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The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim is a short story written by Agatha Christie. It was first published in The Sketch in March 1923 in the U.K. The story was published in the U.S. in The Blue Book Magazine in December 1923 under the title "Mr Davenby Disappears". In 1924, the story appeared as part of the collection Poirot Investigates.


A well-known banker has disappeared. For Poirot, this is a case to be solved not so much by clues but with "the little grey cells". Japp bets him five pounds to solve the mystery within a week without leaving his house.

Plot summary[]

(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)

Over tea, Poirot, Hastings and Japp discuss the mysterious disappearance of the banker Mr Davenheim. Despite the energetic industry of the investigating officer Inspector Miller, Poirot says "the little grey cells" would solve the case more efficiently. Japp bets five pounds that Poirot cannot solve the case within one week without leaving his flat. Poirot insists that he can do it, provided all the facts are laid before him.

Japp details the case, as it stands, to Poirot. Mr Davenheim had seemed in normal spirits when last seen; he had left the city and returned to his country home, "The Cedars", at midday on a Saturday. Later in the afternoon, he went out across the large grounds of the house to post some letters, saying that he would quickly return as he was expecting a business visitor. Said visitor, Mr Lowen, duly arrived and was shown into the study to await Davenheim's return. However, Mr Davenheim did not return, and Mr Lowen left in a temper. When Mr Davenheim was still missing Sunday morning, the police were called. On the Monday, it was discovered that the concealed safe in Davenheim's study had been broken into and the contents taken out – cash, a large amount of bearer bonds, and a substantial collection of jewelry.

Because he was present at the house at the time of the disappearance, Lowen, who had some grievances against the missing banker, has been put under police observation. He had been to see Davenheim on a matter of South American shares; Davenheim had interests there, and supposedly had spent all the previous autumn in Buenos Aires. Poirot is interested in the fact that a gardener had seen an unknown man approaching the rose garden of the house, which has a boating lake and boathouse beyond. He also considers Davenheim's long hair, mustache, and bushy beard to be of significance.

The next day, Japp returns with the news that Davenheim's clothes have been found in the boating lake, and that they have arrested Lowen. A common thief called Billy Kellett, known to the police after having served three months the previous year for pick-pocketing, saw Lowen throw Davenheim's ring into a roadside ditch on the Saturday. Kellet picked it up and pawned it in London, got drunk and disorderly on the proceeds, and now has landed himself in police custody.

Poirot poses question to Japp: Did Mr. and Mrs Davenheim share a bedroom? When Japp reports that Davenheim and his wife had been sleeping in separate bedrooms since last winter, Poirot perceives the truth of the matter. He warns Hastings and Japp to withdraw any funds they have in Davenheim's bank before it collapses; the next day, this predicted event occurs rather dramatically, and Poirot reveals his solution.

Davenheim knew of his bank's financial troubles, and started to prepare a new life for himself. Last autumn, he did not go to South America but instead took on the identity of Billy Kellett. He served three months in jail at the same time he was supposed to be in Buenos Aires. On the Saturday, Davenheim had robbed his own safe before Lowen (whom he was setting up) arrived at the house. Davenheim 'disappeared' by removing his hair and beard - which were false - changing clothes, and allowed himself to be arrested as Kellett, knowing no one would think of looking for a missing man in jail. Davenheim and his wife had been sleeping in separate bedrooms because he had to shave his beard to become Billy Kellett, and had to put on a false wig and beard after coming back as himself.

Poirot suggests, correctly, that Mrs Davenheim will easily be able to identify Billy Kellett as her husband. The next day, a letter arrives with Japp's five pounds. Poirot is so embarrassed to "rob a child" that he decides to take his friends to dinner.


Cultural references[]

  • Newspaper: The Daily Megaphone
  • Horseracing: Entfield

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[]

A television film with David Suchet as Poirot was produced as episode 5 of Series 2 of the ITV series Agatha Christie's Poirot, first broadcast on 4 February 1990. The adaptation is faithful to the original story.

Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple[]

The novel was adapted as an anime film for television as episode 35 of the NHK anime series Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple and broadcast on 17 April 2005.

Publication history[]