Poirot1

Hercule Poirot Agatha Christie

Surprised Smiles Poirot… tends to take over the story sometimes. And if you prefer your mysteries about the mystery and less about the detective, that might not be for you. For me though, it’s always more entertaining to have a fun detective to follow around. The mystery, even if it was better written without them, just wouldn’t be the same for me.
Happy Sharky2 It’s been pretty easy finding listings of best to worst short stories for each of our detectives, so that we could try and read the strongest three to bring to you, but strangely enough that hasn’t been the case here. Lists focus on the full-length novels, not the short stories. But we’ve picked three of our own. Not necessarily because they’re the strongest mysteries, but because each of them has something interesting to talk about.
Happy Smiles So let’s talk about The Chocolate Box, Double Clue, and The Labours of Hercules!
Default Sharky … Smiles, the Labours are TWELVE stories and you know it.
Shocked Smiles It’s my review I do what I want.
Happy Sharky2 … we’ll come back to that. So what’s great about The Chocolate Box? It’s the case Poirot couldn’t figure out. Remember how we said it was quite fun watching Holmes fail, because no matter how much he succeeds and no matter how pleased with himself he gets, we KNOW? It’s just as fun hearing Poirot relate his one big failure. He even tells Hastings to mention it when he gets too full of himself. And immediately proceeds to get too full of himself. The story wraps up very fast, but never forgets to subtly showcase Poirot’s character, as well as the warm friendship he has with Hastings. And it’s a failure in a different way. Whereas Holmes failed because he underestimated his opponent, Poirot failed by his own admission because he didn’t realise the significance of a clue that was right in front of him, mainly because it didn’t factor into the picture that all the other clues were creating. You could say that might be the start of why he stresses observation so much.
Happy Smiles I want to talk about Double Clue. It cracks me up. This is where Poirot meets the woman he has a complete crush on, and that’s just such a hilarious concept. Not to mention, she has such a wonderful entrance. Check it out.

“Without the least warning the door flew open, and a whirlwind in human form invaded our privacy, bringing with her a swirl of sables (it was as cold as only an English June day can be) and a hat rampant with slaughtered ospreys. Countess Vera Rossakoff was a somewhat disturbing personality.”

Happy Sharky Now that’s an entrance and a half.
Happy Smiles Now, he doesn’t have a crush on her yet. Oh no, that comes later, when he figures out she’s the thief of the story. And she just looks at him coolly, admits her defeat with grace, and hands over the stolen property, hoping they never meet again. Which, she says, is a compliment, because there aren’t many people she’s afraid of meeting. After that, he can’t stop going on and on about what a woman she is, how graceful, how smart, how quick to read the situation. It’s as cute as it is deeply funny.
Happy Sharky2 It is. It comes up in a later story and it's still funny.
Default Smiles We’ll talk about The Labours of Hercules as one big thing. I don’t really remember any of them really standing out over the others, but we want to talk about them because their concept is interesting as a whole, and says something about Poirot’s character. Turning twelve short stories into parts of one over-arching plotline, a personal quest, is a very clever idea. And the idea is this: Poirot has decided to retire, but not before closing out his career with a few last cases that he intends to choose based on whether they interest or appeal to him. Someone makes a joke about the twelve labours of Hercules, since Poirot’s first name is Hercule, and this sparks his imagination. He decides he’ll take on twelve cases, representing the twelve labours from Greek mythology.
Default Sharky Now… to be fair, showing him constantly reject cases he wasn’t interested in would make him look bad, so most of these ‘choices’ are cases that are basically forced on him that conveniently turn out to have some very vague symbolic connection to a Herculean labour. It can get a little hard to believe, and outright silly in the last story. A prior character now owns a nightclub named Hell? And it’s got Greek decor? And it’s guarded by a massive black dog? … why? Obviously because it relates to the twelfth labour. It’s just all so gimmicky.
Default Smiles It is. And that’s exactly why I love it. But that’s not for everyone and that’s fine. If the thought makes you cringe and roll your eyes, read some of the other short stories instead.
Happy Sharky2 Definitely read the ones we mentioned, and also the third one I ACTUALLY wanted to talk about. The Cornish Mystery, which is pretty well done, fairly sinister, and ends with no evidence, forcing Poirot to bluff his way into getting the criminal to confess, in exchange for a twenty four hour head start. His little grey cells, as he calls them, are always working. But just because he knows who did it, that doesn’t always mean it’s possible to prove, and he can’t just stand up and say he knows because he knows. If you’re used to your mystery stories ending in a neat wrap up of motives and evidence, that’s an interesting take on things. So put up your feet, grab some stories, and get your own little grey cells working.

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