Poirot Investigates is a short story collection first published in the UK by The Bodley Head in March 1924. The collection comprises short stories which had first been published by Agatha Christie in various magazines, notably The Sketch. In the eleven stories, famed eccentric detective Hercule Poirot solves a variety of mysteries involving greed, jealousy and revenge. The American version of this book, published by Dodd, Mead and Company in 1925, featured a further three stories. The UK first edition of the book featured an illustration of Poirot on the dustjacket reprinted from the March 21, 1923 issue of The Sketch magazine by W. Smithson Broadhead.
The UK edition retailed at seven shillings and sixpence (7/6) while the 1925 US edition was $2.00.
- 1 Stories included
- 2 American version of book
- 3 Literary significance and reception
- 4 References in other works
- 5 Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
- 6 Publication history
- 7 International titles
- The Adventure of 'The Western Star'
- The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor
- The Adventure of the Cheap Flat
- The Mystery of Hunter's Lodge
- The Million Dollar Bond Robbery
- The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb
- The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan
- The Kidnapped Prime Minister
- The Disappearance of Mr Davenheim
- The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman
- The Case of the Missing Will
American version of book
The American version of the book, published one year later, featured an additional three stories which did not appear in book form in the UK until 1974 with the publication of Poirot's Early Cases.
Literary significance and reception
The review in the Times Literary Supplement of April 3, 1924 began with a note of caution but then became more positive: "When in the first of M. Poirot's adventures, we find a famous diamond that has been the eye of a god and a cryptic message that it will be taken from its possessor 'at the full of the moon' we are inclined to grow indignant on behalf of our dear old friend the moonstone. But we have no right to do so, for the story is quite original". The review further described Poirot as "a thoroughly pleasant and entertaining person".
The New York Times Book Review chose to review the 1924 UK publication of the novel in its edition of April 20 that year, rather than wait for the 1925 Dodd, Mead publication. The unnamed reviewer liked the book but seemed to consider the stories to be somewhat clichéd and not totally original, making several comparisons to Sherlock Holmes. He began, "Agatha Christie’s hero…is traditional almost to caricature, but his adventures are amusing and the problems which he unravels skilfully tangled in advance." He did admit that, "it is to be feared that some of the evidence [Poirot] collects would fare badly in criminal courts" but concluded, "Miss Christie’s new book, in a word, is for the lightest of reading. But its appeal is disarmingly modest, and it will please the large public which relishes stories of crime, but likes its crime served decorously."
The Observer of March 30, 1924 said, "The short story is a sterner test of the 'detective' writer than the full-grown novel. With ample space almost any practised writer can pile complication upon complication, just as any man could made a puzzling maze out of a ten-acre field. But to pack mystery, surprise and a solution into three or four thousand words is to achieve a feat. There is no doubt about Miss Christie's success in the eleven tales (why not a round dozen?) published in this volume. All of them have point and ingenuity, and if M. Poirot is infallibly and exasperatingly omniscient, well, that is the function of the detective in fiction." Unlike The New York Times, the reviewer favourably compared some of the stories to those of Sherlock Holmes and concluded, "We hope that the partnership [of Poirot, Hastings and Japp] will last long and yield many more narratives as exciting as these. With The Mysterious Affair at Styles and this volume to her credit (to say nothing of others) Miss Christie must be reckoned in the first rank of the detective story writers."
The Scotsman of April 19, 1924 said, "It might have been thought that the possibilities of the super-detective, for the purposes of fiction, had been almost exhausted. Miss Agatha Christie, however, has invested the type with a new vitality in her Hercule Poirot, and in Poirot Investigates she relates some more of his adventures. Poirot is most things that the conventional sleuth is not. He is gay, gallant, transparently vain, and the adroitness with which he solves a mystery has more of the manner of the prestidigitator than of the cold-blooded, relentless tracker-down of crime of most detective stories. He has a Gallic taste for the dramatic, and in The Tragedy of Marsdon Manor he perhaps gives it undue rein, but mainly the eleven stories in the book are agreeably free from the elaborate contrivance which is always rather a defect in such tales. Poirot is confronted with a problem and Miss Christie is always convincing in the manner in which she shows how he lights upon a clue and follows it up.
Robert Barnard: "Early stories, written very much under the shadow of Holmes and Watson. The tricks are rather repetitive and the problems lack variety".
References in other works
The Prime Minister featured in the story The Kidnapped Prime Minister is also referenced in the 1923 short story The Submarine Plans which was published in book form in the 1974 collection Poirot's Early Cases. It is possible that his name is a celtic play on words of the real Prime Minister of the latter days of the First World War, David Lloyd George.
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
Hercule Poirot (The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim)
"The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim" was presented as a thirty-minute play by CBS as an episode in the series General Electric Theater on April 1, 1962 under the title of Hercule Poirot. Introduced by Ronald Reagan and directed by John Brahm, the adaptation starred Martin Gabel as Poirot, this being the television debut of the character.
Agatha Christie's Poirot
All of the stories contained in Poirot Investigates have been adapted as episodes in seasons 2, 3 and 5 the ITV television series Agatha Christie's Poirot with David Suchet in the role of Poirot. The adaptations usually deviated somewhat from the original stories. In one case, The Case of the Missing Will, the changes were so significant as to make the adaptation a totally different story. All of the episodes featured Chief Inspector Japp, Miss Lemon and Hastings in supporting roles whether they appeared in the original stories or not.
- 1924, John Lane (The Bodley Head), March 1924, Hardcover, 310 pp
- 1925, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1925, Hardcover, 282 pp
- 1928, John Lane (The Bodley Head), March 1928, Hardcover (Cheap edition - two shillings)
- 1931, John Lane (The Bodley Head, February 1931), As part of the An Agatha Christie Omnibus along with The Mysterious Affair at Styles and The Murder on the Links, Hardback (Priced at seven Shillings and sixpence, a cheaper edition at five shillings was published in October 1932).
- 1943, Dodd Mead and Company, As part of the Triple Threat along with Partners in Crime and The Mysterious Mr. Quin), Hardback
- 1955, Pan Books, Paperback (Pan number 326) 192 pp
- 1956, Avon Books (New York), Avon number 716, Paperback
- 1958, Pan Books, Paperback (Great Pan G139)
- 1961, Bantam Books, Paperback, 198 pp
- 1989, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 192 pp
- 2007, Facsimile of 1924 UK first edition (HarperCollins), November 5, 2007, Hardcover, 326 pp ISBN 0-00-726520-4
Chapters from the book appeared in Agatha Christie's Crime Reader, published by Cleveland Publishing in 1944 along with other selections from Partners in Crime and The Mysterious Mr. Quin.
First publication of stories
All of the stories were first published, unillustrated, in the UK in The Sketch magazine. Christie wrote them following a suggestion from its editor, Bruce Ingram, who had been impressed with the character of Poirot in The Mysterious Affair at Styles. The stories first appeared in The Sketch as follows:
- The Adventure of "The Western Star": April 11, 1923 - Issue 1576
- The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor: April 18, 1923 - Issue 1577
- The Adventure of the Cheap Flat: May 9, 1923 - Issue 1580
- The Mystery of Hunter's Lodge: May 16, 1923 - Issue 1581
- The Million Dollar Bond Robbery: May 2, 1923 - Issue 1579
- The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb: September 26, 1923 - Issue 1600
- The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan: March 14, 1923 - Issue 1572 (under the title The Curious Disappearance of the Opalsen Pearls)
- The Kidnapped Prime Minister: April 25, 1923 - Issue 1578
- The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim: March 28, 1923 - Issue 1574
- The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman: October 24, 1923 - Issue 1604
- The Case of the Missing Will: October 31, 1923 - Issue 1605
In the US, all of the stories first appeared in the monthly Blue Book Magazine. Each story carried a small, uncredited illustration. The publication order was as follows:
- The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan: October 1923 – Volume 37, Number 6 (under the title Mrs. Opalsen’s Pearls)
- The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim: December 1923 – Volume 38, Number 2 (under the title Mr Davenby Disappears – the character’s name was changed throughout this original magazine publication)
- The Adventure of The Western Star: February 1924 - Volume 38, Number 4 (under the title The Western Star)
- The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor: March 1924 – Volume 38, Number 5 (under the title The Marsdon Manor Tragedy)
- The Million Dollar Bond Robbery: April 1924 – Volume 38, Number 6 (under the title The Great Bond Robbery)
- The Adventure of the Cheap Flat: May 1924 – Volume 39, Number 1
- The Mystery of Hunter's Lodge: June 1924 – Volume 39, Number 2 (under the title The Hunter’s Lodge Case)
- The Kidnapped Prime Minister: July 1924 – Volume 39, Number 3 (under the title The Kidnapped Premier – although the title "Prime Minister" was used within the text of the story)
- The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb: August 1924 – Volume 39, Number 4 (under the title The Egyptian Adventure)
- The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman: December 1924 – Volume 40, Number 2 (under the title The Italian Nobleman)
- The Case of the Missing Will: January 1925 – Volume 40, Number 3 (under the title The Missing Will)
- The Chocolate Box: February 1925 – Volume 40, Number 4
- The Veiled Lady: March 1925 – Volume 40, Number 5
- The Lost Mine: April 1925 – Volume 40, Number 6
Publication of book collection
The preparation of the book marked a further downturn in the relationship between Christie and the Bodley Head. She had become aware that the six-book contract she had signed with John Lane had been unfair to her in its terms. At first she meekly accepted Lane's strictures about what would be published by them but by the time of Poirot Investigates Christie insisted that their suggested title of The Grey Cells of Monsieur Poirot was not to her liking and that the book was to be included in the tally of six books within her contract - the Bodley Head opposed this because the stories had already been printed in The Sketch. Christie held out and won her case.
This was the first Christie book to carry no dedication.
The dustjacket front flap of the first edition carried no specially written blurb. Instead it carried quotes from reviews for In the Mayor's Parlour by J. S. Fletcher whilst the back flap carried the same for The Perilous Transactions of Mr. Collin by Frank Heller.
- German: Poirot rechnet ab (Poirot Takes a Task), first edition in 1959: Poirot rechnet ab: Kriminalgeschichten (Poirot Takes a Task: Crime Stories)
Die Augen der Gottheit (The Eyes of the Deity)
Die Tragödie von Marsdon Manor (The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor)
Die mysteriöse Wohnung (The mysterious Flat)
Das Mysterium von Hunter's Lodge (The Mystery of Hunter's Lodge)
Der raffinierte Aktiendiebstahl (The Sly Bonds Robbery)
Das Abenteuer des ägyptischen Grabes (The Adventure of The Egyptian Tomb)
Der Juwelenraub im Grand Hotel (The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Hotel)
Der entführte Premierminister (The Kidnapped Prime Minister)
Das Verschwinden von Mrs. Davenheim (The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim)
Das Abenteuer des italienischen Edelmannes (The Adventure of The Italian Nobleman)
Das fehlende Testament (The Missing Will)
- Russian: Пуаро ведёт следствие (=Puaro vedyot sledstvie, Poirot holds investigation)
- Spanish: Poirot Investiga
- French: Les Enquêtes d'Hercule Poirot