Agatha Christie 100 - Hercule Poirot's Christmas

Written as a sort of challenge to provide as bloody a murder as possible, this Poirot novel is one of not too many impossible crimes in Christie's production.

Pater familias Simeon Lee has invited all his closest family home over Christmas - that's four sons and their respective spouses, and one granddaughter. And then there's a mysterious visitor from South Africa as well. It's really no wonder that he is found murdered one fine day. But luckily Hercule Poirot is visiting an old friend in the area...

This is a very good, perhaps even excellent murder mystery, though calling it an impossible crime is a bit misleading. Very little is made of the impossible situation with the old man being locked inside his room. It's not all too Christmas-sy either, to be honest. Though I suppose there was hardly any cause to do any celebrations for any of the visiting guests - it's all a bit miserable for all of them.

Some of Christie's finest clueing can be found in this novel - I'm referring to Poirot's asking the butler to check the calendar and the focus on family traits, physical and mental. I think most readers will be surprised by who turns out to be the villain in the end.

This is a solid 89 out of 100. An excellent read with a great murder mystery. If only Christmas was featured more extensively...

1957 1963 1973 1983
1986 1989 2003 2014
I have no idea why this title had to wait so long before being translated, but once it was, at least it got to keep a direct translation of the title.

The first cover isn't really successful. I guess that it's supposed to be Santa's sack with gifts, but it certainly doesn't look like it. And someone should be shot over the inclusion of that apostrophe. The second cover from the Zebra series looks a bit celebratory with the balloons, and sure, they do have a place in the story. It's just that I've never associated balloons with Christmas...

1973 brings us an interesting cover, which is incredibly hard to interpret. It almost looks as if there's a sinister face just below the title, but what is all that white stuff supposed to represent? A crayfish? Some kind of church window? Per Åhlin, what have you done? (This is the copy I own, and after having looked at it for a minute I realised that it's in fact a piece of mistletoe hanging in a doorway.)

Ah well, the 80s brings us the type of cover we'd expect with this title. I like them both. The earlier one from 1983 with the sinister Christmas decoration dripping of blood, and the later one with a bloody handprint where a Christmas tree can be seen. Really nice covers. (Also note, there's no Fontana cover anywhere!)

I'm in two minds about the book club cover from 1989. It's not as horrible as some of the others we've seen, but nevertheless manages to look quite tacky with the skeleton in the Santa costume. The large print edition from 2003 is in the same style as all the other large print editions, but the Santa looks cheap as hell.

The latest edition makes a tiny change to the title, dropping the detective's Christian name, but otherwise looks pretty good. As usual, some playing around with the typography, and the keyhole dripping of blood is a nice detail.


  1. I reread this some years ago in real-time over Christmas: https://jsprbok.blogspot.com/2015/12/126-agatha-christie-hercule-poirots.html and really liked it. It is a lesson in how to trick the reader, if nothing else. (But isn't it supposed to be holly on the cover by Per Åhlin?)

    1. You're probably right about the holly. I get those Christmas decorations mixed up sometimes.

  2. Very little is made of the impossible situation

    This makes me feel better about reading it before I was really that cognisant of the locked room mystery and, er, not really spotting that this was a locked room mystery. it gets trotted out on "Best LRM" lists so often that I just assumed I'd been my usual forgetful self, but to hear someone reread it and reinforce my memory is...well, it's weird for one thing, because I'm so used to having a lousy memory :) But also reassuring.

    That 2014 cover is great, I love it. And the 1989 one looks like the sort of thing that the Rue morgue Press did for their Constance & Gwenyth Little reprints.

    Also -- and I may regret getting into this sort of conversation on the internet -- are the rules of possessive apostrophes different in Swedish? Because Hercule Poirot's Christmas would be the correct way to imply that the book is about what Hercule Poirot did over the festive period. 'Hercule Poirots Christmas' would make Christmas a verb and so imply that several people called Hercule Poirot did their Christmassing together...and it fascinates me that another language would interpret these the other way around.

    1. In Swedish, apostrophes can only ever be used when the noun ends with an s, and even then it's just optional.

      So, always "Hercule Poirots jul" or "Poirots jul". If the noun ends in an s, an apostrophe is allowed but not mandatory: "Sherlock Holmes' jul" or "Sherlock Holmes jul" are both okay.

      Generally there is no risk of any interpretation such as your last one, because -s is normally not a plural marker in Swedish, though since we've loaned quite a number of words from English lately, it's being used as such for some of them.

      A translation of your somewhat awkward "Hercule Poirots Christmas" in Swedish would be "Hercule Poirotar jular".