The Flock of Geryon is a short story by Agatha Christie which was first published in the U.S. in This Week in May 1940. In the U.K. it was first published in The Strand Magazine in August 1940. In 1947, the story was grouped with 11 others, a foreword was added, and the whole collection 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, Geryon is the tenth of twelve. It is preceded by The Girdle of Hyppolita and followed by The Apples of the Hesperides.
Synopsis[edit | edit source]
Poirot meets Amy Carnaby again. This time she is worried that her friend has joined a religious sect led by a charismatic leader. It seemed he had been successful in attracting lonely but wealthy women. Many of them had made their wills in favour of the sect. Then, some time later, these women would die, always, it seemed, from natural causes.
Plot summary[edit | edit source]
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
Poirot is reacquainted with Miss Carnaby, the companion from the episode of The Nemean Lion, who Poirot praises as one of the most successful criminals he ever met. She is worried as she constantly thinks of illegal schemes which she is sure would work and she fears she is turning into a hardened criminal. She wants to put her talents to good use and assist Poirot in fighting crime in any way she can. She also has brought to him a possible case in which she can prove herself. She has a friend, Mrs Emmeline Clegg, who is a widow who is comfortably off and who in her loneliness has found comfort in a religious sect called "The Flock of the Shepherd" who are based in a retreat in Devon. Their leader is a handsome charismatic man called Dr Andersen. Mrs Clegg has found herself so caught up in the sect that she has left them all of her property in a will. Miss Carnaby is especially concerned as she knows of three women in a similar situation who have all died within the past year. She has investigated and found nothing unusual in the deaths, all of which were due to natural causes and none of them happened within the sanctuary but at the deceased's homes. Poirot asks Miss Carnaby to infiltrate the sect. She is to pretend to be dismissive of them and then, once within the sanctuary, be persuaded to be a convert.
Poirot consults Japp about the investigation. The Scotland Yard detective finds out that Andersen is a German chemist, expelled from a university there by the Nazis because he had a Jewish mother and that there is nothing suspicious about the deaths of the women whose names have been supplied by Miss Carnaby. Nevertheless Poirot views Andersen as the monster Geryon who he is determined to destroy. Miss Carnaby settles down at the sanctuary with Mrs Clegg and joins in a festival held at night – "The Full Growth of the Pasture". At the service, she is dismissive of the liturgy but suddenly feels a needle-prick in her arm. Almost instantly she starts to experience a feeling of well-being and euphoria which makes her sleep for a short while.
Soon afterwards she and Poirot consult and he checks that she has followed the remainder of her instructions: they are to tell Andersen that she is going to come into a large sum of money that she will leave to the sect, that she has problems with her lungs and that Mrs Clegg will soon inherit an even larger sum of money from an aunt than that which her late husband left her. Poirot also asks if she has met a Mr Cole at the sanctuary. Miss Carnaby has and to her he is a very strange man. As if to prove her assertion correct, soon afterwards Mr Cole accosts Miss Carnaby with tales of his strange visions which involve sacrifices, Jehovah and even Odin. She is saved from further strange tales by the arrival of Mr Lipscombe, the lodge-keeper of the Devonshire estate.
The day before the next divine service, Miss Carnaby meets Poirot in a local teashop. She seems to have had an about-face and tells Poirot that Andersen is a great man and that cannot betray him. She rushes out of the shop and Poirot sees that a surly-looking man has been listening into their conversation. The next service is proceeding and Miss Carnaby is about to be injected again when Mr Cole steps in. There is a fight and the police pour into the room. Mr Cole is in fact Detective Inspector Cole and he arrests Andersen.
Later the parties confer. The man in the teashop was Mr Lipscombe and when Miss Carnaby recognised him, she put on an act of allegiance to Andersen. Poirot realised this when he had the man followed back to the lodge. Andersen's chemistry background (although he was probably not a Jewish refugee) came in useful for preparing a hashish injection for his adherents and also for injecting them with relevant bacteria when he wanted to kill them in order to inherit the contents of their wills from them. The syringe that Andersen was about to inject Miss Carnaby with contained tuberculosis bacteria to tie in with the fictional ailment she told him about. The proof has been obtained in the laboratory in the sanctuary that the police have raided.
Characters[edit | edit source]
- Hercule Poirot
- Chief Inspector Japp
- Amy Carnaby
- Emily Carnaby
- Emmeline Clegg
- Dr Andersen
- Miss Everitt
- Mrs Lloyd
- Miss Lee
- Lady Western
- Detective Inspector Cole
- Reverend Thomas Carnaby
Locations[edit | edit source]
- Green Hills Sanctuary, Devon
Research notes[edit | edit source]
Film, TV, or theatrical versions[edit | edit source]
Agatha Christie's Poirot[edit | edit source]
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 but no plot elements from "The Flock of Geryon" were used.
Publication history[edit | edit source]
- 1940 This Week, (New York), 26 May 1940 - as "Weird Monster"
- 1940 The Strand Magazine, Issue 596 (London), August 1940 with illustrations by Ernest Ratcliff
- 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