Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
|Cover artist||W. Smithson Broadhead|
|Publisher||The Bodley Head|
|Publication date||March 1924|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Pages||310 pp (first edition, hardcover)|
|Preceded by||The Murder on the Links|
|Followed by||The Man in the Brown Suit|
Poirot Investigates is a short story collection written by Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by The Bodley Head in March 1924. In the eleven stories, famed eccentric detective Hercule Poirot solves a variety of mysteries involving greed, jealousy, and revenge. The American version of this book, published by Dodd, Mead and Company in 1925, featured a further three stories. The UK first edition featured an illustration of Poirot on the dust jacket by W. Smithson Broadhead, reprinted from the 21 March 1923 issue of The Sketch magazine.
- 1 Plot summaries
- 1.1 The Adventure of the Western Star
- 1.2 The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor
- 1.3 The Adventure of the Cheap Flat
- 1.4 The Mystery of Hunter's Lodge
- 1.5 The Million Dollar Bond Robbery
- 1.6 The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb
- 1.7 The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan
- 1.8 The Kidnapped Prime Minister
- 1.9 The Disappearance of Mr Davenheim
- 1.10 The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman
- 1.11 The Case of the Missing Will
- 2 American version of book
- 3 Literary significance and reception
- 4 References in other works
- 5 Film and television adaptations
- 6 Publication history
- 7 International titles
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The Adventure of the Western Star
On a visit to London, Mary Marvell, the famous film star, visits Poirot and shows him three letters handed to her by a Chinese man warning her to return her fabulous diamond, the "Western Star", to where it came from – the left eye of an idol – before the next full moon, which is in three days time. Otherwise it will be stolen. Her husband, the actor Gregory Rolf, bought it from a Chinese man in San Francisco, and gave her the jewel three years ago.
Marvell and Rolf are to stay at Yardly Chase, the home of Lord and Lady Yardly, to discuss the making of a film there, and Mary is determined to go with her diamond, so she refuses to leave the jewel with Poirot. Both Poirot and Hastings remember society gossip from three years back that linked Rolf and Lady Yardly. The Yardlys also own an identical diamond that came from the right eye of the idol – the heavily insured "Eastern Star." After Mary has left and Poirot has gone out, Hastings receives a visit from Lady Yardly. Hastings deduces that she, too, has received warning letters, which she confirms. She says that her husband plans to sell their jewel as he is in debt. When Poirot hears this, he arranges to visit Yardly Chase and is there when the lights go out and Lady Yardly is attacked by a man who steals the diamond.
A man form a reputable jeweller arrives to speak to Lord Yardly. The next day, a man resembling Rolf, but with oriental features, steals Mary's jewel from her London hotel. Poirot says, "one cannot think of everything." Hastings, surprised by his hero's failure, tells him "Cheer up. Better luck next time."
Hastings says that Poirot has failed miserably. Poirot talks to the actress's husband. Poirot then gives the jewel back to Lord Yardley.
Poirot tells Hastings that there never were two jewels or any Chinese man – it was all an invention of Rolf's. Three years earlier, in the USA, he had an affair with Lady Yardly and blackmailed her into giving him the diamond, which he then gave to his wife Mary as a wedding present. Rolf forced Lady Yardly to accept a paste copy of the jewel to cover-up the blackmail, but the substitution would have been discovered as soon as Lord Yardly tried to sell it. Lady Yardly "was getting restive" because the diamond expert had appeared, perhaps soon to inspect the jewel, which she knew to be fake. Unbeknown to anyone, Poirot had himself arranged the jeweller's visit, to precipitate matters. Lady Yardly staged her own robbery, which led Rolf to arrange the second robbery of his wife Mary's diamond; he planned to collect 50,000 pounds from insurance while keeping the real stone. Poirot's threats, however, persuaded Rolf to give the real diamond back and leave the Yardlys in peace.
When Lady Yardly visited Poirot earlier, she had intended to enlist his aid to solve her dilemma; but when Hastings told her of the threatening letters to her enemy Mary, she immediately pretended to have also received such letters. "She jumped at the chance your words offered." Hastings is mightily embarrassed.
The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor
Poirot is asked by a friend, the director of the Northern Union Insurance Company, to investigate the case of a middle-aged man, Mr Maltravers, who has died of an internal haemorrhage just a few weeks after insuring his life for fifty thousand pounds. There were rumours that Maltravers was in a difficult financial position and that he paid the insurance premiums and then committed suicide for the benefit of his beautiful young wife, who married him one year ago.
Poirot and Hastings travel to Marsdon Manor in Essex where the dead man was found in the grounds, with a small rook rifle by his side. They interview the widow who professes no knowledge of his financial state, and says that he had suffered an earlier attack. A young man, Captain Black, arrives as they leave. A gardener tells Poirot that Black visited the house the day before the death. Poirot interviews Black, and by using word association learns that he once knew of someone who committed suicide with a rook rifle in East Africa when he was out there.
Poirot realises that this story, which Black told at the dinner table the day before the tragedy, probably gave Mrs Maltravers the idea as to how to kill her husband: she made him demonstrate to her how the African farmer would have put the gun in his mouth, and then she then pulled the trigger. The unsuspicious local doctor certified an accidental death. But Poirot needs proof.
Then a maid sees Mr Maltravers in the garden! She thinks it is just a mistake, but then in the living room a strange thing happens. The lights suddenly go out and Mrs Maltravers clasps Poirot's hand when Mr Maltravers suddenly appears in the room. His index finger is glowing and pointing at Mrs Maltravers's hand, which is covered in blood. She is so terrified that she confesses.
Poirot explains that he hired a man to impersonate Mr Maltravers and turn off the lights. When Mrs Maltravers grabbed Poirot's hand, Poirot put fake blood on hers. The man applied phosphorescent chemicals to his finger to make it glow, and pointed to the woman's hand, which was now covered in fake blood.
The Adventure of the Cheap Flat
Hastings is at a friend's house with several other people when the talk turns to the shortage of flats and houses. A young couple named Robinson are present, and Mrs Robinson tells the party how they managed to obtain a flat in Knightsbridge for a stunningly attractive price, after dozens of others had been turned away for no apparent reason.
The next day, when Poirot is told of this singularly strange event, the Belgian Detective is immediately interested and starts to investigate. When he and Hastings visit the building in which the flat is located, the porter tells them that the Robinsons have been living there for six months, which contradicts Mrs Robinson's assertion to Hastings that they had only just obtained the lease. Poirot rents another flat two storeys higher in the building and establishes that another Robinson couple has indeed lived there for six months. By use of the coal lift, Poirot manages to gain entry to the Robinson's flat and fix the locks so that he can re-enter at will.
The next day Poirot recounts to Hastings information he has received from Inspector Japp: important American naval plans have been stolen from Washington by an Italian, Luigi Valdarno, who passed them to an international spy, Elsa Hardt, before being killed in New York. Hardt's description is a close match to that of Mrs Robinson.
That night, when the Robinson's flat is empty, Poirot and Hastings wait there and apprehend another Italian who has come to kill Elsa Hardt and her accomplice in revenge for the death of Valdarno. They disarm the man and take him to another house in London where Poirot had tracked down the two spies. They had previously lived in Knightsbridge as a Mr and Mrs Robinson and, in fear of their lives, rented the flat cheaply to a real couple of the same name hoping they would be killed in their place. Poirot and Hastings trick Hardt into revealing the hiding place of the plans before the Italian escapes and Japp arrests the two spies.
The Mystery of Hunter's Lodge
Poirot is recovering from influenza when he and Hastings was visited by Roger Havering, the second son of a baronet, who married an actress some years ago. Mr Havering stayed at his club in London the previous evening and this morning has received a telegram from his wife telling him his uncle, Harrington Pace, was killed by a single revolver shot to the back of the head the previous evening, and that he should come there at once, with a detective. Mr Pace, an American by birth and the brother of Mr Havering's mother, owned an isolated hunting lodge on the Derbyshire moors where the crime occurred. As Poirot is indisposed, Hastings sets off with Havering.
When Hastings and Havering arrive, they meet Inspector Japp from Scotland Yard who has been called in on the case. While Havering goes off to answer Japp's questions, Hastings speaks with the housekeeper, Mrs Middleton, who says she showed a black-bearded man into the house the previous evening. That man wanted to see Mr Pace. She and Mrs Havering were outside the room in which the two men were talking when they heard a shot. The door to the room was locked, but they found the window outside open and, gaining entry, found Mr Pace dead, shot by one of two pistols on display in the room. The pistol used in the killing is now missing, as is the black-bearded man.
Mrs Middleton sends Mrs Havering to see Hastings and she confirms the housekeeper's story. Japp also confirms Havering's alibi via train times to London and his attendance at the club, but soon the missing pistol is found dumped in Ealing. Hastings wires the facts to Poirot, but Poirot is only interested in Hastings' descriptions of the clothes worn by and Mrs Middleton and Mrs Havering and of the ladies themselves.
Poirot wires back instructions to arrest Mrs Middleton at once, but she has disappeared before this instruction can be carried out. Upon investigation, no trace can be found of her actual existence, either from inquiries to her employment agency, or by tracing her original journey to Derbyshire.
Once Hastings is back in London, Poirot gives Hastings his theory: Mrs Middleton never existed. She was Mrs Zoe Havering in disguise. No one except the Haverings has ever claimed to have seen the two women together at the same time. Havering went to London with one of the pistols, which he dumped, and Mrs Havering shot her uncle with the other pistol. Japp is convinced by the theory but doesn't have enough evidence to make an arrest. The Haverings inherit their uncle's fortune, but natural justice sets in and the two are soon killed in an aeroplane crash.
The Million Dollar Bond Robbery
Miss Esmee Farquhar, fiancé of Phillip Ridgeway who is a junior official at the London and Scottish Bank, asks Poirot to find a million dollars in bonds lost during transport to New York on an ocean liner while under Mr Ridgeway's care, and to prove his innocence. Ridgeway is the nephew of Mr Vavasour, a general manager of the London and Scottish Bank. His uncle and the other general manager, Mr Shaw, had entrusted the bonds to him to carry to New York, to extend the bank's credit line there.
Ridgeway tells Poirot the facts of the case. The bonds were counted in Ridgeway's presence in London, sealed in a packet, and then put in his portmanteau with a special lock on it. He discovered the theft when he found his cabin trunk moved, with cut marks around the special lock, but it was clear that the key had been used to open it. However the key had never left Ridgeway's pocket. The packet disappeared just a few hours before the Olympia, the liner on which Ridgeway was travelling, docked in New York. Customs was alerted and they sealed and searched the ship, but to no avail. Every passenger was searched, yet the bonds were offered for sale so quickly that one dealer even swore that he bought some bonds before the ship docked.
Poirot then questions the two general managers who confirm what Ridgeway has said. The two general partners of the bank had made the special keys; each had a copy. The three had together wrapped the bonds and placed them in Ridgeway's trunk. Mr Shaw had taken ill the very day of the ship sailing and has just recovered. Poirot then travels to Liverpool where the Olympia has just returned from another crossing, and the stewards confirm the presence of an elderly man wearing glasses who occupied the cabin next to Ridgeway and virtually never left it.
Poirot explains the case to Ridgeway and his fiancé. The real bonds were never in the portmanteau; instead they were posted to New York on another, faster liner, the Gigantic, which arrived before the Olympia. The thief's confederate in America had instructions to begin selling the bonds only when the Olympia docked, but he failed to carry out his orders properly, hence the one sale which took place half an hour before docking. In the portmanteau was a false packet that the real villain of the piece took out with a duplicate key and threw overboard – this was Mr Shaw, who claimed he was off work for two weeks due to bronchitis whilst these events transpired. Poirot caught him out by asking if he could smoke a cigar – a request which Mr Shaw granted, but which he should have declined if he were really a bronchitis sufferer, as then he would be unable to bear smoke. Hence he was the person who masterminded the theft.
The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb
Backstory: The famous Egyptologist Sir John Willard, the American financier Mr Bleibner, and Lord Carnavon discovered and excavated the tomb of Pharaoh Men-her-Ra. Willard died quite suddenly of heart failure, thereby arousing "all the old superstitious stories connected with the ill-luck of certain Egyptian treasures." Two weeks later Mr Bleibner died of acute blood poisoning, then a few days later his nephew Rupert shot himself in New York. The press was full of stories of an Egyptian curse.
Consequently, Lady Willard asks Poirot to investigate. Lady Willard's son, Guy, has now gone to Egypt to continue his father's work and she fears that he will die next. Can Poirot protect her son? To Hastings' surprise, Poirot says that he believes in the forces of superstition and agrees to investigate. The other members of the party are Dr Tosswell (British Museum), Mr Schneider (Metropolitan Museum), Dr Ames (physician), Harper (American secretary to the party), and Hassan (native servant).
As a first step, Poirot cables New York for details concerning the dead nephew, Rupert Bleibner. The young man was something of an itinerant in the South Seas and had managed to borrow enough money to take him to Egypt. He told someone he had a "good friend" there from whom he could borrow. His uncle however refused to advance him a penny and the nephew had gone back to New York where he sank lower and lower and then shot himself, leaving a suicide note calling himself "a leper and an outcast."
Despite Poirot's aversion to the sea, he and Hastings sail to Egypt to join the expedition. When they arrive at the excavation, Dr Tosswell tells Poirot of the death of the American, Mr Schneider, from tetanus. Hastings forms a narrative, which is discounted by Poirot. Poirot interviews Dr Ames: "four deaths – all totally dissimilar." Poirot leads the doctor to disavow the possibility of superstitious death, and then Poirot says he himself is not so sure, because he feels more and more the forces of evil at work. Harper, the party's secretary, says Dr Bleibner denied his nephew even one cent, and he does not know if Bleibner left a will.
Poirot interviews Hassan, the Arab servant. While they eat, a non-human, dog-headed figure (the Egyptian god Anubis) moves amid the tents in the shadows, but they cannot catch him. Poirot acts to drive away spirits, then asks for a tisane. Hassan brings a cup of chamomile tea to Poirot. Poirot empties the cup. As Hastings watches the desert night he hears Poirot choking desperately.
Hastings runs to fetch the expedition surgeon, Dr Ames, but this turns out to be Poirot's trick to get the doctor into their tent. When they arrive, Poirot sits up, orders Hastings to secure Ames, and reveals Ames as the murderer. Poirot saved a sample of the tea for analysis, which also points to the guilt of Ames. Then the doctor kills himself with a cyanide capsule.
Poirot reasons as follows: Rupert was Dr Bleibner's heir, but Ames must have been Rupert's secret heir, hence Ames's motive was to inherit all the money. Sir John died of natural causes but his death sparked superstitious speculation. It is superstition's power of suggestion that Poirot believes in – not in supernatural occurrences. Everyone assumed that Rupert's "good friend" in the camp was his uncle, but that couldn't have been the case as they quarrelled so often. One important clue was that, despite having no money, Rupert was able to get back to New York. This showed that he did have an ally in the expedition – Ames – but he proved to be a false ally: Ames told Rupert that he had contracted leprosy in the South Seas, as a result of the curse. In reality Rupert had a normal skin rash. When the doctor killed his uncle, Rupert believed himself cursed and shot himself. The reference to himself in his suicide as "a leper" – which everyone took metaphorically – was meant literally. Poirot had Hassan dress as Anubis to frighten the doctor.
The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan
Poirot and Hastings are staying for the weekend at the Grand Metropolitan hotel in Brighton when they meet Mr Opalsen and Hastings' friend Mrs Opalsen. He is a rich stockbroker who amassed a fortune in the oil boom which his wife eagerly spends on jewellery. When Poirot shows interest, she offers to show him her fine pearl necklace. When she goes to her room, she takes the jewel case from the drawer and unlocks it but the pearls are gone! She had locked them herself in the case before dinner. They call the police, and then ask Poirot to assist.
Poirot learns that only two people have been in the room since the pearls were last seen: Mrs Opalsen's maid, Celestine, and the hotel chambermaid. Celestine tells him she had orders to remain in the room all the time the chambermaid was there. Each girl blames the other. Poirot establishes that the necklace was insured.
The hotel room has a side room where Celestine sleeps, and a bolted door leading to the room next door. The two maids say they were in sight of each other all the time except for two pauses. Poirot stages two experiments, timing the maid as she repeats her two trips into her own room (12–15 seconds each), and himself as he unlocks the case and returns it to the drawer (46 seconds): not enough time to extract the jewel case from the drawer, open it, take out the jewels, and return the case. Both maids are searched, unsuccessfully, as are the maid's adjacent room and the empty room on the other side. Celestine is arrested, breaks down, and (in French) protests her innocence to Poirot.
The inspector then finds the missing pearl necklace in the bedsprings in Celestine's room.
When Poirot examines the room next door, he finds dust around a rectangular mark on the table. Later he tells Hastings that he also found French chalk dust, which is used to make drawers run smoothly. Then Poirot frustrates Hastings by telling him that the recovered pearls are imitations and the case is not over. He questions Mr Opalsen's valet and the hotel chambermaid, asking if they had previously seen a small white card that he has found. They both deny it, handing it back.
Poirot rushes to London and the next day tells Hastings and the delighted Opalsens that the case is solved and the real pearls have been found.
Poirot explains: The hotel maid and the valet are a pair of international jewel thieves. The card he gave them earlier captured their fingerprints. When Poirot went to London, he had Japp verify the fingerprints on the card as those of known jewel thieves.
Poirot explains to Hastings how it was done: The valet was on the other side of the bolted door and the chambermaid passed him the case in the first interval when Celestine went into her room. The valet opened it at leisure on the table (leaving the dust marks), then the hotel maid returned it (now empty) to the drawer when the chambermaid again left the room briefly. The runners on the drawer had been silenced with French chalk, traces of which Poirot found in the room next door. The real pearls were found in the valet's room and have been returned to their grateful owners.
The Kidnapped Prime Minister
Near the end of the First World War Hastings visits Poirot in his rooms to discuss the sensational news of the day – the attempted assassination of the Prime Minister, David MacAdam, who escaped with a bullet grazing his cheek. Soon two important visitors interrupt them: Lord Estair, Leader of the House of Commons, and Bernard Dodge, a member of the War Cabinet. They enlist Poirot to help with a national crisis – the Prime Minister has been kidnapped, while travelling to a secret peace conference to be held the next day at Versailles.
MacAdam arrived in Boulogne-Sur-Mer in France where he was met by what was thought to be his official car, but it was a substitute. The real car was found in a side road with its driver, an Aide-de-Camp, bound and gagged. As they tell Poirot the details, news reaches them by special courier that the bogus car has been found abandoned. It contained Captain Daniels, the Prime Minister's secretary, chloroformed and gagged. His employer is still missing.
Poirot is told the full details of the shooting that took place earlier. It occurred on the way back from Ascot to London when, accompanied again by Daniels and the chauffeur, Murphy, the car took a side road and was surrounded by masked men. Murphy stopped the car and one of them shot at the PM, but only grazed his cheek. Murphy raced away bravely, leaving the would-be murderers behind. The PM stopped off at a small cottage hospital to have his wound bandaged and then went straight on to Charing Cross Station to catch the Dover train. Murphy has also disappeared, the PM's car being found outside a Soho restaurant frequented by suspected German agents.
As Poirot packs to leave for France he voices to Hastings his suspicions of both Daniels and Murphy. He wonders why such a melodramatic event as "shooting by masked men" took place before the kidnapping. They then sail to France, to Poirot's discomfort (as he suffers from chronic seasickness). Poirot refuses to rush about with the detectives, including Japp, instead sitting in a hotel room for five hours, using his "little grey cells" until he has figured out the method; he then announces that they must return to England. Back in Britain he obtains a list of cottage hospitals to the west of London, and a car with a driver. After several stops at hospitals – and finding no record of the PM's treatment – they enter a house and escort three prisoners away, two men and a woman. One man is Murphy. They then take the second man, the real PM, to an airfield where he flies to France.
Poirot explains his solution. The villain of the piece was Daniels, who drugged the PM while driving from Windsor to London, then directed the chauffeur to divert and stop the car. Daniels drugged the chauffeur, and placed two substitutes in the car, one pretending to be shot. He brought the substitute "PM" to London with his face disguised by bandages following a shooting that, in fact, had never occurred. Poirot's search of the cottage hospitals proved that no one's face was bandaged up that day.
The "kidnap" was then staged in France, focusing the investigation there when the real PM had never left England. The real PM was driven to the house of Daniels's supposed aunt. Poirot remembered hearing that Daniels had an "aunt" near Hampstead, but she was in fact Frau Bertha Ebenthal, a German spy for whom Poirot had been searching for some time. The phony PM was sent to France, where Daniels himself was drugged and bound to complete the phony kidnapping.
The real Prime Minister was safely whisked off to Versailles for the conference.
The Disappearance of Mr Davenheim
Poirot and Hastings are entertaining Japp after they have all attended a magic show. The conversation turns to the recent disappearance of a senior partner in a banking firm, Mr Davenheim, from his large country house, the Cedars. Boasting, Poirot bets Japp five pounds that he can solve the case within a week without moving from his chair.
Japp briefs him on the facts of the case. Davenheim arrived home from the city at midday on Saturday. He seemed normal, then left his country house at 5:30 pm for a walk into the village to post some letters, saying that he was expecting a business visitor, Mr Lowen, who was to be shown into the study to wait his return. Lowen arrived, waited an hour, then left without meeting Davenheim. The gardener saw someone walk around the house toward the lake, before 6:00 pm. Poirot establishes the fact that there is a boathouse by the lake. Davenheim has not been seen again, and no trace of him has been found since he left the grounds. The police were called on Sunday morning.
On Monday it is discovered that the concealed safe in Davenheim's study has been broken into and the contents removed – cash, a large amount of bearer bonds, and a substantial collection of jewellery. Although he was in the study, Lowen is not arrested; he is merely under observation. His visit to the Cedars was to discuss some business in South Africa with Mr Davenheim, who himself was in Johannesburg the previous autumn. Poirot is interested in the fact that the house has a boating lake, which Japp tells him is to be searched tomorrow, and in the fact that Mr Davenheim wore his hair rather long with a moustache and bushy beard.
The next day Japp reports that Davenheim's clothes have been found in the lake, and that they have arrested Lowen. He also tells Poirot that a common thief named Billy Kellett, known to the police after having served three months the previous year for pick-pocketing, saw Lowen throw Davenheim's ring into a roadside ditch on Saturday. He picked it up and pawned it in London, got drunk on the proceeds, was arrested, and is himself in custody. Poirot is interested in one question of Japp: Did Mr and Mrs Davenheim share a bedroom? When the matter is investigated, and the answer is that they have not done so for the last six months, Poirot says, "all is solved!" He tells Hastings and Japp to withdraw any funds they have in Davenheim's bank before it collapses. When the next day this predicted event occurs, Poirot reveals the solution.
Poirot unravels the logic of the case. Davenheim knew of his bank's financial troubles and started to prepare a new life for himself. While supposedly in Johannesburg, he was actually serving three months in jail to build the identity of Billy Kellett. Then on the Saturday he robbed his own safe before Lowen (whom he was setting up) arrived at the house. Wearing a false beard, he pretended to find the ring. When Davenheim 'disappeared,' he was already in police custody, as Kellett, knowing that no one would think of looking for a missing man in jail. Directed by Poirot, Mrs Davenheim identifies her husband. And of course Japp pays Poirot his five pounds.
The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman
Poirot and Hastings are in their rooms enjoying the company of a near neighbour, Dr Hawker, when the medical man's housekeeper, Miss Rider, arrives with the message that a client, Count Foscatini, has phoned for the doctor, crying out for help. Poirot and Hastings join Hawker as he rushes to Foscatini's flat in Regent's Court. The lift attendant there, unaware of any problems, says that Graves, the Count's man, left half an hour earlier with no indication of anything wrong. The flat is locked but the manager of the building opens it for them. Inside, they find a table set for three people, with the meals finished. The Count is alone and dead – his head crushed in by a small marble statue. Poirot is interested in the remains on the table. He questions the kitchen staff at the top of the building. They describe the meal they served and the dirty plates passed up to them in the service elevator. Poirot seems especially interested in the fact that little of the side dish and none of the dessert were eaten, while the main course was consumed entirely. He also points out that after crying out for help on the phone, the dying man replaced the receiver.
The police arrive at the flat as Graves, the valet, returns. He tells them the two dinner guests first visited Foscatini on the previous day. Both guests were Italian: a man in his forties by the name of Count Ascanio and a man of about twenty-four years of age. Graves said that he listened in to their first conversation, and heard threats uttered; then the Count invited the two men to dinner the next evening. Graves says that the next night Foscatini unexpectedly gave him the night off after dinner, when the port had been served. Ascanio is quickly arrested, but Poirot states three points of interest: the coffee was very black, the side dish and dessert were relatively untouched, and the curtains were not drawn.
The Italian ambassador provides an alibi for Ascanio, which leads to suspicions of a diplomatic cover-up, and Ascanio himself denies knowing Foscatini. Poirot invites Ascanio for a talk and forces him to admit that he did know that Foscatini was a blackmailer. Ascanio's morning appointment was to pay him the money he demanded from a person in Italy, the transaction being arranged through the embassy where Ascanio worked.
After Ascanio leaves, Poirot tells Hastings that Graves was the killer and explains his reasoning. Graves overheard the monetary transaction, and realised that Ascanio couldn't admit to the relationship with Foscatini. Graves killed Foscatini when was alone – there never were any dinner guests - then ordered dinner for three and ate as much of the food as he could; but after consuming the three main courses, he could manage to eat only a little of the side dish and none of the dessert. Coffee was served for three (and supposedly drunk), but Foscatini's brilliant white teeth show that he never drank such staining substances. Finally, the open curtains show that Graves left the flat before night fell and not after, which would not have been the case if Graves's account were true. This theory is passed on to Japp, and when he investigates, Poirot is proven right.
The Case of the Missing Will
Poirot receives an unusual request from Miss Violet Marsh. She was orphaned at fourteen years of age and went to live with her Uncle Andrew, recently returned from making his fortune in Australia, at his large farmhouse in Devon. He had old-fashioned views concerning the education of women and was opposed to his niece bettering herself through book learning. Violet rebelled against him and managed to get herself into Girton College some nine years earlier. Although somewhat strained, her relations with Andrew Marsh remained cordial.
He died a month earlier, leaving a will with a strange clause. The will is dated 25 March and timed at 11:00 am. Marsh gave instructions that his "clever" niece was allowed to live in his house for one month and in that time she had to "prove her wits". If at the end of that time she hadn't done so, all his worldly goods would go to charitable institutions and she would be left with nothing.
Poirot is convinced – as is Miss Marsh – that there is either a second will or a sum of money hidden in the house; he agrees to look for it. Poirot and Hastings travel to Devon, where they are looked after by Mr and Mrs Baker, Marsh's kindly housekeepers. They tell Poirot that they signed and witnessed two wills, as Marsh said he had made a mistake with the first, although they didn't see its contents. Immediately after this transaction Marsh left the house to settle tradesmen's accounts without divulging anything further.
Looking round the house Poirot is pleased with the dead man's order and method, except for one particular: the key to a roll top desk has been affixed, not to a neat label, but instead to a dirty envelope. Poirot interviews some workmen who created a secret cavity in the wall for Marsh, but finds nothing there.
After a long search, Poirot declares himself beaten and is about to return to London when he remembers the visit Marsh made to the tradesmen after the will was signed. He rushes back to the house and holds up the opened envelope to the fire. Faint writing in invisible ink appears, which is a will dated after the one in Violet's possession and leaving everything to her. Marsh had had the Bakers sign two wills as a ruse. The tradesmen in town must have signed the true second will which Marsh turned into an envelope attached to a key. This, being out of keeping with his other household methods, was left as a deliberate clue. According to Poirot, Miss Marsh has indeed proved her superior intelligence – by employing Poirot to solve the case!
American version of book
The American edition of the book, published one year later, featured an additional three stories which did not appear in book form in the UK until 1974 with the publication of Poirot's Early Cases.
Literary significance and reception
The review in The Times Literary Supplement of 3 April 1924 began with a note of caution but then became more positive: "When in the first of M. Poirot's adventures, we find a famous diamond that has been the eye of a god and a cryptic message that it will be taken from its possessor 'at the full of the moon' we are inclined to grow indignant on behalf of our dear old friend the moonstone. But we have no right to do so, for the story is quite original". The review further described Poirot as "a thoroughly pleasant and entertaining person".
The New York Times Book Review chose to review the 1924 UK publication of the novel in its edition of 20 April that year, rather than wait for the 1925 Dodd, Mead publication. The unnamed reviewer liked the book but seemed to consider the stories somewhat clichéd and not totally original, making several comparisons to Sherlock Holmes. He began, "Agatha Christie's hero…is traditional almost to caricature, but his adventures are amusing and the problems which he unravels skilfully tangled in advance." He did admit that, "it is to be feared that some of the evidence [Poirot] collects would fare badly in criminal courts" but concluded, "Miss Christie's new book, in a word, is for the lightest of reading. But its appeal is disarmingly modest, and it will please the large public which relishes stories of crime, but likes its crime served decorously."
The Observer of 30 March 1924 said, "The short story is a sterner test of the 'detective' writer than the full-grown novel. With ample space almost any practised writer can pile complication upon complication, just as any man could made a puzzling maze out of a ten-acre field. But to pack mystery, surprise and a solution into three or four thousand words is to achieve a feat. There is no doubt about Miss Christie's success in the eleven tales (why not a round dozen?) published in this volume. All of them have point and ingenuity, and if M. Poirot is infallibly and exasperatingly omniscient, well, that is the function of the detective in fiction." Unlike The New York Times, the reviewer favourably compared some of the stories to those of Sherlock Holmes and concluded, "We hope that the partnership [of Poirot, Hastings and Japp] will last long and yield many more narratives as exciting as these. With The Mysterious Affair at Styles and this volume to her credit (to say nothing of others) Miss Christie must be reckoned in the first rank of the detective story writers."
The Scotsman of 19 April 1924 said, "It might have been thought that the possibilities of the super-detective, for the purposes of fiction, had been almost exhausted. Miss Agatha Christie, however, has invested the type with a new vitality in her Hercule Poirot, and in Poirot Investigates she relates some more of his adventures. Poirot is most things that the conventional sleuth is not. He is gay, gallant, transparently vain, and the adroitness with which he solves a mystery has more of the manner of the prestidigitator than of the cold-blooded, relentless tracker-down of crime of most detective stories. He has a Gallic taste for the dramatic, and in The Tragedy of Marsdon Manor he perhaps gives it undue rein, but mainly the eleven stories in the book are agreeably free from the elaborate contrivance which is always rather a defect in such tales. Poirot is confronted with a problem and Miss Christie is always convincing in the manner in which she shows how he lights upon a clue and follows it up.
References in other works
The Prime Minister who features in the story The Kidnapped Prime Minister is also referenced in the 1923 short story The Submarine Plans, which was published in book form in the 1974 collection Poirot's Early Cases. It is possible that his name, "David MacAdam", is a Celtic wordplay on the name of the real Prime Minister during the latter days of the First World War, David Lloyd George.
Film and television adaptations
Hercule Poirot (The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim)
"The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim" was presented as a thirty-minute play by CBS as an episode in the series General Electric Theater on 1 April 1962 under the title of Hercule Poirot. Introduced by Ronald Reagan and directed by John Brahm, the adaptation starred Martin Gabel as Poirot, this being the television debut of the character.
Agatha Christie's Poirot
All of the stories contained in Poirot Investigates have been adapted as episodes in the ITV television series Agatha Christie's Poirot with David Suchet in the role of Poirot, Hugh Fraser as Hastings, Philip Jackson as Japp and Pauline Moran as Miss Lemon. As is the custom with these adaptations, they differ somewhat from their originals. (In the Disappearance of Mr Davenheim, Hastings plays a large role, and, in a complete change from the book, Poirot gets a parrot (leading to one of the famous exchanges: Delivery boy: "I've a parrot here for Mr Poy-rott." Poirot: "It is pronounced 'Pwa-roh'." Delivery boy: "Oh sorry. I've a Poirot here for a Mr Poy-rott."). "The Case of the Missing Will", in particular, was heavily adapted: the death of Andrew Marsh is changed into a murder. The "missing will" of the title was also changed: it is not a hidden will but an old document that is stolen from Marsh's papers after it is made clear that Marsh intends to write a new will leaving everything to Violet. The ships that feature in "The Million Dollar Bond Robbery" are changed from the Olympia and the Gigantic to the Queen Mary and the Berengaria.
The adaptations (in order of transmission) were:
- The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim – 4 February 1990
- The Adventure of the Cheap Flat – 18 February 1990
- The Kidnapped Prime Minister – 25 February 1990
- The Adventure of the "Western Star" – 4 March 1990
- The Million Dollar Bond Robbery – 13 January 1991
- The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor – 3 February 1991
- The Mystery of Hunter's Lodge – 10 March 1991
- The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb – 17 January 1993
- The Case of the Missing Will – 7 February 1993
- The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman – 14 February 1993
- The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan – 7 March 1993
- 1924, John Lane (The Bodley Head), March 1924, Hardcover, 310 pp
- 1925, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1925, Hardcover, 282 pp
- 1928, John Lane (The Bodley Head), March 1928, Hardcover (Cheap edition – two shillings)
- 1931, John Lane (The Bodley Head, February 1931), As part of the An Agatha Christie Omnibus along with The Mysterious Affair at Styles and The Murder on the Links, Hardback (Priced at seven Shillings and sixpence; a cheaper edition at five shillings was published in October 1932)
- 1943, Dodd Mead and Company, As part of the Triple Threat along with Partners in Crime and The Mysterious Mr Quin), Hardback
- 1955, Pan Books, Paperback (Pan number 326) 192 pp
- 1956, Avon Books (New York), Avon number 716, Paperback
- 1958, Pan Books, Paperback (Great Pan G139)
- 1961, Bantam Books, Paperback, 198 pp
- 1989, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 192 pp
- 2007, Facsimile of 1924 UK first edition (HarperCollins), 5 November 2007, Hardcover, 326 pp ISBN 0-00-726520-4
Chapters from the book appeared in Agatha Christie's Crime Reader, published by Cleveland Publishing in 1944 along with other selections from Partners in Crime and The Mysterious Mr. Quin.
First publication of stories
All of the stories were first published, unillustrated, in the UK in The Sketch magazine. Christie wrote them following a suggestion from its editor, Bruce Ingram, who had been impressed with the character of Poirot in The Mysterious Affair at Styles. The stories first appeared in The Sketch as follows:
- The Adventure of "The Western Star" – 11 April 1923, Issue 1576
- The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor – 18 April 1923, Issue 1577
- The Adventure of the Cheap Flat – 9 May 1923, Issue 1580
- The Mystery of Hunter's Lodge – 16 May 1923, Issue 1581
- The Million Dollar Bond Robbery – 2 May 1923, Issue 1579
- The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb – 26 September 1923, Issue 1600
- The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan – 14 March 1923, Issue 1572 (under the title The Curious Disappearance of the Opalsen Pearls)
- The Kidnapped Prime Minister – 25 April 1923, Issue 1578
- The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim – 28 March 1923, Issue 1574
- The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman – 24 October 1923, Issue 1604
- The Case of the Missing Will – 31 October 1923, Issue 1605
- The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan – October 1923, Volume 37, Number 6 (under the title Mrs. Opalsen's Pearls)
- The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim – December 1923, Volume 38, Number 2 (under the title Mr Davenby Disappears – the character's name was changed throughout this original magazine publication)
- The Adventure of The Western Star – February 1924, Volume 38, Number 4 (under the title The Western Star)
- The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor – March 1924, Volume 38, Number 5 (under the title The Marsdon Manor Tragedy)
- The Million Dollar Bond Robbery – April 1924, Volume 38, Number 6 (under the title The Great Bond Robbery)
- The Adventure of the Cheap Flat – May 1924, Volume 39, Number 1
- The Mystery of Hunter's Lodge – June 1924, Volume 39, Number 2 (under the title The Hunter's Lodge Case)
- The Kidnapped Prime Minister – July 1924, Volume 39, Number 3 (under the title The Kidnapped Premier – although the title "Prime Minister" was used within the text of the story)
- The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb – August 1924, Volume 39, Number 4 (under the title The Egyptian Adventure)
- The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman – December 1924, Volume 40, Number 2 (under the title The Italian Nobleman)
- The Case of the Missing Will – January 1925, Volume 40, Number 3 (under the title The Missing Will)
- The Chocolate Box – February 1925, Volume 40, Number 4
- The Veiled Lady – March 1925, Volume 40, Number 5
- The Lost Mine – April 1925, Volume 40, Number 6
Publication of book collection
The preparation of the book marked a further downturn in the relationship between Christie and the Bodley Head. She had become aware that the six-book contract she had signed with John Lane had been unfair to her in its terms. At first she meekly accepted Lane's strictures about what would be published by them, but by the time of Poirot Investigates Christie insisted that their suggested title of The Grey Cells of Monsieur Poirot was not to her liking and that the book was to be included in the tally of six books within her contract. The Bodley Head opposed this because the stories had already been printed in The Sketch. Christie held out and won her case.
This was the first Christie book to carry no dedication.
The dustjacket front flap of the first edition carried no specially written blurb. Instead it carried quotes from reviews for In the Mayor's Parlour by J. S. Fletcher, whilst the back flap carried the same for The Perilous Transactions of Mr. Collin by Frank Heller.
- French: Les Enquêtes d'Hercule Poirot
- German: Poirot rechnet ab (Poirot Takes a Task), first edition in 1959: Poirot rechnet ab: Kriminalgeschichten (Poirot Takes a Task: Crime Stories)
Die Augen der Gottheit (The Eyes of the Deity)
Die Tragödie von Marsdon Manor (The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor)
Die mysteriöse Wohnung (The Mysterious Flat)
Das Mysterium von Hunter's Lodge (The Mystery of Hunter's Lodge)
Der raffinierte Aktiendiebstahl (The Sly Bonds Robbery)
Das Abenteuer des ägyptischen Grabes (The Adventure of The Egyptian Tomb)
Der Juwelenraub im Grand Hotel (The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Hotel)
Der entführte Premierminister (The Kidnapped Prime Minister)
Das Verschwinden von Mrs. Davenheim (The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim)
Das Abenteuer des italienischen Edelmannes (The Adventure of The Italian Nobleman)
Das fehlende Testament (The Missing Will)
- Norwegian: Det egyptiske gravkammer og andre Poirot-mysterier (The Egyptian Grave Chamber and other Poirot mysteries)
- Russian: Пуаро ведёт следствие (=Puaro vedyot sledstvie, Poirot holds investigation)
- Spanish: Poirot Investiga
- The English Catalogue of Books. Vol XI (A-L: January 1921 – December 1925). Kraus Reprint Corporation, Millwood, New York, 1979 (page 310)
- American Tribute to Agatha Christie
- Cooper and Pyke. Detective Fiction – the collector's guide: Second Edition (Page 87) Scholar Press. 1994. ISBN 0-85967-991-8
- The Times Literary Supplement 3 April 1924 (Pages 209–210)
- The New York Times Book Review 20 April 1924 (Page 25)
- The Observer 30 March 1924 (Page 4)
- The Scotsman 19 April 1924 (Page 11)
- Barnard, Robert. A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie – Revised edition (Page 203). Fontana Books, 1990. ISBN 0-00-637474-3
- Barnard (Pages 124 and 149)
- Barnard (Page 125)
- Christie, Agatha. An Autobiography. (Pages 281–282). Collins, 1977. ISBN 0-00-216012-9
- Holdings at the British Library (Newspapers – Colindale). Shelfmark: NPL LON LD52
- Holdings at the British Library (St. Pancras). Shelfmark: P.P.6264.iba
- Morgan, Janet. "Agatha Christie, A Biography". (Pages 108 and 111) Collins, 1984 ISBN 0-00-216330-6
- Poirot Investigates at the official Agatha Christie website
- Hercule Poirot (1962) at the Internet Movie Database
- Agatha Christie's Poirot at the Internet Movie Database