Murder in the Mews is a collection of four short stories featuring Christie’s Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. The stories are a quick read, but, I can’t say all of them are interesting. On the contrary, I believe I encountered two of Christie’s weakest works in this book. Of the other two stories, one is decidedly intriguing, but, the other- Murder in the Mews– is boring for most parts. Being an ardent admirer of Christie’s works, I have always found her books engrossing. But, I say this with chagrin- this collection of stories failed to be so.
Title: Murder in the Mews
Author: Agatha Christie
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publishing Date: 2002, First published in 1937
Genres: Crime Fiction, Mystery
From Goodreads: 1 Murder in the Mews – Miss Jane Plenderleith calls Inspector Japp, who consults Poirot, when room-mate Mrs Barbara Allen found shot, locked in, pistol wiped clean in opposite hand.
2 The Incredible Theft – Lord Mayfield and Sir George Carrington call Poirot when trap to catch attractive American widow Mrs Vanderlyn backfires and important papers vanish.
3 Dead Man’s Mirror – Telegram from Sir Gervase Chevenix-Gore summons Hercule Poirot too late. He is dead, locked behind solid door.
4 Triangle at Rhodes – In Greek vacation resort, Poirot observes Valentine Chantry flirt with Douglas Gold despite mousy wife Marjorie.
Murder in the Mews
The first story of the lot is- Murder in the Mews. The story takes readers to No.14- an apartment block in London’s Bardsley Gardens Mews, to investigate the suicide of a young widow. Accompanying the readers are our own Hercule Poirot and Inspector Japp, who sense something fishy in this case of suicide. Then begins the routine search, interrogations, and cross-examinations of the people and places associated with the case. We see Poirot using his methods to form his little ideas and then using them to understand the psychology of the crime. I liked the conversations between Poirot and Japp, which were comical at times.
The ending of this story is excellent making it a unique Hercule Poirot case. But, despite of a smashing ending, I would term this a boring story. From the time the crime was discovered till we come to learn the solution, this story is slow-paced and dull. For one, the suspects are shown to behave a bit too suspiciously making it quite obvious that they are not involved in the crime. Secondly, there are no surprising clues or revelations along the storyline till we reach Poirot’s ‘parlour-room’ style dissection of the crime. This made the story dull and didn’t make me feel like reading the story ravenously to know whodunit!
The Incredible Theft
This has to be the weakest story of the collection. I didn’t find anything incredible about the theft. It occurs at the mansion of a wealthy Lord Mayfield, who, besides being a powerful political figure, also is a first-class engineer. He hosts an intimate party at his place, where he plans to discuss a top-secret government project with his close friend Air Marshal Sir George Carrington. To the surprise of his guests, he has invited a woman with a scandalous past to this party. This woman, Mrs Vanderlyn, is infamous for playing a key role, yet remaining undetected, in several crucial political issues of powerful countries. Lord Mayfield confides in his friend Sir Carrington that he has invited their infamous guest to expose her and caught her red-handed in the act. Later that evening, the papers of the government project are stolen and on Sir Carrington’s insistence Hercule Poirot is called upon to investigate the case.
The plot of the story is weak. There was nothing ingenious about the way the theft was carried out. An incident that occurs during the theft, which is supposed to be very important and directly related to the theft, is later revealed to be completely unrelated with a very silly explanation. It was clear from the start that though, all suspicion would be directed towards Mrs Vanderlyn, she can’t be the culprit. We know that Christie never even hints, left alone reveals, the identity of the culprit right from the beginning. But, interestingly in this story, Christie provides readers with a piece of evidence right at the start, which when seen from a psychological point of view does unveil the actual thieve. And guess what? Owing to this evidence, my mind for once worked like Poirot and I understood the psychology of the crime (partly) that lead me to suspect the actual thieve right from the start. I was glad that my suspicions were correct, but, was really disappointed with this bland story.
Dead Man’s Mirror
This is an intriguing story and has an eerie feel to it. I found it the best of the four, though, a strand inferior than several other Poirot stories. The story is put into motion when Poirot receives a telegram from an eccentric Sir Chevenix-Gore asking him to immediately come down to his place for an urgent matter. Sir Chevenix-Gore suspects that he is the victim of fraud and seeks Poirot’s assistance. But, on arrival, Poirot finds Sir Chevenix-Gore murdered, shot through the head.
This story presents a very interesting set of characters. Everyone, but the killer (whom I couldn’t guess), is shown to have a motive for murdering Sir Chevenix-Gore. Despite of being a short story, all characters are fleshed out in great details. Every character, during their interview with Poirot, reveals one or other astonishing fact that kept me riveted to the story. Not only did I crave to know the identity of the murderer, but, I also was intrigued to know how the crime was committed. The identity of the murderer was unexpected (for me) and the way the crime was carried out proved out to be marvellous.
Though, the identity of the murderer took me by surprise, I couldn’t help but wonder whether this person actually possessed the skills, strength, and wit to commit such an elaborately well planned, cold-blooded murder. I found it kind of unconvincing that this person was capable of committing the ingenious murder.
Triangle at Rhodes
The final and the shortest story of the collection, barely reaching 50 pages. Though, the setting, a sunny vacation spot on the Greecian coast, and the interesting characters seemed alluring, this story turned out to be a weakling. The plot was rushed, lots of drama, no action until we reach the final 10 pages. The triangle refers to a love triangle, but, Christie makes the readers look at the wrong triangle of people. Of course, Poirot knew which three were actually involved in the love triangle. The way the crime was committed was simple. Like most Christie novels, the perpetrator was unexpected and had an accomplice. What irritated me the most was knowing that the murderer planned the crime with this particular accomplice. This is because as the murderer and the accomplice seemed quite different personas, I couldn’t fathom why would the murderer choose this particular person.
This collection of short stories left a bitter-sweet taste as it contained- one intriguing, one mediocre, and two very weak stories. Readers not fond of Poirot may not find this book palatable, but, those like me who adore Poirot can definitely go for it despite its many flaws.
♥♥—Overall Rating: 2/5