The Regatta Mystery, by Agatha Christie

>> Monday, February 16, 2004

I'm reading many short stories this year, especially mystery short stories. The latest collection was The Regatta Mystery, by Agatha Christie.

Mr. Parker Pyne happens to be handy at a dinner party when an incredibly expensive diamond is stolen. The incomparable Hercule Poirot proves that a crowd is the best place for a murder. And Miss Marple solves a crime that stumped the police without ever leaving her fireside. This superb collection assembles all of Agatha Christie's top detectives to solve the most challenging cases of their careers
The stories included were the following:

Problem at Pollensa Bay - (1936) - Detective Parker Pyne helps two lovebirds make the boy's overprotective mama accept the girl. A bit predictable, but cute.

The Regatta Mystery - (1939) - Parker Pyne is called to investigate how a valuable diamond disappeared from a closed room. The owner, a diamond merchant, who always carried the gem on him, had passed it round the table, after a young girl in the party challenged him that she could "steal" it. It was well-done, but also pretty easy to guess what had happened.

The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest - (1932) - Narrated by Hastings, this story has Poirot investigate the death of a man found inside a chest. The owner of the house is suspected to have killed him and stuck him in the chest, and later have spent the evening at a party in that same room. Very cleverly plotted.

How Does Your Garden Grow? - (1935) - Poirot receives a mysterious letter from an elderly spinster who requests his help in a matter she doesn't disclose. Receiving no reply, Poirot makes inquiries and learns that she's died, poisoned with strychnine. Interesting story, but Christie didn't play fair here, since the reader isn't privy to the little detail that tips Poirot off to the solution.

Yellow Iris a.k.a. "Hercule Poirot and the Sixth Chair" - (1937) - Yet another mysterious summons (a phone call, this time), has Poirot hurrying into a case. The setting is a restaurant, where a widower intends to recreate the circumstances of his wife's death the previous year... Intriguing, but a bit preposterous.

Miss Marple Tells a Story - (1939) - This one's narrated by Miss Marple herself, to her nephew Raymond and his wife. She tells of a consultation made to her by her solicitor, asking her to help a client of his who's suspected of murdering his wife in a supposed "locked-room" mystery. Pretty good, and very Marple-ish solution, which I always enjoy.

In a Glass Darkly - (1934) - This one's not a mystery, but a supernatural story. It's narrated by a man who visits a friend's house and as soon as he arrives, before he's even met the rest of the family, has a supernatural experience. He's changing in front of the mirror and reflected behind him he sees a horrifying scene in the adjacent room: a young woman being strangled by a man with a scar on his face. On turning around, the door he was seeing the scene through is actually blocked by a huge armoire. Going down to meet the rest of the family, he discovers the young woman is his friend's sister, and that her fiancé has a scar in his face... Interesting story.

The Dream, a.k.a. "The Three Strange Points" - (1937) - Poirot is summoned by a reclusive millionaire and asked if he can help him with his problem. Apparently, the man has been dreaming every night of shooting himself at 3:28 PM, and he now wonders if it's possible that someone is attempting to hound him to death by controlling his dreams. Poirot, obviously, can offer no help. When Poirot hears that not long after that the millionaire in fact did commit suicide at precisely that hour, he decides to investigate again. Intriguing, but I did catch every single clue, so I guessed everything pretty easily.

Problem at Sea - a.k.a. "Poirot and the Crime in Cabin 66", "The Quickness of the Hand" - (1936) - During a sea trip to Alexandria, Poirot gets acquainted with his fellow passengers, including a colonel who used to be a vaudevill artist and his rich, jealous and always rude to him wife. When the boat gets to Alexandria, the wife is murdered, in a locked room, apparently at a time in which her husband has an unasailable alibi. Well constructed.

Nice, consistent collection. Even though Poirot is my favourite Christie sleuth, I enjoyed having some stories starring the others. Made for a little variety. A B.


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