The Double Clue is a short story written by Agatha Christie, which was first published in The Sketch in December 1923 in the U.K. The story was published in the U.S. in The Blue Book Magazine in August 1925. It was later gathered as part of the anthology Double Sin and Other Stories published in 1961 by Dodd, Mead and Company in the U.S. In the U.K. the story was not anthologised until it was included in Poirot's Early Cases in 1974. It is the first appearance of the recurrent character Countess Vera Rossakoff.
A valuable emerald necklace has been stolen and Poirot is asked to help. At the scene of crime, Poirot finds two clues: a glove and a cigarette case engraved with initials. But for Poirot, two is too many.
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Hercule Poirot is called in by Marcus Hardman, a collector of various antique precious objects, to investigate a jewel robbery. The theft occurred from his safe when he was holding a small tea party at his house. He showed his guests his collection of medieval jewels and later discovered that the safe had been rifled and the objects taken. Four of his guests had the opportunity to take the items – Mr Johnston, a South African millionaire only just arrived in London; Countess Vera Rossakoff, a refugee from the Russian revolution; Bernard Parker, a young and effeminate agent for Mr Hardman, and Lady Runcorn, a middle-aged society lady whose aunt is a kleptomaniac.
Poirot examines the scene of the crime and finds a man's glove and a cigarette case with the initials "BP". He visits Bernard Parker who appears suspicious when he states that the glove isn't his - but vehemently denies owning the cigarette case. Nevertheless Poirot finds the twin of the glove in the hallway of Parker's house. Later that day, Poirot receives a visit from the Countess Rossakoff who is indignant that Poirot is pursuing Parker. Previously suspicious that the Countess may not be a real Russian, Poirot is forced to admit that the impressive lady is who she says she is. That evening, Hastings is surprised to see Poirot studying a book on Russian grammar.
The next day he visits Hardman and tells him who the thief is. The collector is astonished and leaves Poirot to pursue the matter without police involvement. Poirot and Hastings then visit the Countess and Poirot calmly tells the lady that his taxi is waiting and that he would be obliged if she would give him the jewels. She, equally calmly, does so. They part on good terms, the Countess admitting that Poirot is one of the few people she fears. He in turn is very impressed by the Russian. He tells Hastings that it was the double clue of the glove and the case which made him suspicious. If both were planted to incriminate Parker, it would have been too false: therefore only one of the clues was genuine and the other a deception. As the cigarette case was not Parker's, that must have been the genuine clue. The case belonged to the Countess whose initials – VR – are BP in Cyrillic, hence Poirot's perusal of the book on Russian grammar.
- Hercule Poirot
- Captain Hastings
- Marcus Hardman
- Bernard Parker
- Katherine Bird
- Mr Johnston
- Countess Vera Rossakoff
- Lady Runcorn
- Lady Caroline
References to other works
Film, TV, or theatrical versions
Agatha Christie's Poirot
- 1923: The Sketch, Issue 1610 (London), 5 December 1923
- 1925: The Blue Book Magazine, Vol. 41 No. 4, August 1925
- 1956: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, vol. 28 no. 1, whole no. 152 Jul 1956.
- 1956: Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (UK), no. 42, Jul 1956.
- 1956: Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (Australia), no. 111, Sep 1956.
- 1961: Double Sin and Other Stories, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1961
- 1974: Poirot's Early Cases, Collins Crime Club (London), September 1974, Hardcover, 256 pp; ISBN 0-00-231312-X