The Lost Mine is a short story by Agatha Christie which was first published in The Sketch in November 1923 in the U.K. In the U.S., the story was first published in The Blue Book Magazine also in April 1925. The story was gathered and included in the U.S. edition of the collection Poirot Investigates published by Dodd, Mead and Company in the U.S. in 1925. In the U.K., the story was not anthologized until it was included in Poirot's Early Cases in 1974.
Hercule Poirot and Hastings are discussing investments and Poirot informs Hastings that his only speculative investment is in fourteen thousand shares in Burma Mines Ltd which were given to him as a gift for services rendered.
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Hercule Poirot and Hastings are discussing investments and Poirot informs Hastings that he has no thing of that kind except for fourteen thousand shares in Burma Mines Ltd which were given to him as a gift for services rendered. He offers to tell the story of what service he provided and Hastings gladly listens. The mines in question were originally silver mines, discovered by the Chinese in the fifteenth century. The silver was all worked out but plenty of lead remained, not considered being of value at the time but definitely worthy of exploitation at the time of the story. The mine itself was lost, the only clue to its location being old papers in the hands of a Chinese family. The head of the family, Wu Ling, agreed to negotiate a sale of the papers and travelled to England to complete the transaction. Wu Ling was supposed to be met by one of the syndicate company directors, Mr Pearson, in Southampton but his train there was delayed with the result that Wu Ling made his own way to London where he booked into the Hotel Russell Square and telephoned the company to say that he would see them the next day. He failed to appear at the meeting and the hotel was contacted. They said Wu Ling had gone out earlier with a friend. He still failed to appear at the offices throughout the day. The police were contacted and the next evening the Chinaman's body was found floating in the Thames.
Poirot was called in and immediately started to investigate people who shared the voyage to England with Wu Ling. He was able to ascertain that one of them, a young bank clerk called Charles Lester, was the man who called for Wu Ling at his hotel on the morning of the disappearance. Mr Lester was quickly tracked down and told a story of having been asked by Wu Ling to call for him at 10:30 am. Instead his servant appeared and asked him to accompany him to where Wu Ling now was. Their taxi took them to Limehouse where Lester started to get nervous and got out of the taxi before they reached their destination and that was the end of his supposed connection with the affair.
However Wu Ling was proven to have no servant and the taxi driver was tracked down who said that he took both men to a known opium den from where Lester alone emerged looking ill half an hour later. Lester was arrested but the papers about the mine could not be found. Pearson suggested to an outraged Poirot that they go in disguise to Limehouse themselves and investigate the opium den. Poirot did go (but not in disguise) and, pretending to be "customers" overheard a conversation between some of the Chinamen about the death of Wu Ling and the fact that Lester certainly had the papers. Poirot and Pearson managed to get out of the den quietly.
Poirot quickly found the papers – Pearson had them. Pearson had run up large gambling debts and so contrived the scheme to get the map and some money. He had indeed met Wu Ling in Southampton (everyone had his word only that he had failed to meet the visitor) and taken him direct to Limehouse where Wu Ling was held by some of Pearson's associates from the Chinese underworld. Poirot surmised that probably, Pearson's original plan was to one of his Chinese associates pose as Wu Ling and "receive" money from his company for the sale of the map. However Pearson's Chinese associates must have thought it was simpler to kill Wu Ling. This threw Pearson into a panic. Fortunately, he had learnt earlier that Wu Ling had arranged to meet Lester. So Pearson sent one of his Chinese associates to lure Lester to Limehouse and set him up and incriminate for the murder. Lester did indeed enter the opium den and was drugged. Having only a hazy recollection and losing his nerve, he at first denied entering the den. Pearson's insistence in taking Poirot to Limehouse was an elaborate charade to divert the detective's suspicions but it had the opposite effect. Pearson was arrested with the map on him. Pearson's company subsequently rewards Poirot by giving him some shares in the Burmese mine.
Film, TV, or theatrical versions
Agatha Christie's Poirot
A television film with David Suchet as Poirot was produced as episode 3 of Series 2 of the ITV series Agatha Christie's Poirot, first broadcast on 21 January 1990. The adaptation made extensive changes to the backgrounds of the characters although the main premise is retained.
- 1923 The Sketch, Issue 1608 (London), 21 November 1923
- 1925 Blue Book Magazine, Vol. 40 No. 6 (Chicago), April 1925
- 1925 Poirot Investigates, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1925
- 1974, Poirot's Early Cases, Collins Crime Club (London), September 1974, Hardcover, 256 pp; ISBN 0-00-231312-X