Hercule Poirot's Early Cases
by Agatha Christie

Review by
Jennifer Monroe Franson

Hercule Poirot mysteries

Dodd, Mead: New York, 1974
250 pages

as Poirot's Early Cases
Collins: London, 1974

253 pages

June 2009

This collection of short stories brings us cases from the early part of Hercule Poirot's career. One has its beginnings during the First World War, the same period in which The Mysterious Affair at Styles takes place; and another right afterwards, murder in "The Affair at the Victory Ball". The latest of the eighteen mysteries seems to be set sometime in the early- to mid-1930s.

Hercule Poirot's Early Cases does not include all of Agatha Christie's Poirot short stories; for instance, the masterful Labors of Hercules series, which takes place later in Poirot's detective career, is not included. However, several of these stories are tiny masterpieces — especially "The Chocolate Box", which chronicles Poirot's first and only failure. Also particularly appealing are "The Lemesurier Inheritance", in which an all-too-modern series of suspicious deaths fulfill an ancient family curse; and "The Clapham Cook", which has Poirot investigating the disappearance of a middle-class family's cook. In this case, one of the witnesses is convinced that the missing woman has been kidnapped by "white slavers":

"I've said so all along! ... And now they've got her! I'm sure of it. As likely as not, she's been shipped to Turkey or one of them Eastern places where I've heard they like them fat!"

The collection even includes a story obviously inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton", although Christie adds a mischievous twist to the tale.

Aficionados of Christie's novels will notice that plots or plot-elements of several, including The Mystery of the Blue Train and Murder on the Orient Express, are foreshadowed in stories appearing in this collection. The inimitable Countess Vera Rossakoff — the great infatuation, if not the great love, of Poirot's life — also makes her first appearance here.


© 2009 Jennifer Monroe Franson

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