Book name: Poirot’s Early Cases
Author: Agatha Christie
Publisher: Collins Crime Club
Format: Print, ebook, audiobook
Genre: Murder mystery
Publication Date: 1974
Star Rating: 5/5
The early Poirot cases were originally published in periodicals between 1923 and 1935. It wasn’t until 1974 that they were published in a single volume in the UK.
Poirot’s Early Cases also appeared in the US in that year, even though the stories had already been published in collections there.
We just couldn’t get enough of Poirot, and Poirot’s Early Cases was a great success.
I don’t imagine that Agatha Christie had much patience for superstitions, one way or another. ‘The Lemesurier Inheritance’ is a story about a noble family’s title and a curse said to haunt the family: the eldest son will never inherit.
Certainly, there have been some terrible tragedies within the family, several members of whom Poirot encounters socially.
However, when young children start dying matter has gone too far and Poirot becomes involved.
Ivy cut through deliberately leads to a nasty fall, and suspicions grow about a boy encouraged to swim too far out to sea who nearly drowns.
Poirot is determined that there will be a rational explanation for the deaths which have already occurred, and that he will be able to prevent anyone else in the family from dying.
‘The Chocolate Box’ was an interesting story because as a flashback story it took us back to Brussels when Poirot was working for the police there.
Religion lies at the heart of tensions within the Deroulard family. The mother is a profoundly religious woman, as is Virginie, who lives with them. However, her son takes a different view of the distinctions between church and state.
Virginie asks Poirot to investigate the death of M Deroulard, who has died suddenly at home just as he was about to become a government minister.
Agatha Christie enjoyed setting a number of her mysteries on trains. She recognised the importance of choosing a location for a murder mystery that is an enclosed space isolated from people beyond the potential suspects.
‘The Plymouth Express’ is just such a story, and it has always struck me as an apprentice to the longer story of the Blue Train. Agatha Christie grew up in Devon and later bought a large house there, so the journey was one she made many times in person.
A wealthy heiress on the verge of separating from her husband is found murdered in a first-class carriage on the way to Plymouth. From the evidence of Flossie’s maid Jane Mason, the police assume that the victim was still alive as the maid spoke to her at Bristol.
The story given was that Flossie intended to meet someone and take a later train to her destination. Jane was to wait at the station with the luggage until Flossie returned.
Suspicion falls on Flossie’s estranged husband and a former lover, neither of whom are impressive men. However, Poirot is struck by the bright colours of Flossie’s outfit and how keen she was to make herself memorable to those on the platform.
One of my favourite stories in this collection is ‘The Double Clue’, because it is the first time that we see Countess Vera Rossakoff.
Poirot is asked by Marcus Hardman to solve the theft of some jewels from his safe as discreetly as possible. The collector is reluctant to accuse a member of the nobility of such a crime, even though two of his guests were titled.
Poirot is struck, not for the last time, by the generous number of clues in the vicinity of Mr Hardman’s safe. Although he and the countess can converse fluently in French, he studies the basics of the Russian language in order to solve this crime.
Countess Rossakoff is glamorous in her furs and leaves a trail of alluring scent behind. Even Poirot is not immune to her charms.
Poirot’s Early Cases also introduce us to Inspector Japp, Captain Hastings and Miss Lemon. All of them made repeated appearances in the ITV adaptations of the Poirot stories.
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