In this collection of short stories, Poirot is retiring, but he decides to take on twelve final cases, a reference to his namesake’s twelve labours in Greek mythology, before he does.
Christie’s short stories are a different labour altogether from her longer mysteries, and I can’t really compare them. It was interesting how the plots in these were quite different from her usual – there were art thefts, quelling rumours, hoaxes of various sorts, dognapping, and a surprising amount of cocaine, but a lack of murders.
As a classicist and teacher, I am admittedly fond of the Greek myth allusions in these stories. Sometimes they were a bit heavy-handed, sometimes hardly mentioned, and sometimes quite well done. Definitely a pleasurable way to spend an afternoon with a sore throat.
Some of them are really quite good. Others are a bit boring or predictable. Most of them, not having the time to place red herrings in true Christie fashion, are rather easy to figure out. Short stories do have limited characters, after all, but in some of them the misdirection is quite clever. I think in the end, although I was able to figure out the culprit in probably about 75% of them, it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of them.
My favourite ones were probably: “The Stymphalian Birds”, in which a young man meets a down-on-her-luck woman and her intrepid mother; “The Lernean Hydra”, in which Poirot must sniff out the truth behind a potential poisoning; and “The Cretan Bull”, in which a young woman enlists Poirot’s help to determine if her fiancée is indeed going mad.
My least favourite were: “The Horses of Diomedes”, in which Poirot has to catch a coke dealer (by far my least favourite); and “The Capture of Cerberus”, in which Poirot meets an old friend, a Russian countess whom he used to admire.
Overall, three stars – entertaining, especially when ill, but nothing too special.