Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Favorites - The Labors Of Hercule Poirot

This past week I had a great time reading a collection of Hercule Poirot short stories, The Labors of Hercules. I don't know how I missed those. I always liked mythology, and so it seems it should have been a natural for me to read. Maybe it simply never made it to my local library or bookstores. (We didn't have anything like Amazon back when I was first reading Christie.)

It's collection of twelve short stories and novelettes, which are connected by the introduction: Poirot is about to retire, and wants to go out in a blaze of glory. He hears about his namesake, Hercules, and his 12 labors. This inspires Poirot to seek 12 cases, each on the theme of one of the mythical labors.

While the stories vary in interest and quality, they make up a story that is a whole lot of fun. Poirot is small and precise, and yet with a grandiose ego. He always lives up to his claims, but Christie also has fun lightly skewering him. (For instance, the first labor is to slay the Nemean Lion -- something Poirot expects will be a grand case about the affairs of state... but it turns out to be about kidnapped Pekinese.)

But for the most part, this is the heroic Poirot. There is something swashbuckling about Poirot -- who sometimes reminds me of Reepicheep, frankly -- in that he has a higher purpose than simply the law. He admires an imaginative and intelligent opponent and is not always on the side of catching the culprit. He is delighted to take on impossible tasks -- and some of the cases here are not actually mysteries. He is not above being a bit of a con man, to see that the right outcome is assured.

The Labours of Hercules is available for Kindle, (and Kindle UK) as well as many other paper editions. It's also available for Nook, and probably on other vendor sites, but I don't feel like hunting down links.

See you in the funny papers.


Mark Asher said...

I recently read this for the first time while commuting on a bus and was charmed by it. I'd read a bit of Christie before and what I liked about this book was that Poirot's ego was a bit turned down in these stories, though still front and center.

Christie as a writer is flat out good as a stylist. Her dialog and descriptions seem spot on. Her sentences at times are delightful, something I cannot say for a lot of the genre reading I do.

The Daring Novelist said...

Yeah, I think the ego issue really worked well in this collection. I don't know if it was because they were short stories, or because the series was, in some ways, ABOUT Poirot's ego, but it achieved a nice balance.