Tuesday ‘Tec! The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie

One for the Christmas stocking…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Unlike a lot of collections put together by editors, Agatha Christie herself originally selected the stories for inclusion in this one, now reprinted by HarperCollins in a gorgeous special edition hardback complete with shiny foil highlights on the cover and delightfully Christmassy endpapers. In her original introduction, also included in the book, Christie tells us:

This book of Christmas fare may be described as ‘The Chef’s Selection. I am the Chef!

There are two main courses: ‘The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding’ and ‘The Mystery of the Spanish Chest; a selection of Entrées: ‘Greenshaw’s Folly’, ‘The Dream’ and ‘The Under Dog’, and a Sorbet: ‘Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds’.

Just six then, but most of them are longer and more substantial than a typical short story, allowing room for full mysteries complete with multiple suspects, plenty of motives and clues galore. I find this longer length works better in the mystery genre – sometimes when a story is very short, it’s also fairly obvious, with no room to hide those essential red herrings. The title story is the only one with a specifically festive setting, and Christie tells us that the Christmas house party in it is based on her own childhood experiences of Christmases spent with relatives in Abney Hall in the north of England.

I loved this collection. I’d read it before long ago and have read a couple of the stories more recently in other anthologies, but the rest had faded into the vast echoing recesses of my dodgy memory banks so that it felt as if I was reading them for the first time. I rated every story as either 4½ or 5 stars, and the fun of the stories was enhanced by the pleasure of reading it in such a well produced edition. Since I’d find it hard to choose favourites, here’s a very brief flavour of each story:

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding – When a young Middle-Eastern prince has a precious ruby stolen, he persuades Poirot to spend Christmas at a house party in King’s Lacey, where the thief is also a guest, in hopes of retrieving the stone without scandal. It’s a fun story with lots of humour, a kindly hostess and some delightful children who decide to give Poirot a murder for Christmas!

The Mystery of the Spanish Chest – On the morning after a party, a body is found in a Spanish chest in the room where the party had been held. A man is quickly arrested, but the wife of the murder victim is convinced he didn’t do it, and asks Poirot for help. Not sure that this one is fair play, but it has a good “impossible crime” element to the solution and some enjoyable characterisation, with a very Christie-esque version of a femme fatale.

The Under Dog – When bad-tempered old Sir Reuben is murdered, it appears only his nephew had the opportunity, and he is arrested. But Sir Reuben’s widow is sure that Sir Reuben’s secretary is the guilty man and calls on Poirot to prove it. Poirot makes it clear that he will consider all the suspects equally though. And first, he has to discover if the nephew is really innocent. Nice twist in the howdunit aspect of this, and it turns out that many people may have had motives. I was satisfyingly surprised when the identity of the murderer was revealed.

Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds – Poirot and a friend are dining out when the friend points out an old man who eats regularly in the restaurant, always ordering the same dishes. However, the waitress tells them that the week before he had suddenly ordered a meal full of dishes he normally avoided. When Poirot later hears that the old man has died after an accidental fall downstairs, he is suspicious and sets out to investigate. The solution here may be a bit obvious, but it’s interestingly told, turning on how we all tend to be creatures of habit.

The Dream – Rich old Benedict Farley summons Poirot, He has been having a recurring dream in which he ends up shooting himself, and wants to know if Poirot thinks someone could be hypnotising him to kill himself. Poirot says no and is dismissed. But a few days later, Farley dies, apparently in exactly the manner of his dream. Finding Poirot’s name in the old man’s diary, the police call him in. This is very well done, and I enjoyed it even though I had a distinct memory of whodunit.

Greenshaw’s Folly – Greenshaw’s Folly is a house built by a rich man, long dead. His elderly granddaughter now owns the place, and she has been dropping hints to various people that she intends to leave them the house in her will. A niece of Miss Marple’s nephew is working for the old lady, going through old Greenshaw’s diairies, so when the old lady is murdered, Miss Marple becomes involved. An excellent story, and a special treat to have a Miss Marple story to round off the collection.

Great stories and a lovely book – perfect gift material for the vintage mystery fan in your life, or better yet, for yourself! Ho! Ho! Ho!

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, HarperCollins.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

49 thoughts on “Tuesday ‘Tec! The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie

    • A couple of the stories seem to turn up quite regularly in anthologies – the Christmas Pudding and the Spanish Chest are both ones I’ve read fairly recently. But happily I never mind re-reading Christie – she’s always entertaining!

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  1. I love this collection. I recently watched the Suchet adaptation of The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding for the first time, and enjoyed it very much, though it wasn’t quite as Christmassy as I remember the story being.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not sure I’ve seen that Suchet one – usually when I’ve watched them I get visual flashbacks while I’m reading, which is what happened to me with The Dream. I could actually see Poirot and the room where it happened! I love the kids in the Christmas Pudding – I always think she does children well, especially boys. 😀

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  2. These really are great stories, FictionFan! I’ve read them in other collections, and they’re quite well done, in my opinion. You know, I hadn’t thought about Christie’s own Christmases growing up, but I wonder if she wasn’t at times nostalgic for them. In both The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding and her novel Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, one of the characters talks about wanting a real ‘proper’ or ‘old-fashioned; Christmas. Of course, Poirot then talks about central heating! But still, I wonder about that…

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    • I’ve come across a few of them in other collections too, but it was nice seeing what ones Christie herself had selected for the book. I think you may be right – certainly in her brief preface to this she talked about her fond remembrances of those long ago Christmases in Abney Hall. I hadn’t realised she was related to the gentry, though I probably shouldn’t be surprised by it!

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  3. Sounds a lovely collection. I have no memory of whether I have read it but some of the stories I do remember from other collections. The details are hazy enough that I’d be able to enjoy them again. The actual book itself with the cover details and end papers sounds lovely.

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    • Two or three of them turn up quite often in anthologies, I think, but there were still a couple that I couldn’t remember much at all. Happily I can re-read Christie over and over – she’s so entertaining! Yes, much though I’m a fan of my Kindle and paperbacks, It’s a treat to read a nicely produced hardback now and again! 😀

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  4. As tempted as I am, I must restrain my impulse to add yet another book to my Christmas stocking. I just bought myself The Love Songs of W.E.B. Dubois (clocking in at 816 pages!!! What was I thinking??) that’s waaaaay too big to fit into a stocking.

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    • Hahaha, you’ll need to make sure you leave out your stretchiest stocking – and probably have your chimney widened! 😉 I saw The Love Songs of WEB Dubois on NetGalley and was tempted but decided I couldn’t fit it in. I’ll be interested to hear what you think of it…

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  5. This sounds like such fun! I’ve already completed my shopping for this year, but I think it would be great for some folks next year… myself included!! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I saw this book, in the flesh, in a book store in the UK FF, and I debated buying it because I had seen you mention it on your blog a few weeks ago and was intrigued. I didn’t end up purchasing it b/c I bought more books during my trip to the UK and couldn’t fit it in – but I so wanted to! I was in Oxford for the week with my husband, and I ate lots of chocolate so you would have been proud. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to head north to Scotland and pay you a visit 🙂

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