Monthly Archives: May 2010

The Labours of Hercules

I was introduced to Agatha Christie in my 9th or 10 std. The book was The Mysterious Mr.Quin. At that time the novel seemed drab and boring and I put it down. Later, in my college days, a sudden interest made me fish out the book from my shelf and read. And I was hooked.

I made the acquaintance of M.Hercule Poirot during my KPO days. I met him in the British Council Library, Chennai and was mesmerized at his little ‘Grey cells’, his penchant for order and neatness, his mustache, his royal appearance. I had seen David Suchet portray him in one of the earlier TV shows-The Murder on the Orient Express. At that time I was not aware of Hercule Poirot but was fascinated by this small man with his queer mustache.

David Suchet portraying Poirot in the series

I will not say that I have a particular favorite among Poirot’s cases. Each is a different one. I have loved The Murder on the Orient Express equally as I have been intrigued by The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Sad Cypress, Elephants can remember are some that I have read, and fell in love with.

The recent one I read was The Labours of Hercules. I have read about the legendary Hercules and the difficult labours or tasks he performed earlier in my school days. So what does our little Belgian with the little grey cells and the Olympian have in common? The name? Yes, we may say. But the book made quite an interesting read.

In the period leading to his retirement, Poirot decides to accept 12 more cases-12 interesting, puzzling cases. He decides to call them his labours as in Hercules’ Labours which are given below:

Hercules and the hydra by Antonio Pollaiolo

  1. Slay the Nemean Lion.
  2. Slay the 9-headed Lernaean Hydra.
  3. Capture the Golden Hind of Artemis.
  4. Capture the Erymanthian Boar.
  5. Clean the Augean stables in a single day.
  6. Slay the Stymphalian Birds.
  7. Capture the Cretan Bull.
  8. Steal the Mares of Diomedes.
  9. Obtain the Girdle of the Amazon Queen.
  10. Obtain the Cattle of the Monster Geryon.
  11. Steal the Apples of the Hesperides.
  12. Capture and bring back Cerberus.

Interesting as Poirot also names his 12 cases on them. And what an interesting set of cases they are!

The Nemean Lion – Of all the cases Poirot has dealt with, this one makes him wonder at whether his charm has died out that he is called for trivial matters. Indeed so trivial is the case-find out a missing Pekinese Dog! Poirot is interested by the circumstances and decides to investigate. His investigation leads him to a clever criminal with an ingenious scheme targeting the rich people. When Poirot meets the main actor of the play – the nemean lion, it is we who are surprised and not Poirot.

The Lernean Hydra – Poirot is approached by a doctor to help him. The doctor’s invalid wife dies of prolonged illness and rumors go that he poisoned her to marry some one. As Poirot says, “Rumor is indeed the nine headed Hydra/monster”. Chop off one head and two more crop up in it’s place. As Poirot eliminates the probabilities, he doubts the doctor himself, but brings the affair to a stunning finish by use of his little grey cells.

The Arcadian Deer – Poirot, on one of his country journeys is approached by a mechanic seeking his help in finding a missing girl. The missing girl is the maid of a famous stage personality and suddenly disappears without any clues. Poirot’s inquiries take him on a ride from France to Pisa and in the Swiss alphs, he unravels the mystery-so simple in deception, but baffling to the normal eye.

The Erymanthian Boar – After his third labour, Poirot receives an information that a deadly criminal is hiding in the swiss alphs and his help would be dearly in need. Poirot follows the leads which leads him to a hill top hotel. Surprises await him as he finds that on reaching there, all communications to the outside world are cut in the form of an avalanche that cuts the bridge and the communication lines. An attempt is made on Poirot’s life and he escapes. He is contacted by the police officer who is biding his times in the guise of  a waiter there to catch the criminal. Poirot unravels a chilling plan the criminal has devised. But it is a race to the finish as the criminal would do anything to escape..

The Augean Stables – Poirot is contacted by the British Prime Minister in a case of scandalous publication damaging the reputation of  his wife. Poirot, like the legendary Hercules, uses a simple but powerful trick in diverting the scandal and not only saves the lady’s name and honor but also proves why he is Hercule Poirot.

The Stymphalean Birds – Like the legendary birds which fed on human flesh, Poirot helps in unmasking two women of cruel intentions intent on blackmailing innocent high profile persons in an interesting way.

The Cretan Bull – Poirot is consulted by a young woman seeking to find out why her fiance called off their wedding. The reason is the young man feels that he is going insane and does not want the girl to suffer. Moreover, this insanity is a hereditary thing in his family. Poirot is interested and goes over to investigate and finds quite a set of interesting characters including the young man himself who is as strong as a bull-hence the Cretan Bull. Signs and happenings point to a man so mad that he murders animals and mutilates them. And all evidence point to this young man..

The Horses of Diomedes – Poirot is summoned at the dead of night to a house party by a doctor who suspects that there has been cocaine use in the party and this has been going on for long. Poirot narrows down the list to a group of girls residing with their invalid father, but matters are not as simple as they appear.

The Girdle of Hyppolita – concerns a missing school girl and a painting. Poirot sees a connection between the two seemingly unconnected events and comes to a daring conclusion.

The Flock of Geryon – pits Poirot against a devious and clever criminal who murders rich lonely ladies for their wealth using a religious sect as an excuse.

The Apples of the Hesperides – Poirot has to literally, like his namesake steal a stolen artwork of priceless nature which was lifted by a gang of clever criminals. The poetic justice Poirot renders at the end is a must read.

The Capture of Cerberus – Poirot is pitted against a clever gang using a nightclub as a means to smuggle jewels and drugs, using the owner and Poirot’s friend as a scapegoat. The role of Cerberus, the main character is an interesting read.

An interesting read indeed.

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