Watching the detectives…
😀 😀 😀 😀 😀
Over the last few years, HarperCollins have been bringing out a series of lovely hardback collections of Agatha Christie short stories. Some have been reprints of existing collections, like The Tuesday Club Murders (aka The Thirteen Problems) or The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, while others are a mix of stories culled from various collections and put together to create a seasonal theme, such as Midsummer Mysteries and Midwinter Murder (which I haven’t read). This is their latest and, as you can tell from the title, it’s perfect for this time of year (unless you’re on the upside down half of the world!). If you’ve read a lot of Christie collections you may well find you’ve come across most of the stories before, but I always enjoy reading them again anyway and there are usually two or three in each collection that are new to me. Because these are taken from various other collections, there’s a real mix of detectives – Poirot and Miss Marple, of course, but also Tommy and Tuppence, Parker Pyne and Harley Quin, plus a couple of stories that don’t star one of her recurring ‘tecs.
There are twelve stories in this one, and since regular Christie readers might want to know whether there are enough unfamiliar stories to tempt them, here’s a list of all twelve with tiny synopses that hopefully will be enough to let you know if it rings bells. My rating is in brackets:
The Market Basing Mystery (4) – Poirot, Hastings and Japp are on a little break in Market Basing when a man is found dead. It looks like he’s shot himself, but the doctor thinks this isn’t possible. A man is arrested and it’s up to our three sleuths to determine whether he is guilty or innocent.
The Case of the Missing Lady (5) – A Tommy and Tuppence story from Partners in Crime. In this one, Tommy is playing Holmes. An adventurer returns from the North Pole to find that his fiancée is missing. Can T&T track her down? Manages to be both tense and humorous – delightful twist!
The Herb of Death (4½) – One from The Tuesday Club Murders, I think. (I’m basing all these references to original sources on my unreliable memory, so forgive errors and omissions!) Mrs Bantry tells of a house party where foxglove got mixed in with the sage. All the guests recovered but one – a young girl called Sylvia. Was it bad luck or deliberate murder, and if so, why? Miss Marple will soon tell us…
How Does Your Garden Grow? (4) – Poirot receives a letter from an old lady requesting his help in an unspecified matter, but before he sees her, she dies. With the help of Miss Lemon, he starts quietly investigating her household to see if her death was suspicious or merely convenient. Rather reminiscent of the plot of one of her novels.
Swan Song (4) – An unexpected death during a performance of Tosca kicks off this dark and well-told revenge tragedy – a standalone with none of the usual ‘tecs.
Miss Marple Tells a Story (5) – From Miss Marple’s Final Cases. A woman is murdered while sleeping in a hotel bedroom. Her husband is accused, and his lawyer turns to his old friend Miss Marple for help. She soon works out why it seems no one noticed the murderer enter the room. An excellent howdunit!
Have You Got Everything You Want? (5) – Parker Pyne is on a train journey to Venice when a fellow passenger asks for his advice. She is travelling to meet her husband, but before she left she saw a message on his blotting pad which has left her fearful that something is planned to happen just before they reach Venice. Well-told and quite humorous, especially the ending!
The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan (4) – A howdunit about a woman whose priceless necklace is stolen while she and her husband are dining with Poirot. Another one where the plot is overly familiar to provide much in the way of surprise.
Ingots of Gold (4½) – Another Tuesday Club one, I think, this time told by Miss Marple’s nephew Raymond. It’s quite convoluted for a short story, involving two lots of missing bullion – one from Spanish Armada days, and one from a recent shipwreck. Set in Cornwall, it’s well told and entertaining.
The Soul of the Croupier (5) – The story of an ageing Countess, past lover of many rich men who showered her with jewels. But now her charms are beginning to fade, and she’s desperate for money, having long ago turned all those jewels to paste. While there is a mystery starring Harley Quin, it’s really the oddly sympathetic depiction of the Countess that raises this one above the average.
The Girl in the Train (5) – Light Wodehousian romp as our young hero, George Rowland, gets mixed up in the elopement of a Balkan Princess, plus a spy ring, and falls in love. Silly, but fun!
Greenshaw’s Folly (5) – 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. When the old lady is murdered, Miss Marple becomes involved! An excellent story, taken from The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding.
As you can see, all the stories rated between 4 and 5 for me – it is Christie after all! So unless you’re already familiar with most of the stories, this would be a great way to sample her range of detectives. And the hardback editions all have lovely bright designs which make them an attractive gift idea for the Christie fan in your life!
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, HarperCollins.