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In the short story The Incredible Theft, Lord Mayfield, formerly Sir Charles McLaughlin, is a wealthy industrialist, the head of a big engineering firm and himself a talented engineer. About one year before the events in the story, Mayfield had obtained his peerage and had been appointed Minister for Armaments. He is popular with the public and spoken of as the next prime minister.

Mayfield throws a house party over a weekend to which he invited, among other people, a notorious woman Mrs Vanderlyn who was suspected to be a spy working for foreign powers. Although another guest Air Marshal George Carrington was anxious about this, Mayfield reassured him. Mrs Vanderlyn was at the house because he intended to set a trap for her and expose her as a spy. As Minister for Armaments, he had the plans of a new revolutionary bomber aircraft and this would be used as a bait.

However the plans are subsequently stolen and Poirot is called in to assist. Investigations by Poirot showed that Mayfield's scheme to entrap Mrs Vanderlyn was a sham--Mayfield admitted that he had not formed any definite strategem for entrapping her. As Poirot explained, what happened was the result of a blackmail. Some five years before, there had been a scandal in the government. Mayfield had been rumoured to be friendly with a certain European power and to have conducted secret negotiations with it which would have made Mayfield and the government highly unpopular. The prime minisiter and Mayfield strongly denied this. But some European power must have obtained a document proving what they denied. They then blackmailed Mayfield: the plans of the bomber in exchange for the document, with Mrs Vanderlyn as the go-between. However, as Poirot surmised, Mayfield was a skilful engineer. He would have been subtle alterations in the stolen plans which would have bomber useless to the foreign power. Poirot commended Mayfield for having the skill which every politician must have, of making the best of both worlds.

Mayfield is described as a big man, squared shouldered, with thick silvery hair, a big straight nose and a slightly prominent chin. "It was a face that lent itself easily to caricature". At the time of the story he is 56, unmarried but known as a perfect host, always charming to the women. He paid a very high salary to his chef and was noted as a connoisseur of wines.

Portrayals[]

In the ITV film adaptation of The Incredible Theft in Season 1 of ITV's Agatha Christie's Poirot, this character's name is changed to Tommy Mayfield and his background is also changed substantially. Here he is not a Lord or member of the government although in both cases they are industrialists. Tommy Mayfield's company had, using its own money, developed the Mayfield Kestrel, an highly advanced fighter which would give Britain supremacy in the air. However the government had declined to give him financial backing for this venture. Note that in the original story, it is not stated if Mayfield's own industrial organisation was the one which developed the revolutionary bomber.

Years earlier, there had been a scandal where he was accused of selling howitzers which Japan had used to bombard Shanghai during its invasion of China. Tommy had been exonerated but the taint had stuck. In an effort to prove his reliability, Tommy decided to trap and expose a suspected spy, Mrs Vanderlyn by inviting her to his house for the weekend, using the plans of the Kestrel fighter as bait.

In this adaptation, Mayfield is married. His wife is Lady Margaret Mayfield. Her title comes from her family--she is the daughter of an earl. Lady Margaret was not privy to Mayfield's scheme with regards to Mrs Vanderlyn. She was anxious and asked Poirot to also come to the house party for the weekend. As she told Poirot, she trusted her husband not to fall for the wiles of Mrs Vanderlyn. But the government had treated him very badly, never giving him the backing he needed. This experience could make him bitter and cloud his judgment.

Tommy Mayfield is played in the film by John Stride.

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