My first anthology of the year, and my first [a:Christie|123715|Agatha Christie|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1321738793p2/123715.jpg] or Poirot anthology. It also marks the start of a run of four anthologies in my reading list. Anthologies are a difficult thing to get right. Apart from the need to manage the theme of the anthology, there's nearly always a couple of weaker stories in the mix. Somehow a weaker story in an anthology is that much more noticeable than a weaker chapter in a novel. This collection, [b:Poirot Investigates|16422|Poirot Investigates (Hercule Poirot #3)|Agatha Christie|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1309284512s/16422.jpg|1952109]
, represents the first collection of Christie's Hercule Poirot short stories. Initially published in the UK with only eleven stories, I read an ebook of the US edition which came with an extra three stories.
Opening with The Adventure of the "Western Star"
and we're straight into the first Poirot story I already know from TV. Poirot has become fashionable. A disappointing ending and some casual 'chink' racism aside, it's a good opening story. Short stories don't give Christie as much scope to build a complex narrative, and many of these stories are simpler to fathom out once you assume that the obvious suspect is innocent (after all what would be the point of Poirot if he agreed with everybody else). The Adventure of the Cheap Flat
is a clever little story, and also our first introduction to the venerable Inspector Japp. Having decided she likes Japp he appears again for no real reason in The Mystery of Hunter's Lodge
– these top policemen seem to get assigned well our of their jurisdiction.
The sadly weaker stories providing some padding included The Tragedy at Marson Manor
which is a very simple, and generally too long, story about a suicide; The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb
seemed unusually confused; and The Kidnapped Prime Minister
and The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman
continue to play on the hackneyed "don't trust the foreigner" line.
Some of the stand-out stories for me were The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan
(another one I'm sure I'd already seen on TV), and The Disappearance of Mr Davenheim
– a classic Poirot vs. Japp bet where Poirot has to solve the case with only his little grey cells and without leaving his apartment. The two ending stories would both have been perfect finishes – The Case of the Missing Will
is a game of clever hide and seek with no crime to solve to finish the UK edition, and the final The Chocolate Box
is especially poignant as it highlights Poirot's failure, reminding us that under that smug exterior that constantly loves to rub Hastings' and the Police's noses in their shortcomings, he is also human like the rest of us.