With Chanukah nearly over and Christmas just a few weeks away, this is a busy time of year for many of us. A lot of folks may find it difficult to squeeze in a good mystery novel in the limited time available this month. So let me propose today that, whenever you need a short break from reality, you consider spending a few minutes with one of the greatest storytellers ever to come out of the mystery genre.
I'm talking, of course, about Agatha Christie, the acknowledged mistress of misdirection, who could pack enough entertainment into a short story to keep her readers interested (and usually fooled) every time. Christie's best known creation remains that neat, orderly, intelligent Belgian-turned-English detective, Hercule Poirot. He appeared in dozens of novels, to be sure, but he also starred in 51 short stories and novellas. All those shorter works are now available again in Hercule Poirot: The Complete Short Stories, which publisher William Morrow (a HarperCollins imprint) has reissued as a trade paperback, complete with a new foreword by Charles Todd. Hercule Poirot: The Complete Short Stories is the subject of this week's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.
This collection of stories runs to nearly 900 pages, and it really is not the kind of book you want to sit down and read cover to cover. It is far better to dip into the book when you feel the need for a good, well-constructed mystery that can be read and digested in anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or two. These are stories to savor about a detective who today, nearly a century after his first appearance in print remains a favorite with readers all around the world. Poirot really is at his best in so many of these stories, as he exercises those "little grey cells" to solve case after case, crime after crime. There are plenty of murders, to be sure, but also a variety of other crimes. Among my favorites are the stories originally published as "The Labours of Hercules," in which Poirot, now retired, is determined to solve just twelve more cases - if he can find puzzles that, in some way, are linked to, or symbolic of, the original twelve labors performed by the mythological hero Hercules.
Enough. In his foreword to this book, Charles Todd writes, "A gift for friends, a treasure for yourself. Hercule Poirot: The Complete Short Stories is not to be missed." I agree completely.
Let me also thank Sally Powers of the I Love a Mystery newsletter for providing me with a copy of the book for review and for permitting me to republish here part of what I wrote in a review for the newsletter.