The December prompt for Read Christie 2022 is ‘a story containing precious jewels’ and the book chosen for the group read is Hercule Poirot’s Christmas. I read that one a few years ago, so decided to try The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding instead. This is a collection of six short stories and although only the first one contains precious jewels and has a festive theme, I thoroughly enjoyed reading all six of them!
Agatha Christie herself selected the stories for this collection and the first five in the book are Poirot mysteries. In the title story, The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, Poirot joins the Lacey family at their country house, supposedly to experience a ‘typical English Christmas’. However, unknown to the family, he has another motive for attending their Christmas celebrations – he is hoping to track down a precious ruby stolen from a foreign prince. Although I felt that the title gave away part of the mystery – it’s obvious that the pudding is going to have some significance – there are still some twists before the full solution becomes clear. And I loved the Lacey children who decide to present Poirot with a murder as a special Christmas treat!
The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding was apparently inspired by Christie’s own memories of spending Christmas at Abney Hall, her sister’s home in Cheshire (presumably without the stolen jewels and murders). The other four Poirot stories in this collection are not set at Christmas, but are equally enjoyable to read. The Mystery of the Spanish Chest, in which a dead body is found in a chest after a party, is excellent. I had no idea who the culprit was or how the crime was carried out and I loved watching the plot unfold. The Under Dog, where Poirot investigates the death of a man who has been hit on the head with a club, is another good one. It’s quite complex and involved and I think it could easily have been developed into a full length novel.
The next two stories are quite unusual. In Four and Twenty Blackbirds, a man who usually dines in the same restaurant every Tuesday and Thursday without fail suddenly turns up on a Monday and asks for food he has never ordered before. Poirot is intrigued, particularly when he hears three weeks later that the man has died after an accidental fall downstairs. I found part of the solution easy to guess, but again there’s more to this story than it would seem at first! Then, in The Dream, Poirot is summoned by an elderly millionaire who is having a recurring dream in which he shoots himself with a revolver. When the old man does actually die a few days later in exactly the manner he has described, Poirot is called back to investigate. I loved this one – it’s very cleverly done!
After all of these Poirot mysteries, it was nice to see Miss Marple make an appearance in the final one, Greenshaw’s Folly. In this story, the elderly Miss Greenshaw, the current owner of the house known as Greenshaw’s Folly, is murdered in the garden just after making a new will. Miss Marple is brought into the mystery by her nephew Raymond West, whose niece has been working at the house, and through her usual methods – a knowledge of human nature and trying to decide who the various suspects remind her of – she proceeds to solve the mystery.
Overall, this is a great collection and I hope I’ve managed to give you a taste of each story without spoiling them too much. I’m looking forward to taking part in Read Christie 2023 next year!