The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding is a short story written by Agatha Christie first published in the U.K. as part of the collection The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding and a Selection of Entrées in 1960. In the U.S. the story was serialised in the This Week magazine in two instalments from 25 September to 2 October 1960 under the title "The Theft of the Royal Ruby" and then as part of the collection Double Sin and Other Stories, published by Dodd, Mead and Company in the U.S. in 1961. In the U.K., the story was also serialised in the weekly magazine Women's Illustrated from 24 December 1960 to 7 January 1961 also under the alternative title of "The Theft of the Royal Ruby".
The story is an expanded version of Christmas Adventure which had been published in The Sketch in December 1923. Compared the the 1923 text, the 1960 plot is played out in greater detail and includes some side plots. The character names are changed. The nature of the crime and the denouement remains the same.
Poirot is persuaded to spend an "old-fashioned English Christmas" at a country house in order to track down a ruby stolen from a foreign prince. The thought of Christmas in the English countryside at Kings Lacey, a fourteenth century manor house, makes Poirot shudder but he succumbs to the temptation when told that it has modern oil-fired central heating.
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Poirot is asked by a Mr Jesmond, who is acting as an intermediary to an eastern prince, to help that unfortunate young man with a problem he is having. The prince is due soon to be married to a cousin and he has been enjoying his final days of freedom with a dubious young woman in London. The prince brought several expensive jewels with him to London for resetting by Cartiers and one of them, a fabulous ruby, was stolen by the young woman. If it cannot be retrieved a scandal will ensue and because of this the police cannot be involved. The mystery can be solved at an old English country house called Kings Lacey where it will be arranged for Poirot to join a family there for their Christmas celebrations, supposedly to experience a typical English Christmas.
On Christmas Eve at Kings Lacey, Poirot is told about the other members of their party by Mrs Lacey, his elderly host in the house. Joining them will be her husband, Colonel Lacey; Sarah, a granddaughter by their deceased son; Colin, a teenage grandson by their daughter; Michael, a friend of Colin's at school; Bridget who is of the same age as Colin and Michael and is a great niece of Mrs Lacey's; Diana, a young cousin of Mrs Lacey's; and David Welwyn who is a family friend. Colonel and Mrs Lacey are perturbed by a relationship that Sarah is in with a young rake called Desmond Lee-Wortley. They both think him unsuitable for their granddaughter and have invited him to join them for Christmas in the hope that a few day's close contact with Sarah will show her how unsuitable he is, particularly in contrast to David Welwyn who has been friends with Sarah since childhood. Lee-Wortley is there with his sister who is recovering from an operation and is confined to her room, convalescing.
Colin, Michael, and Bridget are disappointed with Poirot as he does not meet their expectations of what a detective should look like. They hatch a plan to arrange a false murder for Poirot to detect with Bridget lying in the snow with blood as the "dead" body and footprints leading through the snow which is now falling and expected to grow heavier. They decide that they will put their plan into operation on Boxing Day as Colonel Lacey would not like something of that nature to take place on Christmas Day itself. That night, the Christmas tree is decorated and the party retire to their rooms for the night. On his pillow, Poirot finds a scrawled note which reads, "DON'T EAT NONE OF THE PLUM PUDDING. ONE WHO WISHES YOU WELL". He is most puzzled.
The next day, the party eats a huge Christmas dinner and then the elderly and partly retired butler brings in the Christmas pudding with great ceremony. The diners find the usual tokens in their portions but the Colonel is annoyed and amazed when he almost chokes on a piece of red glass in his. Poirot takes the object and pockets it. Afterwards Poirot visits the kitchen to complement the daily cook, Mrs Ross, on the meal and particularly the pudding. She confesses that two were made, one for today and one for New Year's Day but the one for today was dropped and the one for six days time substituted in its place. That night, Poirot pretends to sleep in his bed, having avoided drinking a drugged coffee which had been handed to him by Lee-Wortley. A figure enters his room and conducts a fruitless search.
The next morning, the children carry out their "murder" plan and rouse Poirot from his bed to investigate the "dead" body but the planners get a shock when Poirot confirms that Bridget is indeed dead. Sarah and Lee-Wortley having joined them in the snow, Poirot invites the young man to check Bridget's pulse and he confirms there isn't one. Poirot points out that the footprints in the snow look like Lee-Wortley's and that in the dead girl's hand is the glass "ruby" from the pudding. Lee-Wortley is dumbfounded but, taking the glass, offers to ring for the police. Claiming to Diana that the phone is dead, he drives off to fetch them. Poirot takes the others in the house where he explains all.
He tells them that Lee-Wortley is a blackmailer and involved in other questionable matters. His supposed sister is the young woman who took the ruby from the eastern prince and the two of them were tracked to Kings Lacey. Bridget appears in the room—she is not dead, having worn a tourniquet on her arm when lying in the snow—and she was in league with Poirot to trick Lee-Wortley. Poirot heard the children planning their "murder" through an open window and used this opportunity to take Lee-Wortley in. The "ruby" that Bridget held in the snow was a paste copy that Poirot brought with him to the house and Lee-Wortley has taken this with him. Poirot supposes that he will go abroad where he will be surprised when he tries to sell the false jewel. The real ruby was hidden by the two thieves in what they were told was the New Year pudding and they were unaware of the accident that befell the pudding intended for Christmas Day. Lee-Wortley's "sister" overhears this and is furious that her co-conspirator has left her to face the music. She too flees the house. The mystery of who left the note on Poirot's pillow is solved when one of the housemaids confesses that she heard Lee-Wortley and his "sister" discussing getting Poirot out of the way and that something had been put in the pudding, causing her to think they planned to poison him. He rewards her by promising her a vanity box, and gets a kiss from Bridget under the mistletoe.
- Hercule Poirot
- Mr Jesmond
- Prince Ali
- Desmond Lee-Wortley
- Miss Lee-Wortley
- Colonel Horace Lacey
- Mrs Emmeline Lacey
- Sarah Lacey
- Colin Lacey
- David Welwyn
- Edwina Morecambe
- Diana Middleton
- Mrs Ross
- Annie Bates
Film, TV, or theatrical versions
Agatha Christie's Poirot
A television film with David Suchet as Poirot was produced as episode 9 of Series 3 of the ITV series Agatha Christie's Poirot, first broadcast on 24 February 1991 under the American name The Theft of the Royal Ruby. The story was also slightly altered.
The entire family, including the thieves, discovers the ruby in the pudding during Christmas dinner, and Poirot, pretending that it is a fake, takes it to safeguard it in his room. When Bridget is apparently murdered, Poirot places the real ruby, not a paste one, in the supposedly dead girl's hand. Together with Gloria, a girlfriend who has been pretending to be his sister, Lee-Wortley, makes off with it. (Gloria had previously stolen the jewel while on a date with the Prince.) Lee-Wortley does not abandon Gloria to "face the music", as he does in the story. The two thieves try to make their getaway in a private plane which crashes into a field after a pursuit from David (who mistakenly believes Sarah is running off with Lee-Wortley). Poirot and the police are also there. The criminals, unhurt, are both arrested on the spot and the ruby is returned to the Prince. It is only afterwards that Poirot explains what has really been going on to the family. Bridget says goodbye to him at the end along with the others, but does not kiss him under the mistletoe.
Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple
- Main article: The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding (Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple)
A two-part anime film was produced by NHK as episodes 19-20 of their series Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple and broadcast during the Christmas season of December 2004.
The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding is an expanded version of the story of the same name which appeared in issue 1611 of The Sketch magazine on 11 December 1923. The original shorter version was first printed in book form in the UK in the two obscure collections Problem at Pollensa Bay and Christmas Adventure (Todd 1943) and Poirot Knows the Murderer (Polybooks 1946) and was then eventually reprinted in book form in the UK collection While the Light Lasts and Other Stories in 1997 under the title Christmas Adventure. The original shorter version has so far not been published in the U.S.
- 1960, The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding and a Selection of Entrées
- 1960, Collins Crime Club (London), 24 October 1960, Hardback, 256 pp
- 1963, Fontana (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 224 pp
- 2009, HarperCollins; Facsimile edition, Hardcover: 256 pages; ISBN 978-0-00-731352-5
- 1960 This Week magazine, 25 September 1960 - 2 October 1960 (Under the title "The Theft of the Royal Ruby")
- 1961, Double Sin and Other Stories (Under the title The Theft of the Royal Ruby, with some slight revisions to the UK version)
- 1961, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), Hardcover, 247 pp
- 1962, Pocket Books (New York), Paperback, (Pocket number 6144), 181 pp
- 1964, Dell Books, Paperback, 191 pp
- 1961 Women's Illustrated, 24 December 1960 - 7 January 1961, illustrated by Zelinksi (Under the title "The Theft of the Royal Ruby")
- Although this is stated in the wikipedia article on Double Sin and other stories, it is difficult to verify due to a lack of reliable sources.