The Labours of Hercules
In appearance Hercule Poirot hardly resembled an ancient Greek hero. Yet - reasoned the detective - like Hercules he had been responsible for ridding society of some of its most unpleasant monsters. So, in the period leading up to his retirement, Poirot made up his mind to accept just twelve more cases: his self-imposed 'Labours'. Each would go down in the annals of crime as a heroic feat of deduction.
Reviewed on 15th December 2012
Set briefly before Poirot's 'retirement', The Labours of Hercules is a series of twelve short stories based loosely around the structure of the Greek legend of the same name. Poirot sets himself the challenge of solving a dozen more mysteries linked to the challenges posed to his mythical namesake, and then the shorts begin.
I've enjoyed reading this collection, although whenever I read Agatha Christie's short stories I find myself thinking of them as rejected plots for full novels. In this case however it doesn't quite seem that way - there is a good structure and the twelve do feel like they were written to be presented together in this way rather than standing alone.
They are varied and entertaining and contain a good deal of humour, but the problem I also have with Poirot in short form is that the reader has no chance beyond guessing to actually solve the mystery. One of the hallmarks of Christie and the classic crime novels is that the audience is presented with all the same clues and given a chance, whereas here there just is not enough space to do this. I did manage to guess some of the correct solutions, but I don't think any better than by chance alone.
Overall, I can't say I would recommend this as a great read, but for what it is it's better than other collections, and perhaps to get a new reader into the world of Christie, it may be more digestible than a full-length novel.