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The Labours of Hercules (Hercule Poirot, #27)
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Book of the Month Reads > CLOSED July 2014 - The Labours of Hercules

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Carolyn F. | 4565 comments Mod
Originally published 1947. Features Hercule Poirot.

First published in book form in 1947, The Labours of Hercules comprises an even dozen mysteries starring Christie's most popular sleuth, the ever-dignified Hercule Poirot. The introductory chapter of the collection sets up the rest of the book. At a dinner party, another guest compares the labors of Poirot to those of Hercules, and the little Belgian is not amused. He has already decided to retire, but makes up his mind to take on 12 great cases - each somehow reflecting the labors accomplished by Hercules - as a farewell to crime solving. All of the cases are quite different from each other, from searching for a lost poet to hunting down a particularly ferocious murderer, from solving mysterious deaths of religious cult members to saving a young would-be politician from potential blackmailers. Frequent Christie interpreter Hugh Fraser brings stories like "The Cretan Bull" and "The Apples of the Hesperides" to dazzling life.


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Carolyn F. | 4565 comments Mod
Sorry I'm late on the discussion for this month's book. There's something wrong with our Group Home and I've had to get to stuff in a roundabout way.


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Carolyn F. | 4565 comments Mod
I've contacted Goodreads about it. I can get to the group through threads but not going straight to the group page. Ugh!


Brad Friedman | 191 comments I wondered why I was getting no comments! Can Goodreads fix this???


Katherine Brad wrote: "I wondered why I was getting no comments! Can Goodreads fix this???"

I've been having problems also. In fact, this is the first time in several days I've been able to get through to the group.


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Carolyn F. | 4565 comments Mod
I think it's fixed now. I'm able to go to the group and I have a bunch of comments on my e-mail.


Brad Friedman | 191 comments Well, then, let's give it a try. I tend to read Christie's short stories for their charm rather than their impact as mysteries. I think she accomplished that aspect better in the long form. A few short stories/novellas are classics - Witness for the Prosecution, Accident, Three Blind Mice - but I don't think any of the stories in this collection stand out as a "classic." However, I enjoy the conceit of LOH very much, and while very few of these stories qualify as traditional whodunnit mysteries ("The Gates of Cerberus" is one of the only "which of 'em did it?" types here), many of the stories have fun twists, like one of my favorites, "The Stymphalian Birds." A lot of these tales remind me of the Parker Pyne collection in that here Poirot seems more bent on "cleaning up" aspects of society, such as tabloid politics, cult religions and small town gossip, rather than solving crimes. It makes for an interesting change of pace, and I enjoy it very much, but I'm glad Christie didn't try it too often.

I was excited when it was announced that the BBC would dramatize this novel. Then I got worried when I learned it would be just another ninety minute film. Has anyone seen it? It really goes astray from the tone and intent of the original stories. It becomes a mash-up of three or four of the tales and adds some original - and, to my mind, inferior - plotting into the mix.


Denise (dulcinea3) | 262 comments I was interested in the character of Miss Amy Carnaby, who appeared in two of the stories. In the second, she presents herself to Poirot as wanting some excitement and adventure in her life. It seems to me that in some other novels and/or stories, there is a woman that Poirot calls upon when he wants someone to go undercover, and I'm thinking that it may be Miss Carnaby. Does this ring a bell for anyone else? I did a Google search on her, and didn't come up with anything pertinent.

I also thought that it was interesting that the drug culture plays a part in three of the stories. I think I would have expected this more in one of her books written in the 60s, but these stories were written in the 40s. Cocaine in one, hashish in another, and I'm not sure they specified what the white powder was in the last story, but it could have been cocaine or heroin, I suppose.

And I loved that Poirot was reunited with his crush, Vera Rossakoff! He really is smitten!


Katherine Denise wrote: "I was interested in the character of Miss Amy Carnaby, who appeared in two of the stories. In the second, she presents herself to Poirot as wanting some excitement and adventure in her life. It see..."

I was happy to see Vera and Poirot reunited also. I've always felt that Poirot was a romantic at heart.
All the short stories were good, however, my favorites were the Erymanthian Boar and The Girdle of Hyppolita.


Mitali | 52 comments I am about two-thirds of the way through this book (8/12 Labours done). I'd read it more than a decade ago – I remember the basic conceit and a couple of the stories, but not much more.

So far, I'm not too impressed with the book. Some of the stories are nice – I especially like 'The Lernean Hydra' and 'The Stymphalean Birds' – while others are boring or outright terrible – 'The Horses of Diomedes' is the worst one so far … it's nothing more than a long diatribe against cocaine, with barely a mystery in it at all.

I like 'The Cretan Bull', which has an interesting basic idea: (view spoiler). But it suffers in the short story format – the character interactions and family history would have been more interesting if this had been a full-length novel.

Some of the stories are a little odd, and not in keeping with Poirot's usual cases. For example, 'The Lernean Hydra' feels more like a Marple mystery than a Poirot one – mean-spirited gossip in a small village seems more her forte. And I feel almost certain that Christie must have originally written 'The Arcadian Deer' as a Satterthwaite and Quin story – it seems utterly unlike Poirot to run around Europe trying to reunite two lovers – especially when there is no murder, or indeed any crime at all, to be solved in the process.


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Brad Friedman | 191 comments Mitali wrote: "I am about two-thirds of the way through this book (8/12 Labours done). I'd read it more than a decade ago – I remember the basic conceit and a couple of the stories, but not much more.

So far, I..."


Great comments, Mitali! I have never been fond of "Papa Poirot" who seeks to unite lovers together. And you're right about the Marple story disguised as a Poirot tale.

Christie was no doubt being clever as she dreamt up cases worthy of her hero that called to mind his Greek predecessor. Her little joke of having the "Nemean Lion" be a Pekingese was cute, but at least it led to the unmasking of a potential poisoner. Stories like this one worked nicely and fit the short story mode. "Bigger" tales, like unmasking an international criminal, saving the Prime Minister (and ALL of the British political system), or resolving an ancient family curse just feel rushed and trivial in this format. I enjoyed the book, but I don't think it's great Christie.


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Chris (kitties) | 23 comments I finished the Labors of Hercules over the weekend and liked the stories very much. I especially liked the Stymphalian Birds. That story threw me for a loop and I was surprised with the ending. This is another Poirot book I have not read and it was very good.


Alexandria (airdnaxelA) | 2 comments I just finished this last night and on a whole I found it really enjoyable. It's funny that I have only really started to enjoy short story collections in the last six months or so (a left over of the horrors of English class story analysis) so I jumped at the chance to read this :).
I did think that some of the stories didn't seem to fit Poirot though and I was left feeling a little cheated.
Was it just me or did the ending seem a bit sudden?


Karen I am almost through this set of short stories. I am in agreement here that I would not think I was much enthralled here. I think I have liked the Stymphalian birds the best, though I had figured the outcome somewhat. I did and do find the stories little creative nuggets of gold in a way. "Interesting and easy reading."


Renee | 447 comments I enjoyed the book, but for me at least, I think that since Agatha Christie is so good at writing characters, backgrounds and setting the scene of a novel that I prefer her novels over the short stories. Some of them did feel like they would have made better full length novels, but I enjoyed them all the same. I have to agree with Mitali above that The Cretan Bull would have made a great full length novel.


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Carolyn F. | 4565 comments Mod
I agree Renee, I like the full length novels more.


Brooklyn Tayla (bookishbrooklyn) | 500 comments I'm reading this at the moment, and while I don't particularly favour short stories - I'm loving it! I'm about half way through and I've smiled and been moved as Poirot constructs his own labours, reflecting those of his namesake.


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Carolyn F. | 4565 comments Mod
I usually like short stories, but not so much Agatha's. It's nice to find a book that's breaks the mold.


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