Review: The Under Dog and Other Stories

The Under Dog and Other Stories
The Under Dog and Other Stories by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book #13 for 2016
PopSugar Challenge Categories:
– A book set in Europe
– A book that takes place on an island

This is an all-Poirot collection of short stories, and of course, they are not arranged in publication order. I know for certain that the titular story had the latest publication of this bunch, and it features Poirot’s valet George (a Jeeves sort of character) instead of Hastings as his assistant. (Personally, I prefer George to Hastings.) I liked this locked-room puzzle, and I found it interesting that Christie used hypnosis as a plot device and snuck in some discussion of the subconscious and “feminine intuition.”

“The Affair at the Victory Ball” seems to be the first Poirot story after The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Here we see the beginnings of Christie’s fascination with the Commedia dell’ Arte, which I should probably read, considering how much I like her Mr Quin stories. Not knowing much about Harlequin and Columbine and company, I’m sure I missed a lot, but I still was able to pick up on some of the clues.

After this, the publication order seems to be roughly this:
“The King of Clubs” – I found this one generally confusing. Possibly because I know nothing about the game of bridge, and possibly because of some intentional ambiguity on Christie’s part. Didn’t I just read another story set at a villa named Mon Désir? I will have to look back through them and see if I can locate it.
“The Plymouth Express” – Possibly her first train-based story. Christie employs some good misdirection here.
“The Market Basing Mystery” – Another good example of misdirection, with some additional twistiness.
“The Submarine Plans” – Overly convoluted and muddled, I think.
“The Adventure of the Clapham Cook” – Lots of great twists in this one. Quite possibly my favorite of the lot.
“The Cornish Mystery” – A bit of a sad tale, but with a neat trick at the end.
“The Lemesurier Inheritance” – This is another story that makes me wish I had a better grasp of English estate law. But at least I was able to suss out what direction Poirot’s mind was going with the “curse.”

The quality was a little uneven in spots, but overall pretty solid. I would definitely recommend reading “The Affair at the Victory Ball” first and “The Under Dog” last, but I don’t think it much matters what order the others are read in.

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