Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: Stories by Agatha Christie


A few nights ago I decided to read some short stories from a collection of Hercule Poirot stories. I read the first two in the book: "The Affair at the Victory Ball" and "The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan," both first published in 1923.

The stories were very good. I enjoyed the descriptions of Poirot, his quirks, and the appearance of Inspector Japp. In these stories the narrator was Captain Hastings. Some of my favorite novels in that series were the ones that Hastings narrates. 

However there was one problem... I have seen all of the Poirot adaptations with Suchet recently and I remembered the stories, who did it, how it was solved. All of it. 

So I moved on to a book that has a few stories by various sleuths created by Agatha Christie. 13 for Luck has stories featuring Hercule Poirot, Jane Marple, Harley Quin, Mr. Parker Pyne, Inspector Evans, and Tommy and Tuppence. I read three stories featuring Jane Marple. My favorite story was “Tape-Measure Murder,” from the collection Three Blind Mice (AKA The Mouse Trap).

“Tape-Measure Murder” by Agatha Christie

This story begins with a dressmaker, Miss Pollitt, waiting at the door of a house. She has brought a new dress for Mrs. Spenlow to the house because it is ready for fitting. But she has knocked and knocked and gotten no answer, although she had scheduled an appointment. After much discussion, Miss Pollitt and a neighbor, Miss Hartnell, look into the window of the front room and discover that Mrs. Spenlow is lying on the floor, dead.

As soon as the police start investigating, the husband is the main suspect. Miss Marple gets involved because Mr. Spenlow has used her as his alibi, in a sense. He got a call from Miss Marple to come by and consult with her at 3:30. When he showed up she was not at home. Miss Marple tells the police that she never called Mr. Spenlow, but that he did come by when she was out.

The solution to the mystery is complex and satisfying, and there is a very clever clue which should have given it away, but certainly did not alert this reader. Miss Marple figures it all out, of course.

The other two stories featuring Miss Marple were from The Tuesday Club Murders. The stories were good, but I did not like them as well as the "Tape-Measure Murder." Yet I think I will find a copy of that book, because the characters in the stories are a lot of fun.

I welcome suggestions for other short stories or collections by Agatha Christie, if you have any to recommend.


Cath said...

My Agatha Christie short story reading tends mainly to be from the British Library themed short story collections which are cherry picked a bit and thus I can't remember any that stood out. I've just checked Goodreads and I've read Miss Marple's Final Cases which I apparently liked enough to give it 5 stars (you'd think it was eons ago but no, it was in 2019). I've also marked as 'want to read', Midwinter Murders: Fireside Tales From the Queen of Mystery, an anthology of mixed short stories. It does seem to have several Poirot tales but it might be worth looking at it on Goodreads to see if it will suit.

pattinase (abbott) said...

In the period when I read everything written by Christie, I am sure I read these. But it's been so long now I may try some again. So hard to pull of a good whodunnit in a short story.

George said...

I love the cover on 13 FOR DINNER! DELL Books used William Teason's wonderful artwork for dozens of Christie covers.

Margot Kinberg said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed the short stories you read, Tracy. I think Christie wrote some fine short stories that don't always get the recognition they deserve. She experimented with different sorts of stories and protagonists, too, which I always liked

Rick Robinson said...

I’ve probably read them all, that Marple sounds familiar, and I do like her stories. I should try to mix in some of hers.

TracyK said...

Rick, I will definitely be looking for more stories about Miss Marple. Except for the big book of Hercule Poirot stories, all the books of Agatha Christie short stories I have are in tiny print, and I need some that are more readable.

TracyK said...

Cath, I checked out Miss Marple's Final Cases and it looks good, it does have the “Tape-Measure Murder” story in it too. Midwinter Murders also looks pretty good, and it must have decent print size since it is a recent book. There is also a book of all 20 of her stories, Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories. I also want to finish all of the 6 remaining Miss Marple novels that I have not read yet in the next year.

TracyK said...

Patti, I agree, I have found many of the Golden Age short stories I have read to be so so as far as the puzzle part of it goes. So if they don't make good use of the characters, the stories can be less entertaining for me. I enjoy the characters in Christie's stories and that adds to their pleasure for me.

TracyK said...

George, that is a good cover. I love skulls on book covers. I thought it was by William Teason, but I could not find a credit on the book, so I did not mention that.

TracyK said...

Margot, I have plenty more of Agatha Christie's short stories to read. I haven't read any Mr. Quin stories or Parker Pyne. I have read the Tommy and Tuppence short story book.

FictionFan said...

I really enjoyed The Tuesday Club Murders. They were variable, as short story collections usually are, but the basic premise of the same group of people sharing stories and Miss Marple outsmarting them all each time is a lot of fun. I know what you mean about Poirot stories - I frequently get flashes of the TV adaptations when I try to read them!

Todd Mason said...

Most of the Christie short stories I've read so far, and not so many of them, have been Poirot stories, and I've enjoyed her using Poirot to mock certain aspects of her fellow Britons, not least their apparently awful French of the era (and perhaps still...considering how they tend to muddle Spanish loan-words). I wonder if the class snobbery others here have accused her of (and not they alone) are more in evidence in the stories I haven't read, or the (many, Many) novels of hers I've yet to touch...AND THEN THERE WERE NONE being the only one I've read. I've read most of what I have read in various anthologies and ELLERY QUEEN'S back issues, of the magazine and the ANTHOLOGY magazine issues...haven't ever settled down with one of her collections as yet.

Sam said...

I hate when I watch a TV adaptation and only later discover that I want to read the original because even though I start out believing I don't remember the details much, it's just about impossible to forget who the murderer is. Maybe I should read those more from the standpoint of trying to identify the clues and red herrings used by the author instead...might be more fun that way.

TracyK said...

FictionFan, The Tuesday Club Murders is definitely on my list of books to find in an edition with decent print. Strangely, I avoided that book when I first started reading the Miss Marple books again, because I did not like short stories. Now, I am a big fan of short stories, even though the stories in most collections and anthologies are variable.

When we started watching the Suchet TV adaptations of the Poirot mysteries, I would not watch any of the adaptations of the novels until I had read the book first. But I went ahead and watched the short story adaptations first. Oh well.

TracyK said...

Todd, I have not read many stories by Agatha Christie, but I have read almost all of the Hercule Poirot novels and some Miss Marple novels and some stand alone books.

TracyK said...

Sam, I often forget how movies end (given enough time) but am more likely to remember how a book ends. Regardless, I always prefer to read the book first if I can do that. Of course there are the movies that I have watched multiple times before I read the book, like The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep.

Your idea of reading the books in those situations more from the point of view of the clues provided is a good one. My husband suggested that I read each Hercule Poirot story more for a comparison to how it was adapted and how the adaptation differs, and I may do that. Since I really enjoy reading about Poirot.

col2910 said...

I read some Marple short stories years ago and enjoyed them, though I can't remember what ones they were. I don't feel pre-disposed to try more of Christie's short stuff, I think I'll continue to dip in and out of her novels.

Todd Mason said...

For the hell of it, here's what I've been posting around to draw some eyes and clicks:

assembled by Patricia Abbott:

Jerry House:
"The Night Man" by Lucille Fletcher (radio play, first broadcast on SUSPENSE in 1944, published in THE SAINT'S CHOICE OF RADIO THRILLERS, editorially attributed to Leslie Charteris, Saint Enterprises 1946)

Tracy K:
"Tape-Measure Murder" (THIS WEEK magazine supplement, 16 November 1941), and other stories by Agatha Christie

George Kelley;

Todd Mason:
"Dog Stories" by Francine Prose, SPECIAL REPORT: FICTION magazine, November 1990-January 1991 (Animals issue)

Richard Robinson:
ARROWSMITH the comics series by Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco, Wildstorm Comics 2004

Kevin Tipple:
THE KILLER WORE CRANBERRY: ROOM FOR THIRDS edited by J. Allan Hartman (Untreed Reads 2013)

Kristopher Zgorski:
"The Little Men" by Megan Abbott (2015 chapbook)


thanks for commenting!

TracyK said...

Col, I agree, reading the novels is better than the short stories, in Christie's case.

TracyK said...

Todd, Thanks for adding the link to Patti's post here, with notes about the other stories.