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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 anthology Poirot Investigates.

SynopsisEdit

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 summaryEdit

(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)

Over tea, Poirot, Hastings and Japp discuss the mysterious disappearance of the banker Mr Davenheim. Notwithstanding the industry of the investigating officer Inspector Miller, Poirot says that this case must be solved not so much with clues but with "the little grey cells". Japp bets five pounds with Poirot to solve the case within one week without leaving his house. Poirot says he can do it, provided all the facts are laid before him.

The facts of the case are that Davenheim arrived at his country house "The Cedars" from the city at midday on a Saturday. He seemed normal and went out to post some letters late in the afternoon saying that he was expecting a business visitor, a Mr. Lowen, who should be shown into the study to wait his return. Mr Davenheim did not return and no trace of him could be found once he left the grounds. The police were called on Sunday morning and 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 jewellery.

Despite being in the study, Lowen had not been arrested, but was under observation. He had been to see Davenheim on a matter of South American shares. Davenheim had interests there and had spent all the previous autumn in Buenos Aires. Poirot is interested in the fact that a gardener had seen a figure approaching the rose garden of the house which has a boating lake and boathouse beyond and also that Davenheim wears his hair rather long with a moustache and bushy beard.

The next day Japp returns with the news that Davenheim's clothes have been found in the 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. He picked it up and pawned it in London, got drunk on the proceeds, got arrested and is himself in 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 knows the answer. He tells Hastings and Japp to withdraw any funds they have in Davenheim's bank before it collapses. When the next day this predicted event occurs 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 he had robbed his own safe before Lowen (whom he was setting up) arrived at the house. When Davenheim 'disappeared' he was already in police custody as Kellett and 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 beard after coming back as himself.

Poirot suggests that Mrs Davenheim can easily 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.

CharactersEdit

Film, TV, or theatrical versionsEdit

Hercule Poirot (The Disappearance of Mr Davenheim)Edit

"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 PoirotEdit

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.

Publication history Edit

  • 1923 The Sketch, Issue 1574 (London), 28 March 1923
  • 1923 Blue Book Magazine, Vol. 38 No. 2 (Chicago), December 1923 (as "Mr Davenby Disappears")
  • 1924 Poirot Investigates, Bodley Head (London), 1924
  • 1925 Poirot Investigates, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1925
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