The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest is a short story by Agatha Christie which was first published in The Strand Magazine in January 1932 in the U.K. In the same month and year, the story was also published in the U.S. in Ladies' Home Journal. In 1939, the story was gathered and included in the collection The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories in the U.S. In the U.K., the story was gathered and published in the collection While the Light Lasts and Other Stories in 1997.
The story was later expanded into novella form and was published as The Mystery of the Spanish Chest with some changes to the names of the characters (and the omission of Captain Hastings who appears in this story)
Bewitching Mrs Clayton appeals to Poirot to help exonerate her lover Major Rich, indicted for her husband’s murder. Mr Clayton’s body had been found in a chest, but who put it there?
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
8 The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest
Poirot is intrigued to get involved with the case of the body in the Baghdad Chest. The facts are that the body of Mr Clayton was found in the Baghdad Chest by the Butler, the morning after the owner of the house, Major Charles Rich, had held a small gathering of his friends. The group were: Mr and Mrs Spence, Major Curtiss, Mr and Mrs Clayton.
However Mr Clayton couldn’t make it as he had to go to Scotland at the last minute – but he had gone round to the Major’s house and left a note to say why he wasn’t attending the Dinner Party. The Major has been arrested for the murder.
Poirot becomes involved when Mrs Clayton asks him to investigate as she is convinced it is not the Major that did it. (She admits that she has been having a long term affair with the Major).
Poirot interviews the Butler (the only other person who could have done the deed) at the scene of the murder. He discovers the Chest seemed to have holes drilled in the sides and that a screen had been moved (this would have obscured the chest and its contents from view on the night of the party). To Poirot this meant that the murder could have happened later than previously thought. Poirot is convinced it was not the Butler or Major Rich but there was a third possible murderer.
Poirot learns that the Spences were regularly dancing that night and also that Mrs Clayton danced with Major Rich a lot. This left Major Curtiss who did not do any dancing and it was he who was in charge of putting on the music.
It turns out that he had convinced Clayton to hide in the Chest (hence the breathing holes) to see if his wife was being unfaithful. Curtiss was then able to go behind the screen and stab the drugged Clayton in the neck during the party as the others danced! He did this because he was in love with Mrs Clayton and this way he got rid of both his rivals!
- Hercule Poirot
- Captain Hastings
- Inspector Japp
- Edward Clayton
- Marguerita Clayton
- Major Jack Rich
- Major Curtiss
- Mr Spence
- Mrs Spence
- Lady Alice Chatterton
Film, TV, or theatrical versions
Agatha Christie's Poirot
The title of the expanded story, The Mystery of the Spanish Chest was used for the TV film adaptation which was episode 8 of Series 3 of ITV's Agatha Christie's Poirot drama series. The character names in the adaptation are, however, closer to those in this story. The clue of the gimlet, for example, is in this story and the adaptation but not in the expanded story.
- 1932 The Strand Magazine, Issue 493, January 1932
- 1932 Ladies' Home Journal Volume LIIX, Number 1, Meredith Corporation (Philadelphia), January 1932
- 1939 The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1939
- 1997 While the Light Lasts and Other Stories, HarperCollins (London), 1997