The Arcadian Deer is a short story by Agatha Christie which was first published in the U.K. in The Strand Magazine in January 1940. In the U.S. it was first published in This Week in May 1940. In 1947, the story was grouped with 11 others, a foreword was added, and published as The Labours of Hercules.
The setting is on the eve of one of Poirot's many planned retirements. He wants his crowning achievement to be a series of 12 cases which he will specially selected to match those of the Twelve Labours of Heracles in Greek mythology. In the sequence of the labours pursued by Poirot, The Arcadian Deer is the third of twelve. It is preceded by The Lernean Hydra and followed by The Erymanthian Boar.
Poirot helps a garage mechanic find a girl he is interested in but who has disappeared. He had spent only one day with her and doesn't know much about her background. Poirot takes the case because the mechanic, handsome and well-built, reminds him of a shepherd in Arcady.
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Poirot is diverted to stay in an English village inn when his chauffeur-driven car breaks down. Although he doesn't appreciate the badly cooked meal he is served, he does enjoy relaxing in front of the fire in his room after his walk through the snow to reach the establishment He is interrupted by the mechanic who is trying to repair the car. The young man – Ted Williamson – is impossibly handsome and well-built, like a Greek god, and Poirot is reminded of a shepherd in Arcady. Williamson knows of Poirot's reputation and asks him to trace a young girl who has disappeared. The previous June, Williamson was called out to a large house nearby called 'Grasslawn' to repair a broken radio. The house owners and their guests were out boating and he was shown in by the maid to a Russian ballet dancer who was staying there. The golden-haired maid was called Nita and Williamson fell for her. He went out for a walk with her and she said she would be back with her mistress in two weeks time and would see him again but when the time had come for their second meeting, the maid was different. The new maid, Marie Hellin, gave him an address in North London to write to contact Nita - but his letter came back unanswered. Poirot visits this address and was told the girl, an Italian, had returned to her home country. She is described by the landlady as dark-haired and bad-tempered, whereas the girl Williamson described was golden-haired. Poirot tries to trace Nita through her former employer, Katrina Samoushenka, but is told that the dancer has gone to Switzerland. He also speaks with the owner of 'Grasslawn', Sir George Sanderfield, who remembers Marie – with some unease - but doesn't recall a maid on the first occasion of Madame Samoushenka's visit to his house, and thinks Poirot is mistaken. Marie is the subject of Poirot's next visit. She was employed in the last week of June when the previous maid had left, possibly due to illness. She hints that she knows something of Sir George that Poirot would like to know, but the detective doesn't take up the offer, much to her annoyance.
Poirot speaks to his contact in the theatre world who tells him the dancer has gone to Vagray Les Alpes in Switzerland, suffering from tuberculosis, and that her maid was an Italian from Pisa. Poirot travels to Pisa to find from her family that Nita Valetta – whom they call "Bianca" - had appendicitis and died on the operating table. Poirot has seemingly reached the end of his quest, but something troubles him and he moves on to Switzerland where he finds Samoushenka in poor health. She confirms Poirot's suspicions that Marie Hellin was blackmailing Sir George Sanderfield, and that Marie's predecessor, Nita, has died. Poirot points out that Nita's family called her 'Bianca'. He notices Katrina's golden hair and puts it to her that on the visit to Sanderfield's house in June, she was between maids – Bianca had left and Marie had not yet been employed. Samoushenka was, in fact, 'Nita', or 'Incognita' to give her a full name, and she enjoyed several hours of pleasure in Arcady with her Greek god when he called at the house and the others were out. She does not deny his story. Then, he convinces Katrina to start a new life with Williamson. His quest for the Arcadian deer is at an end.
- Hercule Poirot
- Ted Williamson
- Sir George Sanderfield
- Marie Hellin
- Bianca Valetta
- Ambrose Vandel
- Katrina Samoushenka
- Count Alexis Pavlovitch
- Village of Hartly Dene
- Black Swan Inn
- Vagray les Alpes
- Poirot had been travelling in a Messaro Graz.
- Poirot considered this case to be one of the longest and most difficult problems he had ever tackled.
Film, TV, or theatrical versions
Agatha Christie's Poirot
A television film with David Suchet as Poirot was produced as episode 4 of Series 13 of the ITV series Agatha Christie's Poirot, first broadcast on 6 November 2013. The themes from several stories in the collection were woven loosely together for the plot of the film and one of the key strands used came from the main premise of The Arcadian Deer.
- 1940: The Strand Magazine, Issue 589 (London), January 1940 - with illustrations by Ernest Ratcliff
- 1940: This Week, (New York), 19 May 1940 - (as "Vanishing Lady") with illustrations by C. C. Beall
- 1947: The Labors of Hercules, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1947, Hardback, 265 pp
- 1947: The Labours of Hercules, Collins Crime Club (London), September 1947, Hardback, 256 pp
- 1956: The Creasey Mystery Magazine, vol. 1 no. 1, Aug 1956.