The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding and a Selection of Entrées is a short story collection written by Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club on 24 October 1960. It is the only Christie first edition published in the UK that contains stories with both Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, the writer's two most famous detectives. It retailed in the UK for twelve shillings and sixpence (12/6) and comprises six cases. It was not published in the US although the stories it contains were published in other volumes there.
The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, or The Theft of the Royal Ruby
- Main article: The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding
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.
The Mystery of the Spanish Chest
- Main article: The Mystery of the Spanish Chest
Poirot's attention is caught by newspaper headlines which tell of the latest developments in the "Spanish Chest Mystery". At his request Miss Lemon prepares a précis of the case. A Major Charles Rich held a small party at his flat. The next morning, Rich's manservant noticed what seemed to be bloodstains on a rug that were seeping from a Spanish chest in the corner of the room. Opening it, the startled man found the stabbed body of Mr Clayton.
The Under Dog
- Main article: The Under Dog
Sir Reuben Astwell was murdered ten days previously at his country house, Mon Repos, when he was violently hit on the back of the head with a club and his nephew Charles Leverson has been arrested. Sir Reuben's wife, Lady Astwell, is convinced that the true criminal is the late man's secretary and she sends her young companion, Lily Margrave, to Poirot to employ him on the case.
Four and Twenty Blackbirds
- Main article: Four and Twenty Blackbirds
Poirot is eating out with a friend, Henry, and the conversation turns to people's habits. Henry eats regularly in the restaurant that they are in and he points out a white-bearded man as evidence of his theories. However when he man deviates from his usual eating habits he is dead weeks later. Poirot is curious and decides to investigate.
- Main article: The Dream
The reclusive and eccentric millionaire Benedict Farley consults Poirot about a strange dream he keeps having in which he commits suicide. Although Poirot isn't impressed it's not long before Farley is dead.
- Main article: Greenshaw's Folly
Raymond West gets drawn into the most deadly adventure when he visits Greenshaw's Folly. The lady of the house is drawing up a will, but when she is murdered a few days later, all the suspects have alibis. Can West's aunt, Miss Marple solve the case?
Literary significance and reception
Maurice Richardson of The Observer of December 18, 1960 said, "She has never been at her best in the short form. These six are exceedingly far from masterpieces. Yet they engender a ghost of the old Christmas number euphoria, still, and may ease you during a plethora, or one of those Stations of the Cross on wheels, called railway journeys."
Robert Barnard: "A late collection, with several of the 'long-short' stories which suit Christie well. Less rigorous than her best, however, and the last story, Greenshaw's Folly, has a notable example of Miss Marple's habit of drawing solutions from a hat, with hardly a trace of why or wherefore."
References to other works
- Poirot's reference to believing 'six impossible things before breakfast" in The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding is a quotation from chapter 5 of Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll when Alice says that she cannot believe in impossible things and the White Queen replies that she hasn't had enough practice and that she, 'always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.'
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
Agatha Christie's Poirot
All five of the Poirot stories were adapted to television as part of the series Agatha Christie's Poirot. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding was adapted under the American name The Theft of the Royal Ruby. The story was also slightly altered.
Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple
The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding and Four and Twenty Blackbirds have been adapted for the Anime series Agatha Christie no Meitantei Poirot to Marple (2004).
- 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
First publication of stories
- 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 expanded version appeared after publication of the book in the weekly magazine Women's Illustrated from 24 December 1960 to 7 January 1961 under the alternative title of The Theft of the Royal Ruby with illustrations by Zelinksi. The story first appeared in the US in Double Sin and Other Stories in 1961 also under the title of The Theft of the Royal Ruby with some slight revisions to the UK version. The original shorter version has so far not been published in the U.S.
- The Mystery of the Spanish Chest is an expanded version of the story The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest which appeared in issue 493 of the Strand Magazine in January 1932. The original shorter version was eventually reprinted in book form in the UK collection While the Light Lasts and Other Stories in 1997. The true first publication of the expanded version was in three instalments in Women's Illustrated from September 17 to October 1, 1960 with illustrations by Zelinksi. In the US, the shorter version was published in the Ladies Home Journal in January 1932 and the expanded version eventually appeared in the US in The Harlequin Tea Set in 1997.
- The Under Dog was first published in the UK in The London Magazine in October 1926 although its first true printing was in the US in Volume 8, Number 6 of The Mystery Magazine in April 1926. The story's first true appearance in book form was in the UK in 2 New Crime Stories, published by The Reader's Library in September 1929 (the other story in the volume was Blackman's Wood by E. Phillips Oppenheim).
- Four and Twenty Blackbirds was first published in the UK in the Strand Magazine in issue 603 in March 1941 under the title of Poirot and the Regular Customer although its first true printing was in the US in The Mystery Magazine in April 1926.
- The Dream was first published in the UK in The Strand Magazine in issue 566 in February 1938.
- Greenshaw's Folly was first published in the UK in Woman's Journal in August 1960, just two months before its first book publication in this volume.
US book appearances of stories
- The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest (the earlier version of The Mystery of the Spanish Chest) and The Dream appeared in The Regatta Mystery.
- The Under Dog appeared in The Under Dog and Other Stories.
- Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds appeared in Three Blind Mice and Other Stories.
- German: Ein diplomatischer Zwischenfall (A Diplomatic Incident)
- Ein diplomatischer Zwischenfall (A Diplomatic Incident)
- Die spanische Truhe (The Spanish Chest)
- Der Prügelknabe (The Whipping Boy)
- Vierundzwanzig Schwarzdrosseln (Four And Twenty Blackbirds)
- Der Traum (The Dream)
- Greenshaws Monstrum (Greenshaw's Monster)