The Kidnapped Prime Minister is a short story written by Agatha Christie which was first published in The Sketch in April 1923 in the U.K. The story was published in the U.S. in The Blue Book Magazine in July 1924. In 1924 also, the story appeared as part of the anthology Poirot Investigates.
The Prime Minister has been kidnapped and Poirot has 24 and a quarter hours to find him in time for him to attend an important peace conference. To everyone's dismay, including Hastings, Poirot seems to spend most of the time doing the exact opposite of what he is expected to do.
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Towards the end of the First World War, Arthur Hastings calls on Poirot in his rooms to discuss the sensational news of the day - no less than the attempted assassination of the Prime Minister, David MacAdam. Soon they are interrupted by two important visitors; Lord Estair, Leader of the House of Commons and Bernard Dodge, a member of the War Cabinet. They enlist Poirot for help with a national crisis – the Prime Minister has been kidnapped. He was on his way to a secret peace conference to be held the next day at Versailles. He arrived in Boulogne-sur-Mer where he was met by what was thought to be his official car but it was a substitute. The real car was found in a side road with its driver, an ADC bound and gagged. As they tell Poirot the details, news reaches them by special courier that the bogus car has now been found abandoned and containing Captain Daniels, the Prime Minister’s secretary, chloroformed and gagged. His employer is still missing. Poirot wants to know the full details of the shooting that took place earlier and is told it occurred on the way back from Windsor Castle when, accompanied again by Daniels and the chauffeur, Murphy, the car took a side road and was surrounded by masked men. Murphy stopped and one them shot at the P.M., but only grazing his cheek. Murphy shot off, leaving the would-be murderers behind.
The P.M. then stopped off at a small cottage hospital to have his wound bandaged and then went straight on to Charing Cross Station to get the Dover train. Murphy has also disappeared, the P.M.’s car being found outside a Soho restaurant frequented by suspected German agents. As Poirot packs to leave for France he voices his suspicions of both Daniels and Murphy and wonders why such a melodramatic event as "shooting by masked men" took place before the kidnap. Poirot goes over the channel with various detectives involved in the case, among them Japp. Once in Boulogne he refuses to join in the search but sits in his hotel room and thinks for several hours, using the "little grey cells". Suddenly seeing daylight he returns to Britain where, in an official car, he begins a tour of cottage hospitals to the west of London. They then call at a house in Hampstead, the police raid it and recover both Murphy and the Prime Minister.
The villain of the piece was Daniels who kidnapped both men in the shooting, taking to London substitutes with the "P.M.’s" face disguised by bandages from a shooting that, in fact, had never occurred and Poirot’s search of the cottage hospitals proved that no one’s face was bandaged up that day. The "kidnap" then took place in France, leaving the investigation concentrated there when the real P.M. had never left the country. Daniels was known to have a "sister" near Hampstead but she is in fact Frau Bertha Ebenthal, a German spy for whom Poirot has been searching for some time. The real Prime Minister is whisked off to Versailles for the conference.
- Hercule Poirot
- Captain Hastings
- Inspector Japp
- Mr David MacAdam
- Lord Estair
- Mr Bernard Dodge
- Captain Daniels
- Mrs Everard
- Miss Daniels
- Detective Barnes
- Major Norman
- Captain Lyall
- How could Lord Estair, a peer of the realm, have been Leader of the House of Commons?
- The mentions in the text clearly indicate the events in this story took place during World War 1. Hastings says he has been invalidated out of the army and had been given a recruiting job but dropped in on Poirot from time to time. Thus this story comes after The Mysterious Affair at Styles in terms of timeline, and before stories such the other short stories in The Sketch which concerned events after the war.
Film, TV, or theatrical versions
Agatha Christie's Poirot
A television film with David Suchet as Poirot was produced as episode 8 of Series 2 of the ITV series Agatha Christie's Poirot, first broadcast on 25 February 1990. The adaptation is faithful to the main premise of the original story with a change of setting from 1918 to the 1930s and changes to the backstories and involvement of some characters.
Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple
A two-part anime film was produced by NHK as episodes 9-10 of their series Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple and broadcast in September 2004.
- 1923: The Sketch, Issue 1578 (London), 25 April 1923
- 1924: The Blue Book Magazine, Vol. 39 No. 3 (Chicago), July 1924 (as "The Kidnapped Premier")
- 1924: Poirot Investigates, Bodley Head (London), 1924
- 1925: Poirot Investigates, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1925
- 1934: The Master Thriller Series, no. 4, Tales of Mystery and Detection, Mar 1934.
- 1949: Short Story Magazine (Australia), no. 61, Aug 1949.
- 1960: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, vol. 35 no. 6, whole no. 199, Jun 1960.
- 1960: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (Australia) , no. 158 Aug 1960.
- 1960: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (UK) , no. 91, Aug 1960.