Agatha Christie 100 - If at first you don't succeed...

As you probably know, Agatha Christie did not shy away from reusing old plot ideas and devices and put them in a new framework to conjure up new stories in her writings. But we also know that in some cases she simply took an old story and rewrote it - often creating a new novel or novella from a short story.

I thought that in this post I would take a look at some of the most obvious examples of these re-writes, just to keep them handy in one place. I'm not going to list the stories that simply have plot similarities, like Lord Edgware Dies and Peril at End House, or "Triangle at Rhodes" and Evil Under the Sun, or for that matter "The Companion" and A Murder Is Announced. In those cases (and others), while there are similarities in plots or situations or settings, both works stand on their own.

However, there are clear examples when what we're reading is (essentially) the same story. Sometimes they're almost verbatim, sometimes the longer version simply adds more background, characterisation or allows Christie to add in more material but still keeps to the same basic plot, and sometimes Christie would change the stories enough - by changing the culprit or murder method or something similar - to make them fairly standalone from each other.

The listing below is in an approximate order from extremely similar to simply using the same basic structure. Some spoilers are unavoidable.

We'll begin with "The Regatta Mystery". This short story exists in two versions, one featuring Parker Pyne and one featuring Hercule Poirot. The former is apparently the original one, according to research from John Curran, though it was long thought that it was the other way around. These two short stories are almost completely alike, simply changing some names and some of the characterisation necessary for Pyne and Poirot respectively. Reading one will completely spoil the other.

Next, we have "The Submarine Plans" and "The Incredible Theft". The original short story and the later novella are also very similar. Being a novella, the later version obviously includes more material and allows Christie to expand on characterisation, settings and other descriptions, but on the whole they are very much the same story.

One recently discovered story is "Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly", never published during Christie's lifetime and an early version of the novel Dead Man's Folly. Here, the main plot and the setting is very similar. The novel is simply a more fleshed-out version of the novella. 

There weren't too many changes between "Christmas Adventure" and "The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding" either. The longer novella simply allows the reader to experience the Christmas setting more fully. 

While the main plot of "The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest" and "The Mystery of the Spanish Chest" remains the same, there are some obvious differences. The main one is using Hastings as a character (and narrator) in the earlier short story while the latter features Miss Lemon instead. Having read one will mostly spoil the other story.

Then we have "The Plymouth Express" and The Mystery of the Blue Train. Both stories have the same plot and the murder mystery has the same solution. However, there are a couple of fairly significant differences between the short story and the novel, mainly in the addition of several characters in the latter, and while the murder method is the same, additional culprits are featured in the later novel.

"The Market Basing Mystery" and "Murder in the Mews" differ somewhat in choice of victim, setting and characters, while the main plot is still the same in both stories. Again, the longer novella gives Christie the opportunity to expand the bare bones structure of the short(er) story.

"The Case of the Caretaker's Wife", "The Case of the Caretaker" and Endless Night is another case where Christie changed the detective for the final product (or rather removed the detective entirely), though the basic plot is exactly the same in all three variants. This is the only case where we have three different versions of the same story, though the first variant was only recently found, never having been published in the author's lifetime. The first two versions both feature Miss Marple and use very similar plotting, though the first variant uses a narrative technique where Miss Marple is front and centre of the action, while the second simply allows her to read an account of the events and then figure out a solution to them. Meanwhile, the novel is written as a first person account from one of the main people involved in the mystery, styled as a psychological thriller rather than the more regular fair play mysteries that we find in the first two variants. While the narrative style of the novel is very different from the earlier two versions, the reader will be spoiled for the solution by reading either of them.

Yet another case where a different detective is featured in the rewrite can be found with "Yellow Iris" vs. Sparkling Cyanide. The earlier short story features Poirot as the problem solver, while Colonel Race is the recurring character allowed to participate in the novel's investigations. The main situation is the same, as is the murder device. However, as usual Christie uses the longer version to flesh out everything, allowing the reader to get closer to the suspects. More importantly, she also changes the murderer which means that the reader can still read both stories and get surprised.

If you've read "The Second Gong" and "Dead Man's Mirror", you'll have noticed that the plot device in both stories are the same, but otherwise there are many differences between these two stories. The murderer is different, there are different characters and the motive is also different. This is also a rewrite where you can read both stories and still get a full experience.

Finally, we have "The Incident of the Dog's Ball" and Dumb Witness. Both stories have the same setup and use the same device for the murder. But the latter, being a novel, is much more fleshed out than the earlier short story (another one never published during Christie's lifetime), bringing in more characters and a different murderer. Again, you can read both without being spoiled.


Agatha Christie 100 - Dating Curtain and Sleeping Murder

I just might make a complete ass of myself here, but here's an attempt at trying to pinpoint a date for the writing of the final two Christie novels.


There's not a whole lot of in-text evidence in the novel that could leading anyone to find its place in the chronology, but it does feature both Hastings and George and assumes them to be well-known to the reader. As Hastings had been in almost every other novel with Poirot and certainly could be assumed to be a well-known character, that doesn't help us at all. 

George, on the other hand, generally didn't appear in any story where Hastings was a character. Since he was generally featured as a quick sounding-board to Hercule Poirot, that's hardly surprising. But if my reasearch is correct, George was first featured in the novel The Mystery of the Blue Train and the short stories Murder in the Mews and The Under Dog, apparently all written around the same time in the mid to late 20s. 

Then he appeared again in a number of stories from The Labours of Hercules, mostly first published in 1939-40, the short story Four and Twenty Blackbirds and also in the novel One, Two, Buckle My Shoe from 1940. This indicates that as a character, George would be fairly fresh in Christie's mind during the early years of WWII, when Curtain was supposedly written.

One more thing that supports my assumptions is the fact that there is no mention at all of Ariadne Oliver in Curtain. As she became such a frequent supporting character to Poirot, and even appeared on her own in one novel, I think we can take it for given that Christie would have featured her in some capacity, had she known that Mrs. Oliver would be as prominent as she became. And as Mrs. Oliver had her second Poirot appearance in Mrs. McGinty's Dead, in the early 50s, this also supports the claim that Curtain is from the early to mid 40s.

There are also a few references to previous cases in Curtain. The last published work of that kind is Sad Cypress from 1940. The reference is to the hard-to-find murder motive in the case of Evelyn Carlisle. Since the character was renamed Elinor in the final version of the story, that seems to indicate that the Sad Cypress story had not been completely finished when Curtain was being written.

Knowing that Christie's schedule was to publish two novels a year with a helping of short stories at this point in time, it is telling that 1943 features only one novel and no short stories at all. Add to that the following statement from Christie in 1942 to her agent where she asked him to keep a manuscript in reserve:

I have been, once, in a position where I wanted to write just for the sake of money coming in and when I felt I couldn't – it is a nerve wracking feeling. If I had had one [manuscript] 'up my sleeve' it would have made a big difference. That was the time I had to produce that rotten book The Big Four and had to force myself in The Mystery of the Blue Train.

While Wikipedia says that this request probably referred to Sleeping Murder, I think it's just as plausible that it could apply to Curtain instead. Therefore, my conclusion is that it was written around 1940-42, which corresponds to the general perception.

Sleeping Murder

Unlike Poirot and Curtain, where the time of writing the novel does not seem in dispute, Sleeping Murder seems harder to pinpoint. The novel itself has no air of finality about it, instead appearing to be just any one of Miss Marple's cases.

In the text, there are two important facts that help to set boundaries for when it might have been written. First, there is a reference to a previous case of Miss Marple's, the poisoned pen letters in Lymstock. This is quite obviously the novel The Moving Finger, published in 1941. That gives us the earliest possible year for the writing of Sleeping Murder

The second in-text fact is the mention of Colonel Bantry as being still alive and still living at Gossington Hall with his wife Dolly. We were told of his death and the fact that Mrs. Bantry had moved out in The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side in 1962. That gives us a definite final possible year for the time of writing. But in fact, I think it indicates that Sleeping Murder was finished quite some time earlier than 1962, because if Christie had known that she was going to kill off Colonel Bantry, then why use him as a living character in Sleeping Murder at all? It's not as if his appearance there is important to the story.

The Wikipedia page on this novel has a good runthrough of the different arguments regarding this novel's writing, and shows that there is clearly some merit to the assumption that Christie began writing the novel at around the same time as Curtain. Miss Marple is still fairly sprightly in this novel, working hard in her garden, which was expressly forbidden her in the aforementioned Mirror Crack'd, where she even had to have a live-in help, and gardening had gradually been shown to be something that was increasingly difficult for her in the 50s novels. This all points to a time of writing that is somewhat concurrent with Curtain. There is also the odd mention in Christie's correspondence of the fact that she is writing two novels to put aside for future use from the time of WWII.

However, as John Curran finds in his research into Christie's notebooks, we also know that there are several references to a novel in the planning stages, a novel which cannot be any other than Sleeping Murder. There are references to the novel's working title, Cover Her Face, as well as clear descriptions of certain events and passages in the novel. These references stem from 1947 and 1948.

It's also been pointed out that it seems somewhat silly to write a final novel featuring Miss Marple at a time when she had only been featured in one novel and one short story collection - exactly the same as Tommy and Tuppence, and less than Inspector Battle, who'd been in three novels by this time. I would therefore argue that it was the writing of The Body in the Library and The Moving Finger, as well as the four short stories Strange Jest, Tape-Measure Murder, The Case of the Caretaker and The Case of the Perfect Maid, all published between 1942 and 1944 that told Christie that Marple was going to be a important, recurring character, and thus deserving of a final novel.

Add also that Sleeping Murder arguably doesn't feature the strongest of Christie's mystery plots, and suddenly it seems rather doubtful that the novel as we now know it was completely written during WWII, when her powers of mystery plotting and characterisation were still extremely strong. 

It therefore seems to me that while the novel was probably commenced in the early 40s, it was still being re-written and re-drafted for several years after that, at least throughout the entire 40s. There's some corroboration as well to be taken from the fact that Christie continued publishing well above one novel a year from 1946 to 1956 (sixteen novels in eleven years, including three by Mary Westmacott and one autobiographical travel account), as well as the odd short story, and yet there was nothing new published in 1947, just a short story collection with a single new story, The Labours of Hercules. Could that be because around that time, she was heavily involved in re-writing the manuscript that would ultimately turn into Sleeping Murder? I think that might quite probably be the explanation.


Agatha Christie 100 - Ranking the novels

It took me around 10 months to read 66 novels, produced over a little more than 55 years. It's been a lot of fun most of the time. While there were definitely some disappointments, I've generally looked forward to reading each novel. 

Christie's level of mystery writing is generally very high, and now when I'm going to take a look at the rankings I've given to the novels, I want to emphasize that these novels are ranked against each other, not against any other mystery writing. If they were, there would have been too many novels with a ranking above 90.

Over on Ah Sweet Mystery, Brad's been doing a series of posts on Agatha Christie's production during different decades. His runthrough is excellent, and you should all take a look at it, if you haven't already. (The link above will take you to the first post in the series.) 

This overview will be different (because there's no point in competing with the internet's resident Christieologist), and I'll keep this post focused on the ratings I gave to the novels, and what they might tell us about Christie's career.

Career overview

I'd like to start with a quick look at the ranking of all the novels. We'll take a closer, more detailed look further on, so this graph is just to get a quick overview over how my ratings look.

While I was doing my ratings, I never looked back on previous novels to see what I'd given them. I didn't want any influence from that. Now, when I see this graph, my first thought is that the overall trend is exactly what I expected, but I also think that I might have been a bit kinder to the late career works than to some of the early ones.

What's perhaps most noticeable is that during the middle of Christie's career, she had very few dips below 50. And from the 1960s on, she rarely got more than 60.

The 1920s

Highest rating: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd 93

Lowest rating: The Big Four 12

Average rating: 46.8

Median rating: 39

Well, let's take a closer look at Christie's first decade. I could call it a bit up and down, but that's hardly the whole truth. Looking at the ratings, there's one really high point, one very low, and the rest of the novels, while varying in their ratings, are generally somewhere in the middle, though mostly below average as can be seen by the median and average ratings. The decade is also flanked by two novels that had better ratings than the rest of the middling ones, The Mysterious Affair at Styles and The Seven Dials Mystery, which makes the others look a bit worse than they actually were. 

The data here is what tells me that my ratings haven't been entirely consistent over this re-read, because I think several of the 60s works should be rated worse than quite a lot of these ones. 

The ratings aren't helped either by the fact that there are a lot of thrillers here. In fact, I'd contend that there are just four true fair play mysteries among these ten novels, though I wouldn't argue with you if you pointed out that at least one of the adventure thrillers had quite a lot of fair play elements in it: Seven Dials, if you hadn't already guessed. 

And since fair play mysteries were Christie's forte, it necessarily follows that the ratings of the works of this decade will suffer.

What the data also tells us - even if you don't agree with my individual ratings - is that this was a decade of learning, of stops and starts, and considering the personal upheaval that Christie went through immediately after publishing Ackroyd, the ratings following that one are not all that surprising.

It should be added here that a majority of Christie's short stories were produced in this decade, which shows that she was full of ideas already at this early stage.

The 1930s

Highest rating: And Then There Were None 99

Lowest rating: Why Didn't They Ask Evans? 44

Average rating: 74.8

Median rating: 78

Things look different here, as you can see. The lowest score here is just a smidgeon lower than the average of the 20s. While there are still valleys and ridges in this curve, they're generally more flattened out. The fact that one of the strongest novels, Murder on the Orient Express, is followed by the lowest rated makes for a sharp contrast, as does the fact that the highest rated one was preceded by one I had some reservations about, Murder Is Easy.

But just take a look at those scores. The average is at almost 75 out of 100, and the median is even higher, which tells us that there are a few titles that drag the average down. Add the fact that the 30s is the decade where Christie published the most mystery novels, and that's an awesome run.

Even more amazing is the fact that while the 20s featured the bulk of her short story writing, this decade provided most of the rest of them. (Yes, she wrote very few short stories in the decades after this one.) While most aren't up to the standard of the novels, it's amazing to think how prolific Christie was here.

The first novel of the decade gets it off to a running start by getting a higher rating than everything from the 20s (except Ackroyd), and then she just keeps 'em coming. Look at the trifecta of Nile, Appointment and Christmas - I wonder if there is any mystery writer who had a run like that. I'd have to think a while before finding one, at least.

Obviously, the ratings are helped by the fact that Christie stayed almost completely away from thriller writing. Evans is her only dip into that sub-genre, and well, its rating says it all. I think she had realised that her forte was her mystery writing, not her thrillers.

If the 1920s were a decade of learning and getting over personal tribulations, this decade shows that Christie had not only learned but mastered her craft, and the novels we find here will wow new readers for quite some time yet.

The 1940s

Highest rating: Evil Under the Sun 95

Lowest rating: N or M? 47

Average rating: 73.8

Median rating: 75

The variance is lower here, but otherwise the numbers are still wonderfully high. There's a rather big dip with N or M? and The Body in the Library (which looks even worse because of the two novels surrounding that period), though in fact, the actual ratings are just a tad below 50, but otherwise the ratings are quite high. Look at the end of the decade as well, that curve looks very promising.

I mentioned during the re-read that in the 1940s, Christie changed her style somewhat. (In fact, I'd argue that it began with her last title of the 30s.) Many of her plots began to rest on her characters and their traits. Don't get me wrong - we're not talking about modern "psychological mysteries" here. We're still generally firmly rooted in fair play writing. Clues abound for the reader to find (or not), the difference is simply what type of clue Christie provides us with.

Christie again managed to stay almost entirely away from thriller writing, with one exception, again the lowest rated novel of the decade... 

What I take away from this decade is that Christie had mastered her craft during the 30s, and here she branched out a little, offering stronger characterisation with her plots while generally keeping the standard as high as before.

The 1950s

Highest rating: A Pocketful of Rye 89

Lowest rating: Cat Among the Pigeons 44

Average rating: 65.6

Median rating: 62

That might be the most telling graph here... 

While the 1950s started out well and the highest rated book of the decade was actually published four years in, the trend over the decade is clear. It also looks as though the first half of the decade is generally much better than the second half. But it's also worth remembering that the lowest rated novel here actually is on a par with the lowest ones from both the 30s and 40s, so not even the numbers for the last half of the decade are that bad. 

So, while the trend is noticeable - Christie's powers are starting to wane - my ratings suggest that even if you pick a novel at random from this decade, you will still find a worthwhile read. To be even more specific, I'd argue that if you pick a book from the early 50s, you won't be disappointed, but if you choose something from the second half of the decade, things get a little bit more iffy. Something happened around the writing of Hickory Dickory Dock, and after that there wasn't much gas left in the tank for Christie.

It is, however, also worth keeping in mind that Christie, probably to spice things up again and not get stuck in a rote, returned to her old love, adventure thrillers. She was never particularly great at writing them, but still put one out each decade, and here we got two of them. Still, it's only fair to point out that these two are the best of the bunch.

The 1960s and 1970s

Highest rating: The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side 72

Lowest rating: Passenger to Frankfurt 2

Average rating: 39.8

Median rating: 37

It's interesting to note that once again, a Miss Marple novel is the highest rated novel of this period.

But yeah, that's overall quite a dip. Those average and median ratings don't look good. Though the 1920s featured quite similar ratings, I think my ratings were kinder here, as I said above.

Remember, though, that the average is also quite heavily affected by my personal disdain for Endless Night, a novel many others have very warm words for. And obviously it doesn't help that Christie's two worst works by far were published during these last 15 years or so.

Looking at the graph, it almost seems that you'd be fairly safe if you chose every other book here. The graph goes up and down and up and down with some regularity...

While the final two publications give the curve a healthier look, neither of them are rated better than third in this time period. It's just that the run from Endless Night to Postern of Fate is so bad, they seem like a return to form. If they'd actually appeared around the time they were written, they'd have been distinctly below average. But in the early 60s, when Christie wanted to, she could still put out a solid mystery.

Some random statistics

There are six novels with a ranking above 90:
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, And Then There Were None, Evil Under the Sun, Crooked House

There are likewise six novels ranked lower than 30:
Passenger to Frankfurt, Postern of Fate, Endless Night, The Big Four, At Bertram's Hotel, By the Pricking of My Thumbs

I suppose there's some symmetry there, though I had to raise the bar to 30 for the lower ranking ones. There are four Poirots among the top rated novels, and two standalones. For the lower rated novels, there are two featuring Tommy & Tuppence, one each for Poirot and Marple, and two standalones.

Which leads me to this final bit, where I look at the average ratings for the characters' novels.

Hercule Poirot average rating: 68.0
Miss Marple average rating: 63.25
Tommy & Tuppence average rating: 28.5
Inspector Battle average rating: 65
Colonel Race average rating: 66
Standalone novels rating: 53.5

Poor old T&T, Christie didn't help them by featuring them twice in her late career. 

Battle and Race are both helped by having been in Cards on the Table (and Race even more by having featured in Death on the Nile).

The average rating for Poirot is absolutely fantastic, seeing as he has 33 novels, but Miss Marple's average isn't bad either.

Overall thoughts

While I'm certain that none of you reading this will agree completely with me on the individual ratings, I hope (and think) that you concur with my overall findings.

Christie's 20s were a decade of learning that showed us that she had oodles of ideas, even if the execution wasn't always up to scratch.

By the 30s, she knew exactly what she was doing, she was firing on all cylinders and produced a volume of work that will stand on the top shelf of mystery writing for eternity.

She switched gears coming into the 40s, providing us with greater characterisation without skimping the least on her magical plotting, giving us another set of excellent mysteries.

As the 50s came along, Christie was still at the top of her game, but by the second half of the decade she was flagging a little. Individual titles could still be very worthwhile, but the greatest highs simply weren't there any more.

The 60s and worse yet, the 70s are better approached with care. While many of the titles from this period still have interesting ideas or characters, or an exciting turn of events, there are very few of them where the entire execution is truly worthwhile. And unfortunately, there is the occasional title that is better left on the shelf and not read for any other reason than completism.

That's it for this statistics feast. There's another post in the offing, where I'll discuss one or two thoughts or theories that I've come up with during the re-read. Don't miss it!


Agatha Christie 100 - Sleeping Murder

The final Christie novel features Miss Marple, but there isn't anything in the story that actually tells us that it's going to be her last case.

Young Gwenda Reed has just come to settle in Britain after a life in New Zealand. Her husband is due to come along some time later, but meanwhile she's out to find them a house to live in. As she passes through a small town called Dillmouth, she finds a lovely house which she buys. But as the house is being renovated, she starts to experience frightening visions, amongst others of a dead woman, that disconcert her. While staying with friends in London over the weekend, she meets their aunt - an elderly lady with a nose for evil called Miss Jane Marple...

Well, as I said above, there's absolutely nothing here that indicates that this is supposed to be Miss Marple's final case. In fact, it cannot be, based on things that are mentioned in the text. However, seeing as it was written some time earlier in Christie's career, the plot here is less meandering and follows a clearer path than in several of her late career works.

It's interesting to note that in this story, Miss Marple urges the young couple not to investigate into the past, as this is something she (and many of Christie's other characters) has been doing for the last few published novels.

The case itself is a pretty good one. Not great, but a solid plot that follows a clear trajectory with an investigation into several people that were involved at the time when the murder happened. And of course I liked it when I noticed that Miss Marple started suspecting the culprit at around the same time when I realised who it was...

While the story itself doesn't as much as hint at any finality, I take some pleasure in the fact that the last published novel featuring Miss Marple is a good, solid mystery with none of the blemishes that marred her last few outings. I'll award this a 62 out of 100.


Just one edition of this title in Swedish as well, a bit less deservedly so than with Passenger to Frankfurt and Postern of Fate. The Swedish title makes certain that the reader knows this is Miss Marple's Final Case, by titling it exactly so. 

The cover of the only Swedish edition is a bit minimalistic, but generally fine. I feel that there's this general perception that Miss Marple sits around in her rocking chair, solving murders while knitting, though I can't actually remember an instance where she did just that... 

With this post, the Agatha Christie re-read itself is over. I managed to squeeze it in during one year, even with some time to spare. Those of you who followed along (or only checked in from time to time), I'm grateful that you hung around. If nothing else, you will have seen a bunch of new covers that you've never come across previously...

But have no fear - I'm not finished with Christie quite yet. There will be a couple of follow-up posts where I'll discuss certain things and theories that hit me while reading through her works. In the next post, you can look forward to some number crunching on those ratings I've handed out. Stay tuned.


Agatha Christie 100 - Curtain: Poirot's Last Case

Poirot bows out with a mystery that harks back to his first recorded case in England.

A recently widowed Arthur Hastings is back again in England, travelling to Styles where he is going to meet his old friend Poirot. The detective, who is very poorly, intends to do one last murder hunt. He tells Hastings about five old cases that seemed to be solved already, but says that they were all caused by one certain person, someone who is now present at Styles. And now he wants the more mobile Hastings to help him find one final murderer.

I now wish that I hadn't read this novel so early on in my mystery reading career, because I wonder what I'd take way from it now, as a more jaded(?) reader. Back then, the emotional ending had an overwhelming effect which sort of overshadowed any impression of the mystery plot itself.

Because the thing is, I'm not sure this is a particularly great mystery. Or rather, I'm not entirely comfortable with the choice of having an Iago type villain, here called X, and the lengths to which Poirot goes in order to stop that villain from executing his plans. To some extent I feel that, while this X person definitely exploits the weakness of others, I feel that the ultimate responsibility for their actions lie with themselves, not with X. To put so much blame on X robs the individual killers of their agency, to use a modern term.

With that out of the way, the rest of the plot runs along quite nicely, if a bit circumspectly. There are in fact two culprits here, the X character referred to above and then a separate murderer who commits their crime towards the end of the story. And to be honest, most of the earlier parts of the novel become rather inconsequential to the murder mystery - they're mainly there to show the incredible power that X has over people and to justify Poirot's drive to find that person. However, there is some good cluing towards the person who commits the murder, which is a definite plus.

So, I'm somewhat in two minds about this one. It's a powerful story with a devastating ending, yet it is one that doesn't feel entirely earned due to some of the weaknesses I've discussed above. And yet again, chances are that a reader will be happy to overlook those weaknesses as the rest is just that powerful. I'll award this a 65 out of 100, but I'm not sure that is how I'd rate it tomorrow.

1976 1977 1977

It was a bit of a surprise to me that there have only been three editions of this pivotal novel, and even more so that all of them are almost contemporaneous, which means that Curtain hasn't been published in Sweden for over 40 years. The Swedish title is a direct translation of the British one, even keeping the subtitle.

The first cover is a bit dull. It focuses on the detective's most prominent characteristic but is otherwise just a bunch of text. Uninspired, would be my assessment. Meanwhile, the first of the 1977 covers is from Delfinserien. The image itself is fine, but the depiction of Poirot is not at all how I imagine him (nor most others, I think). 

Which means that the final cover is the best one here, and I think it's deservedly so, too. A dark-ish tint to the whole thing, with Poirot sitting in his wheelchair and an air of melancholy to the whole thing.