murder in Three Acts and in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in January 1935 under Christie’s original title. An excellent example of Agatha Christie’s innovative efforts, and of her fondness for theatre, as reflected in the book’s title. Accordingly, the story is divided in three parts as corresponds to any theatrical performance. In the first act, Hercules Poirot attends a dinner organised by the celebrated actor Sir Charles Cartwright at his home in Cornwall. Among the invitees are Dr. Bartholomew Strange, Lady Mary Lytton Gore and her daughter Hermione “Egg”, Captain Dacres and his wife Cynthia, Muriel Wills, Oliver Manders, Mr Satterthwaite, and the Reverend and Mrs Babbington. A cocktail is served before dinner and Reverend Babbigton, drops dead after having drink a sip. His death seems due to natural causes. No one can suspect that there might be someone who wanted him dead, and the possibility of a suicide is entirely discarded. Poirot appears to be satisfied with that explanation against some dissenting voices from other invited guests among which we can find Sir Charles himself. In the second act the action moves to Monte Carlo where Mr Satterthwaite, reads about the circumstances of Dr. Bartholomew Strange death, on a two-days-old Daily Mail. Such circumstances are quite similar to the ones that surrounded the death of Reverend Babbigton. Except that, on this occasion, instead of a cocktail, the drink was Porto.  Mr Satterthwaite discusses this fact with Sir Charles who was also in Monte Carlo. And Sir Charles shows him another newspaper clipping in which are detailed the names of the guests present on this occasion. Coincidentally  a number of them had been at Sir Charles dinner party, as well. Later on, in another newspaper, they learned that the late Dr Bartholomew Strange died from nicotine poisoning. No doubt this is another case for M Hercules Poirot who, coincidentally, is also in Monte Carlo at that time.  And all three decide to return to England. After all it seems that Sir Charles Cartwright was right and Poirot was wrong regarding the death of Reverend Babbington. Three Act Tragedy became the first of Agatha Christie’s books which sold 10,000 copies in its first year. All in all, I’m of the opinion that this novel has been overvalued to some extent. Although I found it entertaining and ingenious, the motives for the crimes have failed to convince me, as to include Three Act Tragedy among the best Poirot’s.
  10. Death in the Clouds was first published in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company on 10 March 1935 under the title of Death in the Air and in UK by the Collins Crime Club in the July of the same year under Christie’s original title. During a flight from Paris to Croydon, one of the passengers is found slumped on her seat; she is dead. The deceased, a woman known professionally as Madame Giselle, is one of the best known moneylenders in Paris. Poirot is aboard this aircraft. The body shows a small puncture mark on her throat. Shortly before, there was a wasp in the cabin of the plane, but one of the passengers managed to get rid of it. At first glance, it seems her death might have been caused by a wasp sting, but Poirot finds a small object on the floor; a kind of thorn, like those thrown with a blowpipe by certain South American tribes, This is confirmed when under the seat occupied by Poirot himself, appears a blowgun. The coroner’s inquest confirms that Madame Giselle was poisoned, but there’s insufficient evidence to demonstrate how the poison was administered. The police investigation will be conducted by Inspector Japp, on the English side, and by Monsieur Fournier of the Sûreté. Poirot is accepted as a consultant by both sides. The murder case is certainly a locked room mystery or, as I prefer to call it, an impossible crime. A woman has been murdered in mid-air, in a small enclosed space and in the full view of ten witnesses, or twelve, counting the flight attendants. No one has seen anything unusual. A highly enjoyable and entertaining read, the plot has been carefully crafted and is pretty clever. Perhaps its biggest flaw lies in that it just stays in a mere puzzle, without any further complications. All in all, it’s a light and gentle story which lacks some depth.
  11. The A.B.C. Murders apa The Alphabet Murders, was first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club on 6 January 1936. The US edition was published by Dodd, Mead and Company on 14 February of the same year. The action begins in the summer of 1935 when Captain Hastings returns home from his ranch in South America, to spend about six months. One of the first things he does on reaching England is to visit his old friend, Hercule Poirot. Following the exchange of their first impressions, Poirot shows him a printed letter he has received signed A.B.C., telling him that something will take place in Andover the 21st of this month. On that precise date, the news from Andover confirm that an old woman of the name of Ascher, who keeps a little tobacco and newspaper shop, has been murdered. With one month apart on each case, two other letters arrive and two other murders take place on the announced date. First Betty Barnard, a waitress in Bexhill-on-Sea and then Sir Carmichael Clarke, a wealthy man in Churston. On all three occasions the murderer has left, an ABC Railway Guide, open at the name of the town. Incidentally, if it weren’t for those letters, in each case an innocent would have been accused of murder. This case is going to be without doubt one of Poirot’s biggest challenges, as he himself recognises.
  12. Murder in Mesopotamia was first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club on 6 July 1936 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year. Amy Leatheran, a professional nurse, on a recommendation from Dr Giles Reilly is hired by Dr Erich Leidner, a Sweden American archaeologist, to assist his wife Louise who, in her husband’s words, has ‘fancies‘. This Dr Leidner is digging up a mound out in the desert somewhere for some American museum. The expedition house is actually not very far from Hassanieh in a place called Tell Yarimjah. Mrs Leidner, a lovely lady, is subject to frequent changes on her mood. Her husband honestly believes that she fears for her life for some unknown reason. A few days after the nurse arrival to Tell Yarimjah, Mrs Leidner is found dead in her room, murdered by a violent blow to the head with a blunt object. However, an object of this kind is nowhere to be seen. Moreover all the windows are barred an the only door to the room opens on to a central yard at plain sight of everyone. And, even worst, it all points out to an inside job. Several members of the expedition ensure that nobody from the outside has entered or left the site at that time. It is therefore a locked room mystery or, as I prefer to call it, an impossible crime. Fortunately Hercule Poirot is in Syria at the time and will be passing through Hassanieh on his way to Baghdad tomorrow. Poirot is a close friend to Dr Reilley, who is sure that Poirot won’t turn down an invitation to investigate given the peculiar characteristics of this case. The story is told by nurse Leatheran herself, who also performs the role of Poirot assistant in the story. I first read this novel probably over fifty-five years ago. Given the time elapsed, I couldn’t remember anything of the plot. What I do remember is that it left me with quite favourable impression. Unfortunately the story has not fulfil my expectations at present. Puzzle Doctor, in his blog In Search of a Classical Mystery Novel, sums it up very well, in my view, saying ‘dull characters, unlikely method and really stupid motive’.
  13. Cards on the Table was first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club on 2 November 1936 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company the following year. A Mephistophelean character known as Mr Shaitana, who does consider crime an art form, invites Hercule Poirot to a dinner party at his place. The guests fall under two categories. The sleuth group is made out of Mrs Ariadne Oliver a writer of detective novels, Colonel Race a public servant of the secret service, Superintendent Battle of Scotland Yard, and Poirot himself. The second group, formed by Dr. Roberts, young Anne Meredith, Mrs. Lorrimore, and Major Despard, is the one Mr Shaitana calls his collection of ‘successful murderers’ –the ones who have been able to get away with it! Criminals that lead an agreeable life without the slightest hint of suspicion. Following dinner, each group gets ready to play some bridge hands in two separate rooms. Mr Shaitana excuses himself claiming he doesn’t play bridge, since he doesn’t find this game entertaining enough. Consequently, he sits down near to the fireplace, in the room occupied by his four ‘murderers’. When Poirot’s group gets ready to say goodbye thanking Mr Shaitana for his invitation, they realise that their host is dead. Each of the four ‘murderers’ is under suspect since no one entered or left the room in which they were playing bridge. The four detectives, as suggested by the book title, reach an agreement to place all their cards on the table and cooperate to unmask the author of this new murder. Cards on the Table, provides us an excellent example of a locked-room mystery or, as I prefer to call it, an impossible murder. In this instalment, the reader will find Christie at the height of her career. The story is solid and is well crafted. And the set of characters is frankly attractive. The list of suspects is rather short, but it looks quite possible that anyone could have committed the crime under the right circumstances.
  14. Dumb Witness was first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club on 5 July 1937 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year under the title of Poirot Loses a Client.When Hercule Poirot received a very unusual letter signed by one such Mrs or Miss  Arundell, the first thing to drew his attention was that it was dated on 17 April, and today was 28 of June. The letter had taken more than two months to reach him. Consequently, without thinking it twice, he decided to head over to Market Basing together with his faithful friend Captain Hastings. Once there, they find out that Miss Emily Arundell had passed away on 1 May, barely thirteen days after having written that letter. And, even though it seemed likely that she had died of natural causes and nothing make suspect the opposite, it was also true certain questions remain unanswered. Besides the delay of the letter. What was it that worried Mis Arundell enough to have written that letter? And, why had she decided to change completely her testament on 21 April? If we add to this the fact that Emily Arundell’s close relatives, had been staying with her just before that day over Eastern Bank Holiday, and that precisely then, Miss Arundell had suffered a fall down the stairs that can well have been an attempted murder; Then, we shouldn’t be surprised if Poirot decides to take matters into his own hands and investigate on his own account. Suffice to add that the story is narrated in first person by Hastings himself, and it is his penultimate appearance together with Poirot, prior to Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case. Although there are certain issues that are not well detailed, mainly towards the end, the story as a whole is nicely crafted, it is well written,  and it can be read with enough interest. From what I understand, Dumb Witness was very well received by the public in general and was also highly acclaimed by the literary critics of the time. For today’s taste, it might be somewhat out-of-date, but nevertheless it reflects nicely the era in which it was published. I will not include it among Christie’s bests, but it is a very entertaining and enjoyable read anyway. Perhaps, in its favour it can be noted that its subject has been repeated on countless of times but, in all likelihood, it was rather innovative when first published. It is also important to highlight that each character has their own reasons for committing the crime, if it can be determined that it’s in fact a crime. However, there’s only one character with the required capacity to carry it out, and this is what remains to be clarified.
  15. Death on the Nile apa Murder on the Nile and as Hidden Horizon was first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club on 1 November 1937 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company the following year. Death on the Nile is in all likelihood one of the best and most famous Agatha Christie novels, owing in a great extent to an excellent film adaptation. Maybe for this reason it may not be necessary to include here a brief summary of the plot. Suffice it to say that the action takes place in the late thirties, during a cruise on the Nile, where a young couple newly married are enjoying their honeymoon. The tranquillity of their journey is frustrated by the unexpected presence of an old girlfriend of the groom, who had also been before a close friend to the bride. And now she is determined to harass them. One night, after heavy drinking, she shoots her former boyfriend in a leg. But the next morning, the bride is found murdered in her cabin. However the murderer, he or she, had not count with the presence of Hercule Poirot on board. It is probably together with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926), Murder On The Orient Express (1934), Evil Under The Sun (1941), Mrs. McGinty’s Dead(1952), Hallowe’en Party(1969), Elephants Can Remember (1972) and Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case(1975) one of the best Poirot novels, if not the best. In any case I’m quite sure that it’s one of her essential books even if it only finished second place in last year poll organised by In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, here. In my view the story is brilliant, it is perfectly constructed and the denouement is extremely satisfactory on all counts. Besides it offers an excellent example of what is meant by ‘fair play’ in detective fiction. I have particularly enjoyed the simplicity of the plot and its sense of time and place. Certainly a masterpiece and a highly satisfactory read.
  16. Appointment with Death was first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club on 2 May 1938 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year. You do see, don’t you, that she’s got to be killed’ is perhaps one of Christie’s best opening lines, if not the best. The story is set in the Middle East, first in Jerusalem and then in Petra, where the Boynton’s, an American family, are on holiday. The family is composed of Mrs Boynton, two stepsons, an stepdaughter, her daughter and a daughter-in-law. Mrs Boynton, a very unpleasant woman, exerts a tyrannical influence over her family with the exception, perhaps, of her daughter-in-law. None of them can do anything without her express consent and they all live isolated from the outside world and frightened by her mere presence. Certainly Mrs Boynton is a mental sadist who takes pleasure in keeping everyone terrified, exercising a brutal control over their lives. On the second day of their visit to Petra, Mrs Boynton is found dead. What it initially seems to be a heart attack it will soon turn into a murder investigation when Monsieur Poirot, who finds himself among the group of tourists, notes the victim’s body shows a tiny puncture mark on her wrist, and he begins to investigate. Though not for the first time, Agatha Christie seems to have develop a greater interest on the psychology of the characters. Particularly, in this case the personality of the victim plays a significant role in the development of the story. The plot unfolds accurately and, once again, Christie plays fair with the reader. All the clues are there for all to see, but she does a great job in distracting the reader’s attention. Although some reviewers, like my admired Martin Edwards, are of the opinion that quote the criminal’s motivation in the book is profoundly unsatisfactory unquote. I am rather inclined to believe that Appointment with Death may rank among Christie’s best novels for the same reasons than those outlined by E.R. Punshon in his review of 27 May 1938, mainly the ingenuity of plot and construction, the unexpectedness of dénouement, subtlety of characterisation, and a fascinating environment. Nonetheless it is true that Agatha Christie did not feel herself particularly satisfied with the denouement and changed it on her later dramatization.
  17. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas was first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club on 19 December 1938 (although the first edition is copyright dated 1939). It was published in US by Dodd, Mead and Company in February 1939 under the title of Murder for Christmas. A paperback edition in the US by Avon books in 1947 changed the title again to A Holiday for Murder. A fairly standard mystery novel by Agatha Christie that, for reasons I fail to understand, is rarely included among her very best despite being, in my view, an excellent example of a locked room mystery, or rather an impossible crime as I like to call them. The story comprises seven parts, each one refers to the day in which the action takes place, from 22 to 28 December. A tyrannical father has unexpectedly invited his family to spend Christmas at his manor house of Gorston Hall in Longdale, Addlesfield. The man in question, old Simeon Lee, made his fortune in South Africa with diamonds and triple it with sound investments in Great Britain years later. Now, impeded and with reduced mobility, he is hated by the members of his family although everyone reacts positively to his invitation to spend Christmas together. Among the attendees are his three married male children and their spouses, one of whom has had no relationship whatsoever with his father for quite some time, whom he blames for the death of their mother. A fourth unmarried son, the prodigal one, left home many years ago and has also returned in response to his father’s request. Another surprise is the presence of Pilar Estravados, unknown to  everyone, who turns out to be Simeon’s granddaughter, the offspring of his only daughter, recently deceased, who fled from her home to marry a Spaniard who also died long ago. Finally, a sudden guest also joins this family celebration, a young man by the name of Stephen Farr, son of Simeon’s old South African associate to whom the old man invites to stay to spend these days with them all. Before Christmas Eve dinner, Simeon creates a tense situation when he tells his children: ‘You’re not worth a penny piece, any of you! I’m sick of you all! You’re not men! You’re weaklings. Pilar’s worth any two of you put together! I’ll swear to heaven I’ve got a better son somewhere in the world than any of you, even if you are born the right side of the blanket!’At dinner, Simeon remains in his room, and shortly after they all hears a tremendous rumble from that side of the house. They run upstairs and discover that Simeon’s room is locked on the outside and they have to knock down the door. Inside lies Simeon’s body with the throat sliced amid a large pool of blood. Everything in the room is torn apart, even the furniture, and there’s no trace of the murder weapon. Superintendent Sugden is called to investigate and when he informs his superior Colonel Johnson, Chief Constable of Middleshire, it turns out the latter has Hercules Poirot as a guest at his house. Obviously, Monsieur Poirot is willing to extend a helping hand in this matter. Poirot proceeds then to demonstrate that each member of the family had motives to murder the old man but only one, the more unexpected, could have do it providing an appropriate response to all the questions posed. In Hércule Poirot’s Christmas we find some of Agatha Christie’s favourite themes such as resentment, jealousy, greed and ambition among the members of a family who find themselves trapped in the family mansion to celebrate these festivities. A family celebration that will inevitably end up in tragedy. The plot is well structured, Christie plays fair with the reader and, overall, is a very ingenious novel. I certainly enjoyed it very much. Even if at some point I managed to glimpse who could be the murderer, Christie attains to confuse the reader with several twists and turns, and thus she succeeds in making us doubt of  the conclusions we have been able to reach at some point. In any case it is not only a matter of finding out who did it, but of how it was carry out. And, in this manner, Christie almost always accomplish her goal  to entertain the reader. Other element to take into account is the fascination that we are able to feel when reading about a bygone era, thanks to a superb portrait of the time when it was written. But overall,  it’s her skill in the development of the plot and her excellent description of characters what is most rewarding in my view.
  18. Sad Cypress was first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in March 1940 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year.Elinor Carlisle is brought before the judge accused of having poisoned Mary Gerrard. After a few minutes of silence, during which her lawyer fears that she could declare herself guilty, Elinor pleads not guilty. The story had begun about a year ago when Elinor received an anonymous letter warning her that someone was determined to take her place in the affections of her aunt Laura Welman. Mrs Welman suffered from reduced mobility due to a stroke and lived in her own house with the assistance of her housekeeper Mrs Bishop, a couple of nurses, nurses Hopkins and O’Brien, and under the care of Dr. Peter Lord, a young doctor. In addition, Mary Gerrard, the daughter of a lodge keeper, was in the habit to pay her a visit every day. Mary was extremely grateful to Mrs Welman for having paid her studies. Elinor, in turn, was planning to marry Roddy Welman, whom she knew since childhood. Roddy was the nephew of the late Mr Welman, the husband of her aunt. Both had assumed they were going to inherit her fortune, as they were her closest relatives. But one day, during a visit of Elinor and Roddy to their aunt, Roddy falls in love with Mary Gerrard and breaks her engagement to Elinor. As from that moment events take an unexpected turn. Mrs Welman dies intestate and Elinor, as next of kin, becomes her sole heir. Shortly after, Mary dies poisoned and Elinor seems to be the only person who has a motive, the opportunity and the means for having done so. Dr. Lord, who is attracted to Elinor, resorts to Hercule Poirot to unmask the real culprit in order to prove her innocence. Sad Cypress has quite an original structure. The story is being told in three parts. The first one relates the facts that end up with the death by poisoning of Mary Gerrard and with the subsequent imprisonment of Elinor Carlisle considered the main suspect of the crime. The second revolves around the investigation carried by Poirot, mainly through his conversations with those involved in the plot. Finally, the third part takes place almost entirely in the courtroom. All these make it possible to maintain the attention of the reader and, in essence, the novel ends up being quite entertaining. Likewise its resolution turns out fairly convincing. Probably the biggest drawback of the story, in my view, has to do with the way in which Poirot arrives to solve the mystery. It has very much reminded me the way a magician pulls a rabbit out of his top hat. Maybe for this reason Sad Cypress is not ranked among Agatha Christie’s best novels.
  19. One, Two, Buckle My Shoe was first published in the United Kingdom by the Collins Crime Club in November 1940, and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in February 1941 under the title of The Patriotic Murders. A paperback edition in the US by Dell books in 1953 changed the title again to An Overdose of Death. Shortly after Poirot’s visit to his dentist, Dr Morley at 58 Queen Charlotte Street, he receives a call from Chief Inspector Japp. Japp informs him that Dr. Morley has been found dead in his practise. Everything suggests that the dentist committed suicide, even though he did not seem to have any motive that could explain why he did it. Also, if he was killed, who would have wanted to see him dead? He seemed to be a quiet and harmless fellow. But when one of the his last patients that same day, certain Mr. Amberiotis, is found dead as a result of an overdose of adrenaline and novocaine. Japp believes to have found the perfect explanation for it. In Japp’s view, Morley made a fatal mistake, injecting Mr Amberiotis an excessive dose of anaesthetics by mistake and, realizing what he had done, could not cope with the consequences and shot himself. But this explanation does not fully satisfy Poirot, since it leaves many questions unanswered. Though, One, Two, Buckle My Shoe was published in 1940, it was probably written before the outbreak of the Second World War, which explains both the absence of an explicit reference to the war as well as the bleak tone that it is present between its lines in anticipation of the tragedy that lies ahead.  It also helps to explain that this is one of Christie’s most decidedly political novels. The story also outlines the different ideologies that were present at that time, namely the totalitarianisms be they of the right or the left.  It is also worth noting that the novel addresses an interesting moral dilemma. And I should not forget to highlight that the plot is well crafted and the story is quite entertaining. Even though, in my view, the story has some minor flaws, this is no obstacle whatsoever that may prevent me from including One, Two, Buckle My Shoe  among my favourite in the series.
  20. Evil Under the Sun was first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in June 1941 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in October of the same year. The action takes place in the Jolly Roger Hotel at Leathercombe Bay in Devon, an exclusive hotel at the seaside. The novel relies heavily on a previous short story by the Author herself published in 1936, Triangle at Rhodes. Between the clients lodged at the hotel we find Odell and Carrie Gardner, an American tourists couple who relax after having travel all over England; Major Barry, a retired military officer; Horace Blatt, a rather obnoxious businessman who nobody likes; Reverend Stephen Lane, a rather fanatical clergyman; Patrick y Christine Redfern, a young couple on holidays; Captain Kenneth Marshall, his young wife Arlena and Kenneth’s daughter, Linda; Rosamund Darnley, an old acquaintance of Captain Marshall, now a famous dressmaker; Emily Brewster, a spinster very fond of sports, and the famous Belgian detective Monsieur Hercule Poirot. The story opens when Arlena Marshall makes her appearance on the beach late in the morning. She is an amazingly attractive woman, a former actress known as Arlena Stuart. Her mere presence leave nobody unmoved, and she soon becomes the subject of gossip on the part of the rest of the hotel guests. ‘Because she was beautiful, because she had glamour, because men turned their heads to look at her, it was assumed that she was the type of woman who wrecked lives and destroyed souls.’ The rumours and tattling increases when Patrick Redfern seems to become infatuated by Arlena and both begin to act foolishly in view of the rest of the hotel guests. Until one day, tragedy strikes in this quiet corner of the world and Arlena’s corpse appears over the sand in a solitary cove not far from the hotel, known as Pixy’s Cove, but everyone has a robust and solid alibi. For my taste, I very much enjoyed reading Evil Under the Sun. It might not be Christie’s masterpiece but I’m quite tempted to include it among my ten favourite Poirots. Above all for its well-structured plot, and its excellent characterisation. From what I see, my view is not always shared by other bloggers I have much in esteem, but it might be just a matter of taste. The story revolves around the presence of evil. On hindsight, the nature of evil was quite fashionable at that time. After all it was probably written after the outbreak of WWII, even though it doesn’t contain any explicit reference to the war. At the same time it also shows Agatha Christie’s position on feminism and the role of woman in the world. Besides it’s a good example of a classic golden age mystery set in a relatively closed environment where it is difficult to come in or out, with a relatively small number of possible suspects, all them with strong alibis. The characters are well-drawn with just a few brush strokes, the story is well written and everything in it makes of this novel a very pleasant read.
  21. Five Little Pigs was first published in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in May 1942 under the title of Murder in Retrospect and in UK by the Collins Crime Club in January 1943 although some sources state that publication occurred in November 1942. Monsieur Poirot is approached by Carla Lemarchant, a Canadian young woman who wants to hire his services to find the truth of what happened sixteen years ago. Her real name is Caroline Crale, like her mother, who was found guilty of having poisoning her husband, the famous painter Amays Crale, when Carla was only five years of age. Though her mother was tried and convicted to death penalty, the sentence was shortly after commuted to life imprisoned, but Caroline died in prison a year later. Now that Carla has come of age, she’s been able to read the letter her mother wrote her on her deathbed. In this letter, her mother maintains her innocence, something she had not done during the trial, where she adopted an attitude that did not help her at all to prove her innocence. In fact she remained distant and silence throughout the whole process. Despite the difficulties entailing to review a case that happened sixteen years ago, Poirot is unable to resist himself to this challenge. I would be lying if I said I have not enjoyed reading this book. In fact, it was quite a surprise to me since I wasn’t expecting to find out such an interesting novel. Even despite a minor flaw as the one suggested by The Puzzle Doctor in his review at In Search of a Classic Mystery Novel. Frankly I don’t see the reason to explain that particular detail after the time elapsed. In any case I fully agree with Martin Edwards when he wrote that ‘Five Little Pigs is an impressive book, with more effective characterisation than in much of her {Agatha Christie] work.’ I will certainly have to review my preliminary list of Christie’s best Poirot novels to find a place for this book in particular.
  22. The Hollow was first published in the United States by Dodd, Mead & co. in 1946 and in the United Kingdom by the Collins Crime Club in November of the same year. A paperback edition in the US by Dell Books in 1954 changed the title to Murder after Hours. Lady Lucy Angkatell and her husband Sir Henry Angkatell have gathered a small group of guests to expend the weekend at their country house near London, The Hollow. Among them we find Dr John Christow and his wife Gerda, and several distant cousins like Edward Angkatell, Midge Hardcastle, David Angkatell, and Henrietta Savernake. The following day Hercule Poirot, the renowned Belgian detective, who just happen to have rented a nearby cottage, has been invited to have lunch with them. When Monsieur Poirot is ushered by the butler to the pool where most of the guests are gathered at the moment, Poirot gets the impression he is being the subject of a prank. The scene seems to be drawn from a stage play. A man lies over a puddle of red paint, dripping on the swimming pool water while several characters watch the scene with disbelief and one particular woman, astonished, holds a weapon between her hands. Soon Poirot realises his error. The scene is in fact real, the man is really dying, and the red paint is actually blood. The man in question turns out to be Dr John Christow who soon mutters his last words “Henrietta”. The astounded woman  holding the gun is none other than Gerda, his wife, who suddenly lets the gun drop into the pool. However,  the case is not as straightforward as it seems. Gerda used to have an almost reverential affection towards her husband and nobody can believe she had really shot him. Besides, as it was later on proved, the fatal shot that killed Dr Christow wasn’t the same calibre of the revolver Gerda was holding when her husband was killed. For some of the reasons outlined by most reviewers, The Hollow is a rather peculiar Hercule Poirot mystery. It was written after a lapse of more than four years since his previous appearance in Five Little Pigs and, in this instalment, Poirot’s character doesn’t show up until well into the novel. In fact it does seem that he only plays a secondary role in the plot. Moreover it is widely accepted that Christie, who often admitted to have gotten tired of her character, particularly disliked his presence in this book, and she excluded him completely in a subsequent theatrical adaptation of the story. But anyway I’m among the ones that have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book mainly due to the in-depth psychology of its characters and a well constructed plot.
  23. Taken at the Flood was first published in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in March 1948 under the title of There is a Tide … , and in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in the November of the same year under Christie’s original title. Taken at the Flood  begins with a prologue at the Coronation Club in 1944, where Poirot listens to a long story, told by one of the regulars, about a young woman, recently married to a very rich man, who happened to be, together with her brother, the only survivors of a air raid during the Blitz, that killed her husband and their three servants: married couple and a housemaid. Now, the young widow will inherit a large fortune, and her husband’s relatives, who had relied on him as their main source of income, will inherit nothing. It happens that the young widow, who can’t be more than twenty-five, has widowed for the second time, or at least that’s what she believes …. What follows takes place two years later, in 1946. Probably what I’ve liked most of this book is the portrait Agatha Christie offers of the United Kingdom after of the Second World War and the social changes that were taking place at that time. Besides, the story of the returning husband, when everyone believed to be dead, offers often quite a number of possibilities, in arts in general and literature in particular. Christie’s skill is present also in the way she diverts the reader’s attention to deceit him/her. However, for my taste, the romance story, within its pages, is spread out too much, which prevents me from giving this book a higher rating.
  24. Mrs McGinty’s Dead apa Blood Will Tell was first published in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in February 1952 and in the UK by the Collins Crime Club on 3 March the same year. As from a relatively trivial case, the murder of Mrs McGinty, police Superintendent Spence who had been in charge of the investigation, asks his friend Hercule Poirot to reinvestigate the case. Mrs McGinty, an elderly charwoman at the small village of Broadhinny, was found murdered. All suspicions fell over her lodger, James Bentley, who was arrested, tried and sentenced to death. However, Superintendent Spence is not fully convinced of having found the real culprit, and is worried it might be a miscarriage of justice. Poirot accepts the challenge, travels to Broadhinny and, without a single lead, he begins disseminating the news among the population that Mrs McGinty’s murder is not altogether closed and will soon be investigated afresh, trusting that the real culprit will make a false move. His suspicions are  confirmed when someone attempts to kill him, pushing him to the railway track. Poirot escapes narrowly from a certain death, but this confirms him to be on the right track.Though I do not find very convincing Poirot’s and Superintendent Spence’s motives for reopening the case, much to my surprise, I found this book terribly entertaining and, sometimes even, quite amusing. Certainly it’s not short of sense of humour. The plot is highly consistent, the characters are very well drawn, and the dialogues are superb. This is the first book featuring Poirot after a four-year break and, chronologically, belongs to the post World War II period. It is no surprise, then, that the story reflects the social changes that took place in the UK in those years and the aftermath of the war.
  25. After the Funeral was first published in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in March 1953 under the title of Funerals are Fatal and in UK by the Collins Crime Club on 18 May of the same year under Christie’s original title. A 1963 UK paperback issued by Fontana Books changed the title to Murder at the Gallop to tie in with the film version. Despite his age Mr Entwhistle, as executor of Richard Abernethie’s last will of whom he was a personal friend, does not hesitate to make a long and uncomfortable ride to attend his funeral. Neither one of his close relatives really felt any deep grief for his death, indeed none had close ties with him. Following the funeral, the family gather for a brief reading of his testament. The bulk of his large fortune is to be divided into six equal portions. Four of these are to go to his brother Timothy; his nephew George Crossfield; his niece Susan Banks, and his niece Rosamund Shane. The other two portions are to be held upon trust and the income from them paid to Mrs Helen Abernethie, the widow of his brother Leo; and to his sister Mrs Cora Lansquenet, during their lifetime. The capital after their death to be divided between the other four beneficiaries or their issue. The surprise arises when her sister Cora Lansquenet exclaims: ‘But he was murdered, wasn’t he?’ The elderly lawyer Mr Entwhistle will keep on thinking over and over again on this sentence. And the next day, his surprise will be huge when receiving a phone call from the police to inform him Clara has been found dead, brutally murdered. Afraid that both deaths could have been somehow related, Mr Entwhistle doesn’t hesitate to call upon his old friend Hercule Poirot to ask him for his opinion. And Poirot, encouraged by this challenge that’s been put before him, accepts with pleasure to get involved himself in the issue. The story, narrated at a nice pace, turns out being highly entertaining, with characters properly drawn and a rather unexpected denouement. In fact, Sophie Hannah states at the Introduction: ‘After the Funeral has a brilliant plot, meticulously planted clues, a memorably dysfunctional family at its centre, and a truly ingenious solution, …’ It might be added to all this that the story has a perfect structure and that, as usual, Agatha Christie has the talent to misdirect her readers’ attention, with red herrings, while, at the same time, playing fair by providing all the necessary information to solve the case. It’s also worth mentioning the story gathers the social an economic changes that were ongoing in England in the post-war period. With all this, I sincerely believe I rushed in my previous assessment of this book and, after reflecting about it, I’ve no doubt in insistently recommend it as one of Poirot’s best novels.
  26. Hickory Dickory Dock was first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club on 31 October 1955 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in November of the same year under the title of Hickory Dickory Death. One day Miss Lemon, the perfect secretary, makes three mistakes while typing a simple letter. Poirot suspects that something is worrying her. Thus we learn that Miss Lemon has a sister, Mrs. Hubbard who runs a student hostel at 24-26 Hickory Road , where a series of petty thefts and other acts of vandalism had recently taken place. The list of stolen items include one evening shoe, a bracelet, a diamond ring, a powder compact, a lipstick, a stethoscope, ear-rings, a cigarette lighter, old flannels trousers, electric light bulbs, a box of chocolates, a silk scarf and a rucksack, both cut into pieces, boracic powder, bath salts, and a cookbook. Poirot, fascinated by this incomprehensible list, is ready to help Mrs. Hubbard when Celia Austin, a young resident, confesses that she has been behind most of these petty thefts. Her intention was to draw the attention of Colin McNabb, a psychology student she is in love with. Case closed. But the next day Celia is found dead in her room. Although it seems at first sight that she has committed suicide, soon it is confirmed that she has been murdered. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this wonderfully written book with Agatha Christie’s usual trademark. Maybe there are some aspects that makes it a minor novel in her Poirot series but the characters are pretty well drawn, the relationship between the students at the hostel is nicely developed and the plot is quite ingenious. It is certainly a worthwhile reading.
  27. Dead Man’s Folly was first published in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in October 1956 and in the UK by the Collins Crime Club on 5 November of the same year. At the request of the much-renowned mystery novelist Mrs. Ariadne Oliver –whom Poirot had known before at Cards on the Table and Mrs McGinty’s Dead– Poirot travels to Nasse House, in Devon. Afraid of being overheard, she hasn’t provide him further details over the phone. Once there, Mrs Oliver tells him  that  there’s a big garden fête tomorrow at Nasse House, the estate of Sir George and Lady Stubbs, and there’s going to be a Murder Hunt arranged by Mrs. Oliver herself. The Stubbs have had so often a Treasure Hunt that they believe this will be a novelty, and they offered Mrs Oliver a substantial fee to organise this event. There’ll be a victim, clues and suspects, everything utterly conventional. Half a crown to enter and you get the first clue and you’ve got to find the victim, the weapon, the culprit and the motive. And there will be prizes. Mrs Oliver has devised everything herself, but she senses that something terribly  will happen. For this reason she has made him come with the excuse that Poirot himself will provide the prize to the winners, and asks him to keep a close surveillance upon everyone present. After all, it is Mrs. Oliver murder, so to speak, but she has been getting numerous silly suggestions from different people that seem to be acting through a third party, eager to keep its identity hidden, with the clear intention to alter all her plans. At the day of the fête, Mrs. Olivier worst fears will be confirmed. The young woman playing the role of victim is found dead, strangled. But who has been willing to kill a young innocent woman of barely fourteen years of age? The obvious answer is that she could have seen something she should have not seen. Maybe she just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Next, something unforeseen happens. Lady Stubbs disappears, and nobody can render account of her whereabouts. And Poirot for the first time in his career seems to give up. For what is known upon the genesis of this novel, it seems clear that Dead Man’s Folly was one of Christie’s favourite novels. Moreover Nasse House is described as Christie’s own home of Greenway. The novel counts with the presence of Mrs. Ariadne Oliver, Christie’s alter ego, and Poirot finds himself on the brink of being defeated. I can’t think of nothing that could made her happier. Besides, Mrs. Ariadne Oliver presence guarantees the story will count with strokes of humour. It is also an excellent example of Christie’s skill in concealing masterfully the clues placed before our own eyes. I must admit I have enjoyed its reading, and, even though, the plot moves on slowly at first, it finally ends up gaining pace as the story begins to progress. My only quibble is that, in my view, Christie has started to repeat herself, perhaps excessively, using and abusing of elements we have already seen on some of her  previous novels, particularly in those written immediately before this one. In order not to spoil the story prematurely, please allow me not to give away any further details. Maybe not Christie’s best, but it’s worth reading.
  28. Cat Among the Pigeons was first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club on 2 November 1959, and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in March 1960 with a copyright date of 1959. After the initial prologue, the story opens two months before the events that will be unfold further on. In Ramat, a fictitious Emirate in the Middle East, Crown Prince Ali Yusuf, educated in England, despite his efforts to modernise his country, is confronted with a popular uprising that will end up forcing him to leave his country. Shortly before fleeing, he entrusts his jewels to his best friend, the English pilot  Bob Rawlinson. Bob, in turn, to prevent the jewels from ending up in the hands of the rebels, hides the jewels into the luggage of his sister, Mrs Sutcliffe, who was visiting there together with her daughter. The plane, piloted by Bob, in which Ali Yussuf was marching to exile, crashes in a remote and mountainous region of the country. there are no survivors. At from this point, the story shifts to Meadowbank, one of the most prestigious education centres for young girls in England. At Meadowbanks, Miss Bulstrode, the headmistress, is considering the different alternatives she has to designate her successor. Miss Vansittart, a senior teacher seems to be the better placed candidate to occupy her position. The rest of the staff includes Miss Chadwick, also a senior teacher and co-founder of Meadowbank together with Miss Bulstrode; Ann Shapland, Miss Bulstrode’s secretary; Miss Johnson, the matron; Mademoiselle Blanche, the new French mistress; Miss Rich, who teaches English and Geography; Miss Rowan and Miss Blake, the two junior mistresses; and Miss Springer, the new games mistress. Among the pupils, three will play an important role in the plot subsequent development, Jennifer Sutcliffe, Bob Rawlinson’s niece, Julia Upjohn, Jennifer’s best friend, and Princess Shaista, Prince Ali Yusuf’s cousin. Hercule Poirot will only make his appearance once elapsed the two first thirds of the story. When Miss Springer appears murdered in the, recently inaugurated, sports pavilion, the foundations of such a prestigious academic institution might begin to fall apart. Unfortunately for my taste, the backstory of the jewels and the prince is too simplistic, full of clichés and not at all credible. Had it not been for the superb description of some of the characters in the story and for Agatha Christie’s talent to portrait a fragment of life at a College for young women at the second half of the past century, I would have discarded this novel for lack of interest. I have found remarkably difficult to believe that Poirot have solved the mystery with the resources available. I don’t find sufficiently convincing his explanations, and some elements seem pulled from nowhere. Though Christie does her usual good job, concealing  skilfully most of the clues.
  29. The Clocks was first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club on 7 November 1963 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company the following year.
    In Crowdean, Sussex, the agency for which Sheila Webb works as a secretary sends her to number 19 Wilbraham Crescent, for an outside job. She’d never been there before and it seems to her a bit strange her name was specifically mentioned when her services were requested. According to the instructions received, if nobody is there, she should get in, the door would not be close, proceed to the first room on the right and wait. Miss Pebmarsh, who called to hire her, might delayed a bit. When Sheila Webb gets there, nobody answers. She comes into the house and turns to what seems to be quite an ordinary sitting-room where the only remarkable is a profusion of clocks of all kind. All them, barring one, shows the wrong hour, some minutes after ten past four. Then, a cuckoo clock, the only one showing the exact time, strikes three. At this point Sheila realises there’s a man’s body laying on the floor amid a large bloodstain. Simultaneously, a tall elderly woman enters, carrying a shopping bag. Sheila lets out a scream and, terribly scared, she runs out of the house. It is then when Sheila Webb bumps into Colin “Lamb”, who quickly takes charge of the situation. Later on, we will find out what he was doing there. Colin “Lamb” calls his friend Detective Inspector Hardcastle, who soon takes charge of the investigation. The blind woman turns out to be Miss Pebmarsh, the owner of the house but she firmly denies having requested the services of a secretary. The dead man can’t be identified, the labels of his clothes have been cut off, he carries no documents which may help in this sense, and a business card, in his pocket, turns out to be false.Even more strange, Miss Pebmarsh can’t find any explanation for the clocks that are in her sitting-room. Except for the cuckoo, none is of her own, she had never seen them before and she can’t explain herself why someone has placed them there. Colin Lamb’s attempts to help his friend, detective inspector Hardcastle, are unsuccessful. And, finally, he decides to consult the case with Hercule Poirot, his father’s friend, who claims to be able to solve the case with the only help of his intellect.

  30. Third Girl was first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in November 1966 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company the following year.
    Suffice is to say that one day Hercule Poirot’s breakfast is interrupted by an unexpected visit, a young woman claiming that she may have killed someone. However, the young woman soon changes her mind and, with the excuse that she has found Hercule Poirot too old, she leaves hastily. Poirot, for reasons that are difficult to explain, feels compelled to investigate a case in which at least, during a large part of the novel, no crime has been committed. Soon Poirot finds out that it was his old friend Ariadne Oliver who provided Poirot’s address to the young woman. From there onwards a series of episodes unfolds that will end up in a puzzling discovery once a murder has taken place. The book title refers to the practice of sharing the rental of a furnished flat among several young ladies to make it more cost-effective. The first girl rents it, the second is usually one friend of her, and they find the third one through an advertisement.

  31. Hallowe’en Party was first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in November 1969 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year.
    Ariadne Oliver finds herself at Woodleigh Common, a small town near Medchester, visiting her friend Judith Butler. One day, while helping to organise a Halloween Party at the local school, a girl tells her she once read one of her books while another one called Joyce claims she had also read it and maintains that she did not find enough blood in it. In fact, what she likes most are murders with lots of bloods, and she presumes in front of everyone of having seen once a murder, though she only realised recently it really was a murder and for that reason she told it to no one. But no one takes her seriously, since she is known for inventing herself things. As a matter of fact, she has a disproportionate need of showing herself off, in front of everyone. However, when the party is over, Joyce appears dead in the library. Someone had stuck Joyce’s head down into one of the buckets full of water, used in one of the games, holding her there until she got  drowned. It is broadly believe to have been the work of an unknown lunatic, though Mrs Oliver believes that this case can be of interest to her good friend Hercule Poirot. Fortunately Poirot may count with the help from retired Superintendent Spence, who now lives at Woodleigh Common. With his help, Poirot manages to get hold of a list of the deaths and disappearances for the last years in that small town. Given that for “everything that happens there has to be a past. A past which is by now incorporated in today, but which existed yesterday or last month or last year. The present is nearly always rooted in the past.”

  32. Elephants Can Remember was first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in November 1972 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year.
    At a literary luncheon, an impertinent woman addresses the well-known mystery writer Mrs Ariadne Oliver, to find out the truth of an occurrence happened some time ago that still remains to be clarified. The event in question refers to the death, under strange circumstances, of the marriage formed by Margaret Ravenscroft and her husband, General Alistair Ravenscroft, whose corpses were found near their manor house in Overcliff. They were both shot by a revolver, which belonged to the husband, found among their bodies with only the fingerprints of them both. The subsequent judicial inquest was unable to determine who killed whom, and whether it was a suicide by mutual agreement or a case of jealousy. It turns out that Mrs Oliver is the godmother of the Ravenscrofts’ daughter, Celia, Desmond Burton-Cox fiancée, the only son of the impertinent woman. Mrs Oliver soon gets rid of Mrs Burton-Cox telling her that that is none of her business. However, intrigued by something  that took place some time ago, when she was not even in England at the time, she decides to consult the matter with a good friend, Monsieur Hercule Poirot.

  33. Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case was first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in September 1975 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year. However, Christie wrote it in the early 1940s, during World War II and had it locked away in a bank vault for over thirty years. The story, told by Captain Hastings, begins when Captain Hastings receives a letter from his friend Hercule Poirot urging him to meet at Styles. Sadly enough Hastings finds Poirot confined to a wheelchair. The reason for Poirot to call him was to help him unmask a ruthless murderer who has already killed five people, without being identified. The most strange thing about this case is that Poirot has perfectly identified the culprit, but he refuses to share this information with Hastings for fear of him to make a wrong move. Besides Poirot is absolutely certain that the murderer is planning to strike again. Will Poirot, with the help of Hastings, be able to prevent a new murder and warn the victim?

To go against the usual trend, taking into account some of her books are widely known, I would like to call your attention to the following titles in particular that I’ve very much enjoyed: Peril at End House; Cards on the Table; Appoitment with Death; Hercule Poirot’s Christmas; One, Two, Buckle My Shoe; Five Little Pigs; The Hollow; Mrs McGinty’s Dead; and After the Funeral.

To be continued by Second Part: Short Stories Collections, Novellas and Miscellanies.

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