I’m in a bit of a dilemma, dear reader.

I have decided, as you may remember, to read all the Agatha Christie books in chronological order, but my quest for order has already come a cropper.

You see, the prolific Ms Christie not only published a collection of 11 short stories in 1924 (Poirot Investigates) but also the novel I’m reviewing here, “The Man in the Brown Suit.” (By the way, can we take a moment to admire her prodigious output?)

So here’s the thing.

Do I read and review all 11 short stories OR leave all the stories to the end, and concentrate on the novels?

The latter, methinks.

And so to “The Man in the Brown Suit” which takes us from the London Underground to southern Africa. Having lived in South Africa, I naturally loved all the action there – Cape Town, Muizenberg, then Bulawayo in (then Rhodesia) Zimbabwe, the Zambezi. There’s quite a lot of African-style derring-do, loads of plot twists, and a judicious mix of politics, diamonds, cruise ships and hidden identities.

I’ve noted with pleasure in earlier reviews the fact that Ms Christie often has a strong, often unconventional woman in her stories, and she doesn’t disappoint this time.

I find the original reviews interesting reading, given that they are over a century old – which is why I include them here in my own reviews, and what is fascinating about the reviews of this particular book are the complaints about the absence of Hercule Poirot. Clearly, after only two appearances, he had become a firm favourite.

From Wikipedia, let me share what an unnamed reviewer in The Observer (7 September 1924) wrote: “Miss Christie has done one bold and one regrettable thing in this book. She has dispensed with Hercule Poirot, her own particular Sherlock Holmes, to whose presence and bonhomie and infallibility the success of her previous books has been mainly due.” After comparing Poirot with Harry Rayburn, the reviewer continued by saying that the book, “will be something of a disappointment to those who remember The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

Talk about damning with faint praise, but it speaks to the appeal of M.Poirot.

Oh yes. Whodunnit?

Did I guess? OF COURSE NOT.

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