The Million Dollar Bond Robbery is a short story written by Agatha Christie, which was first published in The Sketch in May 1923 in the U.K. The story was published in the U.S. in The Blue Book Magazine in April 1924 as "The Great Bond Robbery. In 1924 also, the story appeared as part of the anthology Poirot Investigates.
After a million dollars of American bonds have gone missing on board a ship on the way to New York, the fiancée of the bank officer responsible for transporting them approaches Poirot for help.
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Poirot is asked by Esmée Farquhar, the fiancée of Philip Ridgeway to prove his innocence. Ridgeway is the nephew of Mr Vavasour, the joint general manager of the London and Scottish Bank. A million dollars of bonds have gone missing whilst in Ridgeway's care. Ridgeway had been entrusted by his uncle and the other general manager, Mr Shaw, to take a million dollars of Liberty Bonds on board the liner Olympia to New York to extend the bank’s credit line there. The bonds were counted in Ridgeway’s presence in London, sealed in a packet and then put in his portmanteau that had a special lock on it. Just a few hours before the liner was due to dock at New York, the portmanteau had been found open and the packet had disappeared.
Strangely enough, attempts had obviously been made to break into the portmanteau but its lock had been opened. It was as though after trying hard to rifle the box, the robber realised he had the key all along. Customs were alerted. The ship was sealed and searched, as was everyone who disembarked but to no avail.
Nonetheless, the thief evidently succeeded in getting the bonds to New York because there were reports that they had been sold, with one buyer even saying he bought them before the Olympia docked.
Poirot then questions the two general managers who confirm what Ridgeway has said. He then travels to Liverpool where the Olympia has just returned. He questions some stewards learns that an elderly man named Ventnor in glasses had occupied the cabin next to Ridgeway's. He was an invalid and hardly left his cabin and was one of the last to leave the ship.
Poirot meets back with Ridgeway and his fiancé and explains the case to them. The real bonds were never in the portmanteau. Instead they were posted to New York on another, faster, liner, the Gigantic, which arrived a day before the Olympia. The confederate at the other end had instructions to begin selling the bonds only when the Olympia docked but he failed to carry out his orders properly, hence one sale took place half an hour before docking. In the portmanteau was a false packet that Ventnor took out with a duplicate key and threw overboard. Ventnor was Mr Shaw who claimed he was off work for two weeks due to bronchitis during the time Ridgeway was sailing. Shaw had a duplicate key and had ordered the lock. During the voyage, he stayed mostly in his cabin and was the last to leave the ship to avoid meeting Ridegway.
References to other works
- Poirot mentions that The Method of Laverguier is unsuitable for long sea voyages. If it were not so, he would have liked to sail on an ocean liner for there one meets "the elite, the haute noblesse of the criminal world!"
Film, TV, or theatrical versions
Agatha Christie's Poirot
A television film with David Suchet as Poirot was produced as episode 3 of Series 3 of the ITV series Agatha Christie's Poirot, first broadcast on 13 January 1991. The adaptation is faithful to the main premise of the original story but the barebones plot had to be substantially embellished and filled out with new characters added and many scenes dramatised.
- 1923 The Sketch, Issue 1579 (London), 2 May 1923
- 1924 Blue Book Magazine, Vol. 38 No. 6, April 1924 (as "The Great Bond Robbery")
- 1924 Poirot Investigates, Bodley Head (London), 1924
- 1925 Poirot Investigates, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1925