Murder in the Mews and Other Stories is a short story collection written by Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by Collins Crime Club on 15 March 1937. All of the tales feature Hercule Poirot. The UK edition retailed at seven shillings and sixpence (7/6).
In the U.S., the parallel edition was published by Dodd, Mead and Company under the title Dead Man's Mirror in June 1937 with one story missing (The Incredible Theft); the 1987 Berkeley Books edition of the same title has all four stories.The first U.S. edition at $2.00.
- Murder in the Mews
- The Incredible Theft (not in early U.S. editions)
- Dead Man's Mirror
- Triangle at Rhodes
Literary significance and reception
Simon Nowell-Smith of the Times Literary Supplement's issue of 27 March 1937 wrote: "It would seem nowadays – it was not true of Sherlock Holmes, when the rules were less rigid – the shorter the detective story the less good it will be. The least effective of the stories in this book occupies 32 pages; the most 96; and there are two of intermediate length and merit. All are of quite a high standard as long-short stories, but none is as good as any of Mrs Christie's full-length detective novels. The fact is that the reader of today demands to participate in a detective story, and no living writer, unless occasionally Miss Sayers, can find room in a short story for this extra detective." The reviewer felt that the title story was the strongest and that Triangle at Rhodes the weakest because, "the psychology of the characters is insufficiently developed to make the solution either predictable or plausible".
Isaac Anderson of The New York Times Book Review of 27 June 1937 said, "The four stories in this book are all fully up to the Agatha Christie-Hercule Poirot standard, and are about as varied in plot and in the characters involved as it is possible for detective stories to be."
The Scotsman of 1 April 1937 said "To the ingenuity of Mrs Agatha Christie there is no end. She writes with Spartan simplicity, presents her clues fairly, and nearly always succeeds in simultaneously mystifying and satisfying her reader. This is no mean achievement in an art which is popularly supposed to be rapidly exhausting a limited stock of deception devices.
In The Observer's issue of 18 April 1937, "Torquemada" (Edward Powys Mathers) wrote: "It is rather for herself than for the four awkwardly shaped Poirot stories which make up Murder in the Mews that I give Agatha Christie first place [in his column] this week. There is sufficient in the latest exploits of the little Belgian to remind us that his creator is our queen of detective writers, but by no means enough to win her that title if she had not already won it. The last and shortest tale, Triangle at Rhodes, is just the one which should have been made the longest, since it is a problem depending entirely on the unfolding of the characters of four people. Mrs Christie has not given herself room for such unfolding, and is therefore constrained to tear the buds brutally apart. This plot would, I think, have furnished forth a whole novel. In the other three stories, each of that long-short form which used to be sacred to the penny detective adventure story, Poirot is but palely himself, and in each case the plot, though clever, is not brilliant. In the name piece the motive of the second crime is legitimately baffling; in The Incredible Theft I kept pace with Poirot; in Dead Man's Mirror, feeling a little cheated, I myself cheated by backing the most exterior of outsiders."
E. R. Punshon of The Guardian reviewed the collection in the 9 April 1937 issue when he wrote that it was "perhaps enough to say that they are all good, but not outstanding, Christie, and that in all of them Monsieur Poirot…is given full opportunity to display his accustomed acumen." Punshon stated that the title story was, "the best, and Mrs Christie is least successful when she enters into the international spy field. The last story is disappointing in that it presents an interesting psychological situation that seems to cry aloud for the fuller treatment. Mrs Christie could well have given it."
Mary Dell in the Daily Mirror of 1 April 1937 said: "Agatha Christie is keeping her famous detective, Poirot, busy. Here he is the murderer-chaser in four short stories which show that this author can keep you as "on edge" in shorter thrillers as in full-length ones. And another good thing is that you can come to the last untying of all the knots in one sitting.
Robert Barnard: "Four very good long short stories. No duds, but perhaps the most interesting is Triangle at Rhodes, with its 'double-triangle' plot, very familiar from other Christies."
References to other works
- The plot device in "Murder in the Mews" is a rewrite of The Market Basing Mystery, which first appeared in issue 1603 of The Sketch magazine on 17 October 1923 before appearing in book form in the US first in The Under Dog and Other Stories in 1951 and in the UK in Thirteen for Luck! in 1966 (later appearing in Poirot's Early Cases in 1974). The similarities between the two stories are in the eventual solution and motive but the setting, characters and the sex of the victim is different between the two versions.
- Dead Man's Mirror uses a similar (almost identical) device to The Second Gong, with a number of almost point-for-point matches; as well, Mr Satterthwaite, who is known from the Harley Quin Stories has a small appearance, where he refers to the "Crow's nest business", i.e. the novel Three Act Tragedy.
- In Murder in the Mews, Poirot refers to Sherlock Holmes and "the curious incident of the dog in the night-time". This refers to a statement made by Holmes in the 1892 story Silver Blaze.
- "Triangle at Rhodes uses similar settings as Evil Under the Sun. The beautiful but foolish married woman flirting with a younger man and then getting killed is one such similarity.
- "The Incredible Theft" is an almost verbatim reworking of The Submarine Plans, which was later collected in Poirot's Early Cases.
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
- 1937, Collins Crime Club (London), 15 March 1937, Hardback, 288 pp
- 1937, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), June 1937, Hardback, 290 pp
- 1954, Pan Books, Paperback, (Pan number 303)
- 1958, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 190 pp
- 1958, Dell Books, Paperback, (Dell number D238), 190 pp
- 1961, Penguin Books, Paperback, (Penguin number 1637), 221 pp
- 1978, Dell Books, Paperback, (Dell number 11699); ISBN 0-440-11699-6, 192 pp
- 1986, Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover; ISBN 0-7089-1443-8
- 2006, Poirot Facsimile Edition (Facsimile of 1936 UK First Edition), HarperCollins, November 6, 2006, Hardback; ISBN 0-00-723448-1
The dustjacket design of the UK first edition was one of four commissioned by Collins from Robin Macartney, a friend of Christie and her husband Max Mallowan (the others being Murder in Mesopotamia, Death on the Nile and Appointment with Death). As well as being a talented artist, Macartney was an archaeologist and accompanied the Mallowans on many of their expeditions at this time and his shy personality was later recounted by Christie in her 1946 short volume of autobiography Come, Tell Me How You Live.
First publication of stories
All four of the stories in the collection were either previously published in magazines and were reprinted or were expanded versions of far shorter stories which had previously been published under different titles. Each of the stories are of novella length.
- Murder in the Mews appeared in Woman's Journal in December 1936 in a version with differing chapter divisions to those that eventually appeared in the book
- The Incredible Theft is an expanded version of the story The Submarine Plans which appeared in issue 1606 of The Sketch magazine on 7 November 1923 with all the character names changed and one character - Mrs Macatta - added to the text. The original shorter version was eventually reprinted in book form in Poirot's Early Cases. The expanded version in the book was serialised in six instalments in the Daily Express from Tuesday, 6 April to Monday, 12 April 1937 (no publication on Sunday, 11 April) with illustrations for each installment by Steven Spurrier.
- Dead Man's Mirror was an expanded version of the story The Second Gong which appeared in issue 499 of The Strand Magazine in July 1932. The original shorter version was eventually reprinted in book form in the 1991 collection Problem at Pollensa Bay and Other Stories. The story is a locked room mystery featuring a wealthy retired man who apparently commits suicide. The character of Mr Satterthwaite who had previously appeared in The Mysterious Mr. Quin in 1930 and Three Act Tragedy in 1935 makes a reappearance.
- Triangle at Rhodes appeared in issue 545 of The Strand Magazine in May 1936 under the slightly longer title of Poirot and the Triangle at Rhodes. This final story in the collection is the shortest of the four and takes Poirot on an island holiday during which a guest is murdered. The story has some similarities to the full-length 1941 Christie novel, Evil Under the Sun, which includes a complicated love-triangle relationship.
In the U.S. the stories were first published as follows:
- Triangle at Rhodes appeared in the 2 February 1936 issue of the weekly newspaper supplement This Week magazine with illustrations by Stanley Parkhouse.
- Murder in the Mews appeared in Redbook magazine in two instalments from September (Volume 67, Number 5) to October 1936 (Volume 67, Number 6) with illustrations by John Fulton.
No U.S. magazine publications of The Incredible Theft or Dead Man's Mirror prior to 1937 have been traced, but the original shorter versions of these stories as described above were first published as follows:
- The Submarine Plans appeared in the July 1925 (Volume 41, Number 3) issue of The Blue Book Magazine with an uncredited illustration.
- The Second Gong appeared in the June 1932 (Volume LIIX, Number 6) issue of Ladies' Home Journal with an illustration by R.J. Prohaska.
- German: Hercule Poirot schläft nie (Hercule Poirot Never Sleeps)
Poirot riecht den Braten (Poirot Smells a Rat)
Der unglaubliche Diebstahl der Bomberpläne (The Incredible Theft of the Bomber Blueprints)
Auch Pünktlichkeit kann töten (Punctuality Could Cause Death, Too)
Urlaub in Rhodos (Holiday On Rhodes)