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Literature / Murder in the Mews

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Murder in the Mews is a 1937 mystery collection by Agatha Christie. It included four novellas featuring Christie's most popular character, Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. The stories are:

  • "Dead Man's Mirror": Haughty aristocrat Sir Gervase Chevenix-Gore summons Hercule Poirot to his mansion. Poirot is mildly annoyed to receive a summons from a man he doesn't even know but goes anyway. He never gets to speak with Sir Gervase because, very soon after Poirot arrives, Sir Gervase kills himself...or does he? Who shot the aristocrat? His adopted daughter Ruth, who stood to be disinherited by Sir Gervase's new will? His Black Sheep newphew, Hugh?
  • "The Incredible Theft": Lord Mayfield, a politician on the rise, is hosting a dinner party. One of the guests is Air Marshal Sir George Carrington, there to discuss the plans of a new RAF fighter plane with Lord Mayfield. The plans go missing! Lord Mayfield suspects Mrs. Vanderlyn, who was also at the dinner and who is suspected of being a spy, but he has no proof and no idea where the plans are. Poirot is called in to find them.
  • "Murder in the Mews": One Mrs. Barbara Allen shoots herself on Guy Fawkes Night, but Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard soon determines it was murder. Who killed her? Her tight-lipped roommate, Miss Plenderleith? Her fiance, Member of Parliament Charles Laverton-West? Or Major Eustace, a shady character who is known to have called on Barbara that evening? Poirot's police friend Inspector Japp invites him to investigate.
  • "Triangle at Rhodes": At a resort on the island of Rhodes, the gorgeous Valentine Chantry falls into a relationship with Douglas Gold, despite the fact that both of them are married with their spouses at the resort. Douglas's wife Marjorie, in particular, wins the sympathy of the other guests at the resort, including Hercule Poirot. When Valentine Chantry is poisoned, suspicion falls on Douglas. (This story was later reworked and expanded into novel Evil Under the Sun.)


  • Always Murder: Lampshaded in "Dead Man's Mirror":
    Riddle: "As you are on the scene, it probably would be murder!"
    For a moment Poirot smiled.
    Poirot: "I hardly like that remark."
  • Benevolent Boss: In "The Incredible Theft," Lord Mayfield takes great care to arrange the fake robbery in a way which will keep his loyal, innocent servant from being subjected to suspicion.
  • Blackmail:
    • It turns out that Barbara from "Murder in the Mews" had a love child when she was 17. The baby died but Major Eustace knows about it and is blackmailing her. When Barbara realizes that Eustace will eventually blackmail her fiance Charles as well, she kills herself.
    • Why Lord Mayfield handed over the bomber plans in "The Incredible Theft". He conducted negotiations with a belligerent European power (obviously Nazi Germany) that are now very unpopular, then he lied to the British public and denied such negotiations took place. Now, the Germans are threatening to expose him, so he has to let them steal the bomber plans.
  • The Bride with a Past: In "Murder in the Mews," Barbara is terrified of her fiancé, a stuffy up-and-coming politician, finding out she had an illegitimate child as a result of a Teen Pregnancy.
  • Busman's Holiday: "Triangle at Rhodes". Poor Poirot can't even go to the Mediterranean for a vacation without having to solve a murder.
  • Chekhov's Skill: It's mentioned in "The Incredible Theft" that Lord Mayfield is a skilled engineer. Poirot deduces that, while Mayfield is letting the Germans have the plans for the bomber, he must have altered them in a way that will make the bomber perform poorly.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Sir Gervase's wife, Lady Chevenix-Gore, is a loon. She chats with her dead husband's spirit, which she believes is still in the room. She also thinks she is a reincarnation of Hathsheput and that she was a princess of Atlantis in a previous life.
  • Continuity Nod: In "Dead Man's Mirror" Poirot briefly chats with Mr. Satterthwaite, a main character from Christie's Harley Quin series of short stories. Satterthwaite mentions the "Crow's Nest business", a reference to novel Three Act Tragedy where the two characters worked together.
  • Frame-Up:
    • In "Murder in the Mews" Miss Plenderleith manipulated the scene of Barbara's suicide in order to make it look like she was murdered, in order to frame Major Eustace. Inspector Japp thinks that it was murder because the bullet hole is in the left side of Barbara's head and the gun was wiped of prints. Actually Barbara was left-handed, but Miss Plenderleith wiped the gun and placed in Barbara's hand. Miss Plenderleith then scattered butts of Major Eustace's favorite brand of cigarettes to make the frame more convincing.
    • Also done in "Triangle at Rhodes", in which two adulterous lovers murder one of their spouses and set up the other to be convicted for the murder.
  • Gentleman Adventurer: Sir Gervase is a risk-taking baronet. In his youth, he traveled to the South Pole, sailed around the world in a windjammer, and discovered a South American mine.
  • Gossipy Hens: Gender-flipped with Mr. Satterthwaite. After Satterthwaite relates the scandalous conduct of an earl's daughter and a viscount, Poirot pumps him for info about Gervase Chevenix-Gore, which Satterthwaite gleefully supplies.
  • Honey Pot: Mrs. Vanderlyn in "The Incredible Theft". She's an alluring beauty who uses her physical charms to bed officers in the military, or government types, in order to worm secrets out of them.
  • Inheritance Murder: On someone else's behalf. The killer in "Dead Man's Mirror" is Miss Lingard, Sir Gervase's secretary, who is actually Ruth's birth mother. She killed Sir Gervase because he was about to disinherit Ruth.
  • It's All About Me: Gervase is unable to view other people as being real, while imperiously feeling that the world should bow to his whims.
  • The Killer Was Left-Handed: The suicide victim was left-handed. In "Murder on the Mews", one of the main reasons the police think Barbara was murdered was because the gun was in her right hand and the bullet hole was in the left side of her head. But certain cues in Barbara's room, like the placement of her pen, lead Poirot to deduce that Barbara was actually a lefty. Miss Plenderleith put the gun in Barbara's right hand to make the suicide look like murder.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Major Riddle, The Watson in "Dead Man's Mirror", lampshades the Locked Room Mystery.
    Riddle: Door locked, key in his own pocket. Window closed and fastened. I know these things happen in books—but I've never come across them in real life.
  • Locked Room Mystery: Played straight in "Dead Man's Mirror", as Sir Gervase is found dead in his locked study. Poirot eventually demonstrates that the murderer did a little trick with the French window, exiting that way and then rapping on the window to cause the lock to click home.
  • Love Triangle: The "Triangle at Rhodes" is a love triangle between Valentine, Douglas, and Douglas's wife Marjorie. However, at the end Poirot reveals that the real triangle was between Valentine, Marjorie, and Valentine's husband Tony.
  • Market-Based Title: Since American readers would be unfamiliar with the word "mews"—a row of carriage houses with stables—the collection was titled Dead Man's Mirror in the United States.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: "Triangle At Rhodes" has two. Marjorie Gold and Tony Chantry want to get married, but they're both already married. They decide to fix this problem by orchestrating a pretend love triangle between Tony, Marjorie's husband Douglas and Tony's wife Valentine, and then killing Valentine, making it look as though Douglas did it while trying to kill Tony, and letting Douglas be hanged for it. Unluckily for them, Poirot sees through it.
  • Never Suicide:
    • Played straight in "Dead Man's Mirror" when Sir Gervase's death—shot in the head in a locked room, the word "SORRY" written on a scrap of paper—naturally turns out to be murder.
    • Inverted in "Murder in the Mews". Barbara actually did kill herself, but Miss Plenderleith staged the scene to look like murder, in order to frame Major Eustace, who was blackmailing Barbara.
  • Not Blood Siblings: Double-subverted in "Dead Man's Mirror." Gervase wants his nephew Hugo to marry his adopted daughter Ruth and give their kids his surname in order to continue the bloodline. Then, it turns out that Ruth is the illegitimate daughter of Gervase's brother (Hugo is their sister's only child), so she and Hugo are biologically related, although they don't know it. Then it turns out that Hugo and Ruth are both already engaged or married to other people, but have been hiding this to avoid Gervase's displeasure.
  • Perfumigation: In "The Incredible Theft" Sir George complains about the cloud that Mrs. Vanderlyn (the Honey Pot) leaves behind when she leaves a room, saying "Phew, that woman uses a lot of scent."
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Lord Mayfield and Sir George Carrington are polite, civic-minded men who care about their country and set up a trap to capture a dangerous spy. They also "don't like admitting" that they were outsmarted by a woman (although they don't deny it either) and are reluctant to summon Poirot, a foreigner, to help. Mayfield feels a lot more strongly about both of these than Carrington, but he is putting on a show to cover up his own plan to give the spies fake and useless plans.
  • Reverse Relationship Reveal: "Triangle at Rhodes" features two couples staying on the titular island; a murder happens after two members of the foursome apparently enter an adulterous affair. It's actually the other two members who are having an affair, and who are carrying out a plot to murder one of their spouses and get the other hanged for it, leaving the two survivors free to marry. Poirot puts a stop to this, though.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Lady Chevenix-Gore sees the shattered mirror and quotes the line "The mirror cracked from side to side" from Tennyson's poem "The Lady of Shalott". (Christie used that same line as the title of novel The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side.)
    • In "Murder in the Mews" Poirot refers to Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of Silver Blaze", and specifically Holmes' observation about "the curious case of the dog in the night-time" to make a point. He even calls Inspector Japp "Watson".
  • Summation Gathering: One of Christie's favorite tropes. He gathers everybody together in "Dead Man's Mirror", then pretends to pin the murder on Ruth in order to goad Miss Lingard into confessing.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Miss Lingard of "Dead Man's Mirror" commits murder solely to protect her (unknowing) daughter Ruth from being disinherited, and immediately confesses to save Ruth from being accused of said murder.
  • Title Drop: Poirot observes that different facets of the case reveal different things about Sir Gervase, just "the mirror smashed on the wall...the dead man's mirror" shows different reflections.
  • Unknown Relative: Miss Lingard, Sir Gervase's research assistant in "Dead Man's Mirror", turns out to be Ruth's birth mother. She finagled her way into the household while keeping that a secret, and gets Poirot to vow to keep the secret as well, which leaves the rest of the family having no idea what the motive was.
  • The Unsolved Mystery: Downplayed in "Dead Man's Mirror." The murder is solved, but it's never revealed who Gervase suspected of defrauding him when he summoned Poirot to his mansion, or if his suspicions were accurate. Poirot does note that the secretary and estate manager are both likely suspects, but never pursues this further.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Part of the reason Miss Lingard feels liberated enough to kill Sir Gervase is that she knows that she will soon die of a serious heart condition.