The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding

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The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding
The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding First Edition Cover 1960.jpg
Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
AuthorAgatha Christie
Cover artistNot known
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
GenreCrime novel
PublisherCollins Crime Club
Publication date
24 October 1960
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Pages256 pp (first edition, hardback)
Preceded byCat Among the Pigeons
Followed byDouble Sin and Other Stories
 
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The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding
The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding First Edition Cover 1960.jpg
Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
AuthorAgatha Christie
Cover artistNot known
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
GenreCrime novel
PublisherCollins Crime Club
Publication date
24 October 1960
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Pages256 pp (first edition, hardback)
Preceded byCat Among the Pigeons
Followed byDouble Sin and Other Stories

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding and a Selection of Entrées is a short story collection written by Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club on 24 October 1960.[1] It is the only Christie first edition published in the UK that contains stories with both Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, the writer's two most famous detectives. It retailed in the UK for twelve shillings and sixpence (12/6)[1] and comprises six cases. It was not published in the US although the stories it contains were published in other volumes there.

Plot summaries[edit]

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, or The Theft of the Royal Ruby[edit]

Poirot is asked by a Mr Jesmond, who is acting as an intermediary to an eastern prince, to help that unfortunate young man with a problem he is having. The prince is due soon to be married to a cousin. On his way to be married, he met an attractive but obviously dubious young woman, and rashly decided to have a last fling with her. The prince brought several expensive jewels with him to London for resetting by Cartiers and one of them, a fabulous ruby, was stolen by the young woman. If it cannot be retrieved a scandal will ensue and because of this the police cannot be involved. The mystery can be solved at an old English country house called Kings Lacey where it will be arranged for Poirot to join a family there for their Christmas celebrations, supposedly to experience a typical English Christmas. On Christmas Eve at Kings Lacey, Poirot is told about the other members of their party by Mrs Lacey, his elderly host in the house. Joining them will be her husband, Colonel Lacey; Sarah, a granddaughter by their deceased son; Colin, a teenage grandson by their daughter; Michael, a friend of Colin's at school; Bridget who is of the same age as Colin and Michael and is a great niece of Mrs Lacey's; Diana, a young cousin of Mrs Lacey's; and David Welwyn who is a family friend. Colonel and Mrs Lacey are perturbed by a relationship that Sarah is in with a young rake called Desmond Lee-Wortley. They both think him unsuitable for their granddaughter and have invited him to join them for Christmas in the hope that a few day's close contact with Sarah will show her how unsuitable he is, particularly in contrast to David Welwyn who has been friends with Sarah since childhood. Lee-Wortley is there with his sister who is recovering from an operation and is confined to her room, convalescing. Colin, Michael, and Bridget are disappointed with Poirot as he does not meet their expectations of what a detective should look like. They hatch a plan to arrange a false murder for Poirot to detect with Bridget lying in the snow with blood as the "dead" body and footprints leading through the snow which is now falling and expected to grow heavier. They decide that they will put their plan into operation on Boxing Day as Colonel Lacey would not like something of that nature to take place on Christmas Day itself. That night, the Christmas tree is decorated and the party retire to their rooms for the night. On his pillow, Poirot finds a scrawled note which reads, "DON'T EAT NONE OF THE PLUM PUDDING. ONE WHO WISHES YOU WELL". He is most puzzled. The next day, the party eats a huge Christmas dinner and then the elderly and partly retired butler brings in the Christmas pudding with great ceremony. The diners find the usual tokens in their portions but the Colonel is annoyed and amazed when he almost chokes on a piece of red glass in his. Poirot takes the object and pockets it. Afterwards Poirot visits the kitchen to complement the daily cook, Mrs Ross, on the meal and particularly the pudding. She confesses that two were made, one for today and one for New Year's Day but the one for today was dropped and the one for six days time substituted in its place. That night, Poirot pretends to sleep in his bed, having avoided drinking a drugged coffee which had been handed to him by Lee-Wortley. A figure enters his room and conducts a fruitless search.

The next morning, the children carry out their "murder" plan and rouse Poirot from his bed to investigate the "dead" body but the planners get a shock when Poirot confirms that Bridget is indeed dead. Sarah and Lee-Wortley having joined them in the snow, Poirot invites the young man to check Bridget's pulse and he confirms there isn't one. Poirot points out that the footprints in the snow look like Lee-Wortley's and that in the dead girl's hand is the glass "ruby" from the pudding. Lee-Wortley is dumbfounded but, taking the glass, offers to ring for the police. Claiming to Diana that the phone is dead, he drives off to fetch them. Poirot takes the others in the house where he explains all. He tells them that Lee-Wortley is a blackmailer and involved in other questionable matters. His supposed sister is the young woman who took the ruby from the eastern prince and the two of them were tracked to Kings Lacey. Bridget appears in the room—she is not dead, having worn a tourniquet on her arm when lying in the snow—and she was in league with Poirot to trick Lee-Wortley. Poirot heard the children planning their "murder" through an open window and used this opportunity to take Lee-Wortley in. The "ruby" that Bridget held in the snow was a paste copy that Poirot brought with him to the house and Lee-Wortley has taken this with him. Poirot supposes that he will go abroad where he will be surprised when he tries to sell the false jewel. The real ruby was hidden by the two thieves in what they were told was the New Year pudding and they were unaware of the accident that befell the pudding intended for Christmas Day. Lee-Wortley's "sister" overhears this and is furious that her co-conspirator has left her to face the music. She too flees the house. The mystery of who left the note on Poirot's pillow is solved when one of the housemaids confesses that she heard Lee-Wortley and his "sister" discussing getting Poirot out of the way and that something had been put in the pudding, causing her to think they planned to poison him. He rewards her by promising her a vanity box, and gets a kiss from Bridget under the mistletoe.

The Mystery of the Spanish Chest[edit]

Poirot's attention is caught by newspaper headlines which tell of the latest developments in the "Spanish Chest Mystery". At his request Miss Lemon prepares a précis of the case. A Major Charles Rich held a small party at his flat. The guests were a Mr and Mrs Clayton, a Mr and Mrs Spence and a Commander McLaren. At the last minute, Mr Clayton received an urgent telegram summoning him to Scotland that night on business and did not attend the party. Shortly before the party, he had a drink with McLaren at their club where he explained his coming absence and then before going to the station, took a taxi to Rich's to offer his apologies. Rich was out but Burgess – Rich's manservant – let him in and left Clayton to scribble a note in the sitting room while he carried on his preparations in the kitchen. Some ten minutes later, Rich returned and sent Burgess out on a short errand. Rich denies seeing Clayton at the flat nor did Burgess after leaving the man to write his note. The party went well. The next morning, Burgess noticed what seemed to be bloodstains on a rug that were seeping from a Spanish chest in the corner of the room. Opening it, the startled man found the stabbed body of Mr Clayton. Rich has now been arrested as the obvious suspect but Poirot sees a flaw in that he cannot see how or why Rich would calmly have gone to bed with a bleeding corpse in the chest. He is able to start investigating the case when a mutual friend recommends him to Mrs Clayton.

Meeting the widow, he is struck by her beautiful innocence and realises quickly that she is attracted to Major Rich although she denies having an affair with him. She does admit that she wasn't in love with her closed and emotionless husband. He then sees each of the people involved in the party in turn who each agree about the charms of Mrs Clayton and the lack of emotion in her husband. Poirot has some suspicions of Burgess and goes to Rich's flat where the manservant shows him the scene of the crime. Inspecting the chest, Poirot finds some holes in the back and side and asks Burgess if anything in the room is noticeably different from the night of the party. He is told that a screen in the room was almost in front of the chest on the night. Remembering a reference to Othello used by Mrs Spence, Poirot realises the truth. Mr Clayton is Othello and his wife is Desdemona and the missing character of Iago is in fact Commander McLaren. He is in love with Mrs Clayton and, jealous of her attraction to Major Rich, planned the perfect crime whereby Clayton would die and Rich be accused of the murder. He made numerous subtle suggestions to Clayton about his wife's infidelity to the point where the man himself hatched a plan to fake a summons to Scotland and then found a reason to get into Rich's flat where he hid in the chest to observe what happened in his absence during the party. McLaren, playing records for the people to dance to, nipped behind the screen, opened the chest and stabbed his friend. Poirot feels certain that if the theory is put to McLaren he will confess.[2]

The Under Dog[edit]

Sir Reuben Astwell was murdered ten days previously at his country house, Mon Repos, when he was violently hit on the back of the head with a club and his nephew Charles Leverson has been arrested. Sir Reuben's wife, Lady Astwell, is convinced that the true criminal is the late man's secretary, Owen Trefusis, although she doesn't have a shred of evidence to back up this claim, relying instead on "intuition". She sends her young companion, Lily Margrave, to Poirot to employ him on the case and Poirot accepts, partly because he senses that Lily does not want Poirot to investigate the matter and that she has something to hide.

Arriving at Mon Repos Poirot speaks with the daunting and domineering Lady Astwell who tells him that Sir Reuben's brother and business partner, Victor, is also a guest in the house. Both brothers were equally as hot-tempered as the other and there were many rows and disagreements in the house, quite often involving Charles Leverson, with Sir Reuben often taking his temper out on the servants. Poirot interviews Parsons, the butler, who is one of the main witnesses in the case. His bedroom is on the ground floor and above him is the "Tower Room", Sir Reuben's sanctum. It is a lofty room with another room above reached by a spiral staircase and was originally an observatory built by a previous owner who was an astronomer. Sir Reuben was writing late at night and Parsons was asleep when he was awakened by the sound of Leverson returning home near midnight and letting himself in. He heard Leverson shouting at his uncle followed by a cry and a dull thud. About to go upstairs to see what was happening, Parsons then heard Leverson saying "No harm done, luckily" and then wishing his uncle goodnight. The next day, Sir Reuben was found dead. Speaking with Trefusis, the somewhat meek man admits that during his nine years employment, he was ruthlessly bullied by Sir Reuben. Trefusis shows Poirot the scene of the crime and the detective is puzzled as to why there is a bloodstain on the writing desk but Sir Reuben's body was found on the floor. Poirot tries an experiment with his valet, George, and realises that Sir Reuben was clubbed as he sat in his chair and remained in position afterwards as the chair is low-down in comparison to the desk.

Poirot is more suspicious than ever of Lily Margrave's nervous demeanour and investigates the two local hotels to see if anyone was staying that night who left the hotel near midnight. He finds such a man – Captain Humphrey Naylor – and convinced there is a link with Lily sets a trap by putting his own blood on a scrap of the dress that she was wearing that night and telling her he found it in the Tower Room. She confesses that she is Naylor's sister and that he was swindled out of an African gold mine by Sir Reuben. Determined to find proof she agreed with her brother to take employment as Lady Astwell's companion and on the night in question, as her brother waited outside, she went to the Tower Room and saw Leverson leaving it. She then went into the room herself and found the body on the floor (she also rifled the safe and found the proof of the swindle her brother was after) but she is innocent of the crime of murder. Poirot believes her and also realises that Leverson was drunk on the night in question and his strange manner is as a result of starting to shout at his uncle, pushing his shoulder and then realising he was dead as the body slid to the floor – hence the thud that Parsons heard. He is innocent as well as his uncle was killed earlier than when he was in the room.

Poirot persuades Lady Astwell to partake in hypnosis to recall events of the night of the murder. She confirms what she has already told the police – that she argued with her husband in the Tower Room some ten minutes prior to Leverson coming back home. She also manages to recall a subliminal memory of the normally-controlled Trefusis breaking a paper knife in anger earlier in the evening when again being shouted at by Sir Reuben (thus triggering her suspicions of the man) and a strange bulge in the curtain which covered the spiral staircase to the upper portion of the tower room. Poirot realises someone was already there when she and her husband were arguing.

Poirot begins a game of nerves with everyone in the house, extending his stay and searching everyone's bedrooms, much to their annoyance. He also claims to find something on the spiral staircase which will seal the murderer's fate and leaves it in a box in his room while he makes a quick trip to London. He returns and tells the gathered household that Trefusis is indeed the murderer but the crime was not premeditated. The secretary had left something in the upper portion of the Tower Room and was fetching it when he found himself to be an unwilling witness to the row between Sir Reuben and Lady Astwell. After she left the room, he tried to sneak out but was spotted and received another barrage of abuse from his employer. After nine years of such treatment, he was unable to take any more and struck Sir Reuben down. The item Poirot found on the stairs was false but George, hidden in the wardrobe of Poirot's room, saw Trefusis steal the box in which the item was hidden when Poirot was in London. Lady Astwell is delighted – her intuition has proven correct.

Four and Twenty Blackbirds[edit]

Poirot is eating out with a friend, Henry, and the conversation turns to people's habits. Henry eats regularly in the restaurant that they are in and he points out a white-bearded man as evidence of his theories. This bearded man eats the same meal there on Tuesdays and Thursdays and always orders much the same items as part of his three-course meal. The waitress brings their meals and sees Henry starring on the bearded man. She tells him that except the previous week he also came in on Monday and ordered things he'd never ordered before. Poirot's curiosity is piqued. Three weeks later, Poirot and Henry meet on a tube train and during the conversation Henry mentions that the bearded man has not been seen for a week. Henry's theory is that he has died and his change of habits on the Monday in question was as a result of being told bad news by his doctor. Poirot is not certain and starts to investigate. He easily finds the man's name from a list of recent deaths, and with a suitable introduction, meets the dead man's doctor. The man lived alone and died after an accidental fall downstairs at his house and was found near the milk bottles. He died at approximately 10.00 pm on that day and had eaten a meal a couple of hours before, at the same restaurant Poirot saw him in. He had a letter in the pocket. In response to the question of relatives, Poirot is told that the man had a twin brothers, Anthony, who died on the afternoon of the same day as his brother after a long illness and that their only surviving relative is a nephew, George. Poirot is interested in the dead man's teeth and it is confirmed that they were very white for their age... After several calls of investigation, Poirot meets Lorrimer and accuses him of murder. Lorrimer's response proves the accusation has hit home.

Meeting Henry again, Poirot explains: Anthony left a large fortune to his (dead, but estranged,) brother. Lorrimer would eventually inherit but was impatient for the money. He actually murdered him. In disguise, impersonated his uncle at the restaurant. However, he forgot to impersonate his uncle's eating habits and ordered different foods to those usually chosen, including blackberry tart for dessert. His uncle didn't eat food which stained the teeth whereas Lorrimer's teeth are stained.

The Dream[edit]

Poirot is summoned by letter to the home of reclusive and eccentric millionaire Benedict Farley. He is shown into the office of Farley's personal secretary, Hugo Cornworthy, but finds the millionaire himself alone in the darkened room. Poirot is made to sit in the light of a bright desk lamp and he is not impressed with the man, dressed in an old patchwork dressing gown and wearing thick glasses, feeling that he is stagy and a mountebank and doesn’t possess the charisma he would expect from such a rich and powerful person. Farley tells him that he is troubled by a nightly dream in which he is seated at his desk in the next room and at exactly 3.28pm, he takes out the revolver he keeps in his desk drawer and shoots himself. Various doctors have been unable to explain this to him and he has now turned to the famous detective. Poirot wonders if he has enemies who would want to kill him but Farley knows of no one. Poirot asks to see the room where the dream is set but Farley refuses and Poirot therefore takes his leave. Before he goes Farley asks him for the letter he sent him to be returned and Poirot hands it over but then realises he handed over the wrong one and Farley didn't notice. The correct letter is exchanged.

A week later, an acquaintance, Dr Stillingfleet, phones Poirot and tells him that Farley has shot himself. Poirot goes to the house and meets the doctor, a police inspector, the dead man's second wife, his daughter from his first marriage, Joanna and Hugo Cornworthy in whose office Poirot had had his meeting with Farley. Poirot tells them all of the reason for the previous visit. There is surprise on the part of some members of the party but Mrs Farley was told by her husband of the dreams and she confirms that he kept a revolver in his desk drawer. Her husband seems to have killed himself in precisely the way and at the time the dream foretold. Two visitors were outside his room waiting to see him. Farley spoke to them briefly to tell them he wouldn't be long and then went inside his room. After a considerable period of time, Cornworthy went in and found the dead body. No one could enter the room in the interim. There is a window with no climbable ledge and opposite the window is a blank wall. Poirot feels that the wall is important. He examines the room and finds a pair of extendable tongs which take his interest. He asks various questions of the people gathered there, one of which is to ascertain if Farley had bad eyesight without his glasses and he is told he had. Poirot has the solution: on his previous visit, he did not see Farley but a disguised Cornworthy. It was the secretary who sent the letter to Poirot and he gave the butler instructions to let him in and take him to his own office, not Farley's room. Wearing thick glasses, he was unable to see that Poirot had returned the wrong letter. The act put on by Cornworthy explains why Poirot wasn't as impressed by the man as he expected him to be. Cornworthy lured Farley to the window of his room by a distraction and then shot him by leaning out of his own window, overseen by no one because of the blank wall. He left the man dead for a short while and then went to "find" the body, planting the revolver there. His co-conspirator was his lover, Mrs Farley, who was the only other person who claimed that the dreams were real and that revolver was kept in the desk drawer. She gives the game away by attempting to attack Poirot but is held back by Stillingfleet.

Greenshaw's Folly[edit]

Raymond West, the writer-nephew of Miss Marple is showing Horace Bindler, a literary critic, round the grounds of a local hall popularly known as 'Greenshaw's Folly'. It was built in the 1860s or 1870s by a man who made an immense fortune but had little idea of architectural style, the house being a strange amalgam of buildings from around the world. Although strictly trespassing they are nevertheless welcomed by Miss Greenshaw, the elderly granddaughter of the man who built the house, when they come across her gardening. She is a sharp, slightly shrewish woman who keeps her staff of two in order. They are Miss Cresswell, her companion and Alfred, a young gardener who is constantly in dispute with Miss Cresswell. Miss Greenshaw takes advantage of the presence of the two visitors to ask them to witness the will she has just had drawn up. This leaves everything to Miss Cresswell in lieu of unpaid wages as Miss Greenshaw is determined that nothing will come to her last-living relative, her nephew and the son of a roguish man called Harry Fletcher who ran away with one of her sisters. They sign the will in the library where Miss Greenshaw shows them the copious diaries of her grandfather and expresses a wish to get them edited and published but she hasn't the time to undertake such a task. The two visitors take their leave, slightly puzzled by a comment from Miss Greenshaw to the effect that she thought they were policemen when she saw them in her grounds…

Discussing the visit later on in the company of Miss Marple, Joan West and her niece, Louise Oxley, the latter offers to undertake the work of editing the diaries while Miss Marple ponders similarity between Miss Greenshaw and a Mr Naysmith who liked to give false impressions for fun, sometimes leading to trouble. Louise Oxley is employed to work on the diaries and begins work at Miss Greenshaw's house. The next day she is asked to invite the old lady's estranged nephew, Nathaniel Fletcher, to lunch but told not to inform Miss Cresswell – Raymond suspects a reconciliation and a change in the will. The day after, on arriving at the house, she is struck by the resemblance between Alfred and a portrait of Miss Greenshaw's grandfather. She is working on the diaries at midday when she hears a scream from the garden and Miss Greenshaw herself staggers towards the house with an arrow embedded in her breast. Louise wants to help the woman as she collapses into the room below her but finds that she is locked in her own first floor room. A few windows along, Miss Cresswell shouts that she is in the same predicament. A police constable arrives a few minutes later who frees the women from their respective rooms, followed by a police sergeant and then Nathaniel Fletcher who arrives for his lunch appointment.

That evening, Inspector Welch interviews Raymond about the will he witnessed. Miss Marple guesses correctly that contrary to what Raymond and Horace Bindler were told, Miss Cresswell was not the beneficiary to the will – Miss Greenshaw was playing her along, just like Mr Naysmith used to. The recipient of Miss Greenshaw's money is Alfred, probably a grandson of one of Miss Greenshaw's grandfather's illegitimate children, hence the resemblance in looks. Alfred is a member of an archery club but has a cast-iron alibi for the time of the murder. Miss Marple has a hypothesis: that the Miss Greenshaw that Louise met over her two days was actually Miss Cresswell in disguise. Miss Greenshaw was unconscious at the time that she was "shot" and the dying person on the lawn that Louise saw was Miss Cresswell with a false arrow. The first policeman who arrived at the house was Nathaniel Fletcher, Miss Cresswell's accomplice. It was he who claimed the companion was locked in her room whereas in reality she had been free to impersonate her employer and dupe Louise into being a witness for the "crime". The pair aimed to pin the blame on Alfred, not realising he had gone to the pub for his lunch earlier than usual and therefore he had an alibi.

When Miss Marple sees the rockery that 'Miss Greenshaw' was working on has had plants pulled up as well as weeds, something a skilled gardener would never do, she realises her guess was correct. Alfred inherits 'Greenshaw's Folly'.

Literary significance and reception[edit]

Maurice Richardson of The Observer of 18 December 1960 said, "She has never been at her best in the short form. These six are exceedingly far from masterpieces. Yet they engender a ghost of the old Christmas number euphoria, still, and may ease you during a plethora, or one of those Stations of the Cross on wheels, called railway journeys."[3]

Robert Barnard: "A late collection, with several of the 'long-short' stories which suit Christie well. Less rigorous than her best, however, and the last story, Greenshaw's Folly, has a notable example of Miss Marple's habit of drawing solutions from a hat, with hardly a trace of why or wherefore."[4]

References to other works[edit]

Adaptations[edit]

Television[edit]

All five of the Poirot stories were adapted to television as part of the series Agatha Christie's Poirot. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding was adapted under the American name The Theft of the Royal Ruby. The story was slightly altered. The entire family, including the thieves, discovers the ruby in the pudding during Christmas dinner, and Poirot, pretending that it is a fake, takes it to safeguard it in his room. When Bridget is apparently murdered, Poirot places the real ruby, not a paste one, in the supposedly dead girl's hand. Together with Gloria, a girlfriend who has been pretending to be his sister, Lee-Wortley, makes off with it. (Gloria had previously stolen the jewel while on a date with the Prince.) Lee-Wortley does not abandon Gloria to "face the music", as he does in the story. The two thieves try to make their getaway in a private plane which crashes into a field after a pursuit from David (who mistakenly believes Sarah is running off with Lee-Wortley). Poirot and the police are also there. The criminals, unhurt, are both arrested on the spot and the ruby is returned to the Prince. It is only afterwards that Poirot explains what has really been going on to the family. Bridget says goodbye to him at the end along with the others, but does not kiss him under the mistletoe.

Greenshaw's Folly was adapted as part of the sixth series of Agatha Christie's Marple, starring Julia McKenzie. The plot of The Thumb Mark of St. Peter was woven into the adaptation.[5]

Radio[edit]

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding was adapted for radio by BBC Radio 4 with John Moffatt in the role of Poirot.

Anime[edit]

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding and Four and Twenty Blackbirds have been turned into Anime, on the series Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple (2004).

Publication history[edit]

First publication of stories[edit]

2 New Crime Stories from 1929: the Reader's Library book which first published in book form the 1926 short story The Under Dog.

US book appearances of stories[edit]

International titles[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Chris Peers, Ralph Spurrier and Jamie Sturgeon. Collins Crime Club – A checklist of First Editions. Dragonby Press (Second Edition) March 1999 (p. 15)
  2. ^ The 1991 TV adaptation follows the original story-except for having Poirot at the party; changing McLaren to "Colonel Curts"; and having Curts nearly stab Poirot with a sword cane until Major Rich saves Poirot by fighting a sword duel with Curts
  3. ^ The Observer, 18 December 1960 (p. 20)
  4. ^ Barnard, Robert. A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie – Revised edition (p. 187). Fontana Books, 1990; ISBN 0-00-637474-3
  5. ^ Marple Greenshaw's Folly at the Internet Movie Database
  6. ^ The English Catalogue of Books. Vol XII (A-L: January 1926 – December 1930). Kraus Reprint Corporation, Millwood, New York, 1979 (p. 316)

External links[edit]