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Literature / The Labours of Hercules

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The Labours of Hercules is a 1947 short story collection by Agatha Christie, comprising twelve stories which had been published in periodicals.

Hercule Poirot, near retirement, is visited by a Dr. Burton, and their meandering conversation touches on Hercule's unusual name. It inspires him to look into Classical Mythology, only to leave him appalled by the discovery that, by his standards, his namesake is nothing more than a brutish criminal. Still, he finds resemblance in the twelve labours, where Hercules was instrumental to overcoming each threat to society. Thus, he resolves to become the "modern Hercules", taking on twelve more cases before retiring:

  • "The Nemean Lion": A Pekingese dog belonging to the wife of a wealthy businessman was kidnapped and held for ransom. While initially reluctant to take on such a case, Poirot's interest is piqued by the fact that the businessman wrote to him, rather than his wife.
  • "The Lernaean Hydra": Dr. Oldfield's wife died a year ago, but local gossip holds that poison, rather than her illness, killed her. The physician wants Poirot to find the source of these rumors and bring them to an end.
  • "The Arcadian Deer": Waylaid in a small village, Poirot takes the case of a handsome young mechanic, who hopes to find a young servant girl named Nita who vanished without a trace.
  • "The Erymanthian Boar": Poirot's help is requested in identifying and capturing Marrascaud, a violent Parisian gangster, who's supposed to have a rendezvous at an isolated hotel.
  • "The Augean Stables": A tabloid paper threatens to tarnish the legacy of John Hammett, former prime minister, who remains a symbol of the country's honor. His successor Edward Herriot believes that only Poirot can prevent these allegations from seeing the light of day.
  • "The Stymphalean Birds": Harold Waring, one of the few English guests at a Herzoslovakian hotel, finds himself embroiled in the woes of Elsie Clayton: not only is her abusive husband in pursuit, but a pair of vulturous women want to take advantage of that. All seems lost, until Poirot makes his entrance.
  • "The Cretan Bull": Diana Maberly wants Poirot to look into recent events concerning her ex-fiancé, Hugh Chandler. His family has a history of insanity, and it seems to be surfacing in the young man.
  • "The Horses of Diomedes": Dr. Michael Stoddart enlists the help of Poirot after a friend, Sheila Grant, enters the world of cocaine. She's one of the four daughters of a retired general, and it seems as though someone's been inducing the girls to use the drug at parties. The doctor hopes that Poirot can take down the ring and its supplier.
  • "The Girdle of Hippolyta": Alexander Simpson wants Poirot to investigate the theft of a painting by Peter Paul Rubens, but his interest lies in the case of Winnie King, a young girl who vanished off a train only to reappear elsewhere.
  • "The Flock of Geryon": Miss Carnaby brings a case to Poirot, desperate to use her own talents to help him investigate. A widowed friend has joined the "Flock of the Shepherd", and made out a will leaving everything to the sect. Over the past year, several women have suddenly passed away after doing the same, and Miss Carnaby fears that her friend might be next.
  • "The Apples of Hesperides": A valuable artifact was stolen after Emery Power purchased it, and he blamed a rival bidder. Now convinced of the rival's innocence, however, he wants Poirot to find out what happened to it.
  • "The Capture of Cerberus": The Countess Vera Rossakoff invites Poirot to "Hell", her new nightclub. When he recognizes one of the patrons as an inspector, he discovers that the police suspect that Hell is the core of a dope ring.


The stories include examples of the following tropes:

  • Angry Guard Dog: The Hell Club is guarded by a huge black dog named Cerberus (what else?) who, though not actually violent, is certainly intimidating, growling at all visitors until they toss him a treat.
  • Animal Motifs: Most of the creatures that Hercules faced have modern incarnations as humans, but the most direct comparisons are the Polish sisters; with their flapping cloaks, hooked noses, and long fingernails, Harold immediately compares them to birds of prey. They are not the vulturous "Stymphalean Birds", however; those turn out to be Mrs. Rice and Elsie.
  • Bad to the Last Drop: In "The Arcadian Deer" Poirot is stranded at a shabby inn, where he eats a poorly-made dinner finished off by "a cup of liquid mud euphemistically called coffee."
  • Batman Gambit: How Poirot destroys tabloid newspaper the X-Ray News in "The Augean Stables". He lures them into publishing stories about how the prime minister's wife is a libertine who's been drinking and partying her way around Europe with a Handsome Lech. When it comes time for the libel trial the story is decisively disproved and the newspaper is ruined; Poirot hired a lookalike for the PM's wife and brought the story to the paper just so they'd run it and get destroyed in court.
  • Beneath the Mask: "The Augean Stables" gives us Dagmar Hammett-Ferrier, wife of Prime Minister Edward Ferrier. She very carefully cultivates an image of the perfect English spouse: stylish but not ostentatious, dedicated to charities and public events, and making sure to only focus on "those aspects of public life which were generally felt to be proper spheres of womanly activity." But behind her pleasant facade, she's an anxious woman who knew her popular father's true character as a con man and has been dreading its inevitable reveal for years. Poirot outright calls her "Caesar's wife" when he first speaks to her.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Countess Vera Rossakoff is described as a "large, flamboyant woman" and "a ruin, but a wonderful ruin." Poirot finds himself hopelessly enamored of her.
  • Blackmail: The titular Stymphalean Birds are aware of what happened in Elsie's hotel room, and expect to be paid off for their silence.
  • Broken Pedestal: What new Prime Minister Edward Ferrier fears in "The Augean Stables". It turns out the old PM, John Hammett, a highly respected statesman, was actually a crook. Ferrier is desperate to stop this from coming out.
  • The Bus Came Back: Amy Carnaby, a key character in opening story "The Nemean Lion", pops back up in the tenth story, "The Flock of Geryon". She's worried about her friend, who has joined a suspicious cult.
    • The final story has Countess Vera Rossakoff, who first appeared in "The Double Clue" (an unrelated short story), come back into Poirot's life.
  • Busman's Holiday: After Poirot's hunt for Nita leads him to Switzerland, he decides to do a little sightseeing. Not only does he get roped into the hunt for an infamous criminal, but the description of Marrascaud as a "wild boar" makes it a perfect match for his next labour.
  • Buxom Beauty Standard: It turns out Poirot has a weakness for bigger ladies, as the Countess Rossakoff proves. It's also a case of Opposites Attract, as the narration remarks that "it is the misfortune of small, precise men to hanker after large, flamboyant women." He also expresses disappointment at the current fashion for women to be slim, which he does not find attractive.
  • Closed Circle: The funicular leading to Rochers Neiges is damaged the night after Poirot arrives, trapping him up there along with Marrascaud.
  • The Con:
    • In "The Stymphalean Birds" Mrs. Rice and her daughter Elsie cook up a complicated blackmail scheme in which they fake a murder, then tell Harold that they need his money to bribe the police to keep it quiet.
    • In "The Augean Stables," Dagmar Hammett-Ferrier pulls one off on her husband, Prime Minister Edward Ferrier, with Poirot's help. Poirot finds an Identical Stranger named Thelma Andersen to pose as Dagmar and take salacious photos in unseemly places, with Dagmar herself not saying a word and eventually traveling to stay with a bishop under the guise of a "rest cure." The trick works splendidly, and when Edward protests that he should have been in on it, Dagmar correctly points out that he would have forbidden her from helping, which she couldn't allow.
  • Con Man: In "The Augean Stables," the recently-retired Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, John Hammett, is revealed as one; he's described as "a gigantic confidence trickster" who convinced the public that he was an upstanding, kindly politician while he was busy stealing millions of pounds from Party funds.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • "Herzoslovakia" also appeared in Christie novel The Secret of Chimneys, in which the murder of the heir to the throne is a central mystery.
    • Dr. Burton mentions that Poirot has a brother, Achille. Then "Poirot's mind raced back over the details of Achille Poirot's career." That's a reference to The Big Four, where Poirot invents a fictional twin brother as part of a ruse. However, the way Poirot speaks of Achille makes it sound as though Achille was an actual person who died very young.
    • Some twenty years after The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Poirot is still talking about retiring to grow vegetable marrows.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Poirot may be deliberately taking cases that can be linked to the labours, but some of those links turn out to be remarkably convenient.
    • Marrascaud is described as a "wild boar", which Poirot sees as a chance to capture the Erymanthian Boar.
    • Poirot has no interest in getting involved with political scandal, but he takes the case after the task is compared to cleaning the Augean Stables.
    • The stolen Rubens painting just so happens to depict the Girdle of Hippolyta.
    • Countess Rossakoff has set up an Underworld-themed nightclub, complete with a guard dog named Cerebus.
  • Cult: In "The Flock of Geryon" Amy Carnaby approaches Poirot and asks him to investigate a weird cult that her friend has gotten sucked into. It's a Scam Religion.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: Inverted in "The Augean Stables." When Poirot first meets Edward Ferrier, the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, he recalls that his old friend Professor MacLeod, a scientific genius who testified in a murder case, once remarked "Ferrier was one of my students. He's a sound man." While it doesn't seem like much of a compliment, Poirot knows that it's enormous praise coming from MacLeod, and indeed takes up Ferrier's case on those words alone: "If MacLeod called a man sound it was a testimonial to character compared with which no popular or press enthusiasm counted at all."
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The two Polish women in "The Stymphalian Birds" strike Harold as creepy, almost like vultures or witches, and Mrs. Rice reveals that they are trying to blackmail Harold and Elise. They turn out to be completely innocent tourists, and they only seem creepy because Harold doesn't understand Polish and they don't speak English.
  • Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit: Inspector Drouet, disguised as "Robert", is killed and set up to look like Marrascaud.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Although he doesn't explicitly say so (because there is a lady present) the man who led Cerberus away from the Hell Club used the scent of a bitch in heat.
  • Domestic Abuse: Elsie Clayton is fleeing an abusive and jealous husband. As it turns out, he doesn't exist.
  • Driven to Suicide: "The Cretan Bull" ends with Admiral Chandler, after he's exposed as a murderer, walking off and shooting himself. Remarkably, Poirot lets it happen.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Two of the cases involve cocaine trafficking, and characters make strong statements about how drugs bring ruin to addicts.
  • Eagleland: Mr. Schwartz, an American tourist, is very out of place in Switzerland. Bringing a gun turns out to save Poirot from Marrascaud's goons.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Rossakoff may be a conwoman and thief, but she's horrified by the suggestion that she might be involved in the drug trade.
  • Fictional Political Party: The late John Hammett and his successor Edward Herriot belong to the "People's Party". What's weird about this is that in the last story, "The Capture of Cerberus", a character mentions both Labor and the Tories by name. It's possible that the People's Party is intended to stand in for the British Liberal Party, whose ministers including PM H.H. Asquith were implicated in an insider trading scandal in the 1910s that led to a libel suit against the publisher similar to the one in the story (unfortunately for the ministers without the distraction provided by Hercule Poirot).
  • Finger in the Mail: The ransom demand for the kidnapped Pekingeses says that, if the ransom isn't paid, his ears and tail will be cut off. Amy wouldn't dream of actually doing such a thing to a Peke, but knows that no other Peke-owner would let it happen either.
  • Fingertip Drug Analysis: Sgt. Grey of the police does this in a suspected case of poisoning! And it was pointless, as Poirot explains that "White arsenic does not taste."
  • Frameup: After it's determined that Mrs. Oldfield was poisoned with arsenic, Nurse Harrison plants a compact full of the powder in Jean's bedroom.
  • Gaslighting: In "The Cretan Bull," Hugh Chandler thinks he is gradually going mad, as he suffers from hallucinations, hydrophobia, and keeps waking up with a bloody razor next to him after various animals are found dead. It turns out the real culprit is Admiral Chandler, his "father"; Hugh is actually Colonel Frobisher's child. When the admiral realized that Hugh wasn't his son, he decided to poison Hugh with datura mixed into his shaving cream, which causes all of the above symptoms. Chandler also killed the animals himself and planted the bloody weapon on Hugh.
  • Gossipy Hens:
    • A big problem for Dr. Oldfield, as the town gossips spread rumors that maybe Oldfield killed his wife.
    • This is a running theme in "The Augean Stables"—as news of Dagmar Ferrier's exploits spread across London, more and more citizens become convinced she's a drunk and sex maniac. Each new section of the story begins with "People were talking."
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: "The Apples of Hesperides" features a goblet of untold value: it originally belonged to Pope Alexander VI—the infamous "Borgia Pope"—and is made of solid gold, emblazoned with a tree pattern with emeralds for apples. Poirot uses his network of contacts all over the world to find the missing goblet, but eventually tracks it down in an incredibly obvious place: a convent, where it's in plain view on the altar and being used for daily masses. The sleuth reasoned that such a treasure had to be somewhere "ordinary material values did not apply"; that, plus the fact that the man who originally stole it had a daughter who was preparing to become a nun, meant that a convent was the only possible hiding place.
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: Mrs. Rice exploits Harold's inability to speak Polish; she passes off what was actually an innocuous conversation with the two Polish ladies as a blackmail demand.
  • Higher Understanding Through Drugs: Exploited by Dr. Anderson, who injects his followers with an extract of marijuana that causes a euphoria which they interpret to be a spiritual awakening.
  • Hunting "Accident": Toward the end of "The Cretan Bull" Hugh Chandler takes up a gun and says he's going "out to get a rabbit" now that he's convinced he's becoming a violent lunatic. Once Poirot reveals Admiral Chandler's scheme to drug Hugh and make him think he's going insane, the Admiral takes up the gun and goes "out to get a rabbit".
  • Hypocrite:
    "Men," said Mrs. Samuelson, rearranging her handsome diamond bracelet and turning her rings on her fingers, "think of nothing but money."
  • Identical Stranger: Invoked and exploited by Poirot in "The Augean Stables." He goes searching for someone who closely resembles Dagmar Ferrier, the Prime Minister's wife, and finds a nearly exact duplicate in a woman named Thelma Andersen. He then hires a journalist friend of his to pretend to be an agent of the X-Ray News and pay Thelma to appear as a "stand-in" for a famous actress; everyone who sees the photos thinks it's Dagmar.
  • Ignored Enamored Underling: A doctor is accused of poisoning his wife to marry his assistant. The murderer is the nurse, who thought he'd marry her, and proceeded to frame him once she discovered who he was in love with.
  • Insidious Rumor Mill: In "The Lernean Hydra", rumors are likened to the eponymous Hydra, since it's impossible to keep down one rumor without causing more rumors to surface. In this case, a doctor is believed to have poisoned his bedridden wife to elope with his assistant (not helped by the fact that the doctor is in love with his assistant and would have gladly married her if it wasn't for the rumors). The culprit, however, is the wife's nurse, who was also in love with the doctor and thought he'd marry her if the wife was out of the way. She is vengeful against him for turning her down and used the rumors, as well as planting evidence, to frame him.
  • Invented Individual: It turns out that Philip Clayton does not exist, and is only used as part of a scam.
  • It Runs in the Family:
    • Hugh Chandler's grandfather went mad, and it seems to have skipped a generation, with Hugh killing sheep in the night. It turns out that he isn't the biological son of Admiral Chandler, but Admiral Chandler certainly is mad.
    • In a more lighthearted example, it's revealed that John Hammett, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was "a gigantic confidence trickster" who put up a saintly image while embezzling millions for himself. His daughter, Dagmar Hammett-Ferrier, turns out to also have a knack for cons and tricks, but she uses her skill for a helpful purpose: saving her husband's career and destroying a vicious gossip magazine.
  • It's All My Fault: In "The Augean Stables," Dagmar Hammett-Ferrier blames herself for her husband Edward's troubles, as he only became attached to her father John by courting her. As she puts it, "It is through marrying me that Edward—that Edward will lose everything." As such, she's eager to join in Poirot's attempts to take down the X-Ray News and even helps him figure out how to do it.
  • Just Like Robin Hood: Miss Carnaby compares the dog-napping scheme in "The Nemean Lion" to Robin Hood, stealing money from rich people who can easily afford to pay.
  • Kill and Replace: Marrascaud kills Inspector Drouet and impersonates him while Poirot is investigating.
  • Kitschy Themed Restaurant: Countess Rossakoff's nightclub, "Hell," is jam-packed with Underworld imagery from various cultures: the stairs leading to it are written with well-meaning phrases as "the good intentions that pave the road to Hell"; customers must cross a small pond guarded by a ferocious black dog named Cerberus and feed it in order to gain entrance; the waitstaff wear red tuxedos, tails, and horns; and the walls are painted with elaborate frescoes representing various gods and myths of underworlds from across the planet. Unlike most examples of this trope, though, it's not kitschy—Madame Rossakoff spent a fortune decorating the place and consulted with various experts to ensure that it was accurate and fun (that said, one of these experts complains that she got the myths for the murals wrong). It also helps that, at the time, such an elaborately-themed club would have been groundbreaking.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: When Harold Waring starts speculating feverishly about hiding the dead man's body, Mrs. Rice says "This isn't a detective story!". (It is.)
  • Let Off by the Detective: Poirot discovers the perpetrator of the dog-napping plot in "The Nemean Lion" but not only lets them off, he comes to sympathize with their situation and is impressed by the cleverness of the plot.
  • Malicious Slander: Doctor Oldfield's practice is suffering thanks to the rumours that he poisoned his wife.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Hugh Chandler turns out to not actually be Admiral Chandler's son, but the son of Col. Frobisher, the man his mother really loved. This is part of what drives Admiral Chandler mad and leads him to try and destroy Hugh.
  • Mister Muffykins: "The Nemean Lion" is about a kidnapping ring that specializes in snatching yappy little Pekingese dogs. Sir Joseph complains that his wife's dog is "a damned yapping little brute that’s always getting under your feet anyway!"
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Doctor Oldfield's marriage is loveless, and his attraction to Jean Moncrieffe, his dispenser, is obvious. According to rumour, Mrs. Oldfield was poisoned by one of them to make him available for marriage. The motive's right, but Nurse Harrison was the killer, as she believed Oldfield would marry her.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Poirot narrowly avoids getting thrashed by Edward Ferrier for dragging his wife's name through the mud. Only Dagmar telling her husband that she quite enjoyed the peace and quiet for a few weeks saves Poirot.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: In "The Flock of Geryon," Mr. Cole, a member of the cult who briefly accosts Amy Carnaby with a disturbing tale of "vision" of his involving virgin sacrifices, turns out to be Detective Inspector Cole, and ends up arresting Dr. Andersen at the end.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Amy Carnaby, whom Poirot considers quite brilliant.
  • Old Maid: Amy Carnaby, who says that "old maids" like her are known to be sentimental about babies, which is part of Amy's scheme.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: At the very end of the collection, Poirot's secretary Miss Lemon notices that he's ordered a dozen expensive red roses to be shipped to Countess Rossakof to celebrate her son's new engagement. When Miss Lemon asks about this, Poirot—who normally hates spending money and is The Stoic—remarks that there are occasions where exceptions are made, then exits the office whistling as he goes to see the Countess. Miss Lemon immediately gets in on the trope (which is lampshaded by the narration) by losing all thoughts of work and instead giving mind to romantic fancy.
  • Out of Focus: Much of "The Stymphalean Birds" centers on a young Englishman named Harold and his exploits at a resort in Herzoslovakia. Poirot only shows up in the last two pages of the story to solve the crime. Justified in that he deduces the criminals' blackmail scheme from a single conversation with Harold—if he'd been there all along, the story would have been over in five paragraphs.
  • Paid-for Family: The Grant sisters are all petty criminals paid to pose as "General Grant's" daughters and distribute cocaine to young rich idiots at parties.
  • Police Are Useless: Exploited by Mrs. Rice in "The Stymphalean Birds"—she tells Harold that she can easily bribe the cops to cover up her son-in-law's murder if he provides the cash; since they're in a foreign country, the police are inherently corrupt. Poirot scolds Harold for falling for the trick, remarking that no cop is that bad.
  • Professional Voice Dissonance: Miss Pope runs a very exclusive girls' school. While explaining how the school works so Poirot can figure out how a student was kidnapped with no one noticing, she realizes she's drifting into her talking-to-parents voice and reverts to a tone that's less of a sales pitch.
  • Racial Face Blindness: "The Nemean Lion" features a lampshading of the trope, as Amy Carnaby compares people being unable to tell Pekingese dogs apart to how Englishmen have trouble telling Chinese people apart.
  • Religious and Mythological Theme Naming: Hercule (and Achille) Poirot were named for Greek heroes, and Poirot himself takes great satisfaction in considering himself a vanquisher of evil like Hercules (though he notes that his mythic counterpart is more savage and uncivilized).
  • Rule of Symbolism: Poirot invokes this trope In-Universe in searching for his "twelve labours" — he realizes that the odds of the London Zoo having a problem with the lion or an actual stable needing to be flooded are extremely low, and so decides to seek for metaphorical connections to the cases: for instance, the Nemean Lion is a Pekingese dog (said to be descended from lions in a Chinese myth) and the "river" used to flood the Augean Stables is the idea of sex, which Poirot describes as an equally-powerful "natural force." He does, however, decide not to follow the myths too closely and so avoid the tunic of Nessus that was Hercules' death.
  • Ruritania: Herzoslovakia, where Mrs. Rice can easily arrange for her son-in-law's death to be reported as natural. The trope is exploited; as Poirot points out, Harold is greatly overestimating how easy it is to bribe foreign police.
  • Scam Religion: The cult that Poirot investigates in "The Flock of Geryon" turns out to be a scam in which the cult leader murders gullible old ladies after they join and deed their property to the cult.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: In-Universe, Poirot resolves to take on twelve cases, each of which he considers a modern representation of Hercules' labours.
  • Shame If Something Happened: A rare heroic example occurs at the end of "The Nemean Lion." Poirot has figured out—independently of the dognapping case—that Sir Joseph Hoggin, the client, is not only having an affair with his secretary, but has been gradually poisoning his wife's nightly tonic water so he can run off with the younger woman. During his summation, Poirot mentions that he once captured a criminal doing the exact same thing to his own wife, and how the murderer wound up on the gallows for it. Sir Joseph immediately gets the hint and calls off the affair, with Lady Hoggin later remarking that her tonic water has strangely lost its bitter taste...
  • Shipper on Deck: The Polish ladies seem to take an interest in Harold and Elsie, but because he doesn't like or understand them, he thinks they're completely misunderstanding his intentions towards her.
  • Sins of the Father: In "The Cretan Bull," Admiral Chandler learns that his late wife and Colonel Frobisher had an affair years ago (largely because Mrs. Chandler realized that her husband was a dangerous man) which resulted in a pregnancy. Hugh believes himself to be the admiral's son, but when Chandler realizes the truth, he attempts to poison the young man as revenge.
  • Spanner in the Works: In "The Girdle of Hippolyta," the art thieves who steal a priceless Rubens concoct an elaborate scheme to ship it across the Channel in a schoolgirl's trunk, figuring that customs won't bother to look for it there. The plan almost works — except that Miss Pope, the headmistress of the school they chose as a cover, always does a thorough inspection of every girl's luggage upon its arrival. She thus finds the painting (crudely covered with other oils), with a note that it is intended as a present for her, and hangs it in her office before the crooks can recover the goods.
  • Teen Idol: Poirot himself, believe it or not, gets this treatment at the end of "The Girdle of Hippolyta." The case takes him to a girls' finishing school in England, and after he solves it, he starts to leave — only to be mobbed by dozens of teenage girls all begging for the great detective's autograph. Poirot jokingly declares their treatment "the attack of the Amazons."
  • Til Murder Do Us Part:
    • Sir Joseph in "The Nemean Lion" reminds Poirot of a man he arrested back in Belgium for poisoning his wife. Shortly after he casually mentions this to the man, his wife notices her tonic doesn't have a bitter aftertaste any more...
    • Dr Oldfield is accused of this by Gossipy Hens, and hires Poirot to prove otherwise.
  • Title Drop: Dr. Burton says "Yours aren't the labors of Hercules, yours are labors of love." He is skeptical that Poirot can ever retire.
  • Treated Worse than the Pet: In "The Nemean Lion", Poirot investigates the kidnapping of a Pekingese dog belonging to the wife of a businessman, after said dog was returned for a ransom. Lady Hoggin, the distressed moth... err, owner, treats her husband as a nuisance and abuses verbally of Amy Carnaby, her companion, although the latter is still suffering with BSOD because the dog was kidnapped when she was walking with it. It is a sham: Ms. Carnaby abducted the pet, as part of a kidnapping ring she created with other women exploited by petty rich women that treat their dogs better than people. Poirot sympathizes with her, especially because she uses the ransoms to support her invalid sister; he not only makes them a donation but promises to convince the Hoggets to drop the charges, as long as Ms. Carnaby returns their money and stops the scheme.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: In "The Capture of Cerberus," Countess Vera Rossakoff tells Poirot to meet her "in Hell," then vanishes into the crowd. Poirot is baffled by what her message means and, after racking his brains, finally asks Miss Lemon about it. She replies that he should "ring up for a table" without a moment's hesitation — it turns out "Hell" is the name of Rossakoff's new nightclub.
  • Villain Ball: In "The Stymphalean Birds," Mrs. Rice and her daughter Elsie are able to bilk Harold out of a lot of money, and would have succeeded had they settled for that much. But they noticed his fear of the mysterious Polish women at their resort and get greedy, deciding to pretend that they need even more cash to avoid blackmail. Their avarice ends up getting them arrested, as Poirot has a chance meeting with Harold and easily figures out the scheme.
  • Villainous Crossdresser: In "The Stymphalean Birds", Mrs. Rice disguises herself as her daughter Elsie's fake "husband" as part of the blackmail plot.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: In "The Augean Stables," it turns out that the much-beloved John Hammett, who recently retired as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was a shameless thief who used his good name to embezzle millions and build a vast fortune for himself. Only his daughter Dagmar ever realized that he was a sham, and even she didn't know the extent of his crimes.
  • We Need a Distraction: Poirot pulls this off on a country-wide level in "The Augean Stables": since there's no way to get the X-Ray News to pull their upcoming piece about John Hammett's true nature as a crook, the detective realizes that he needs to give them another story too juicy to pass up and then expose it as a fake. He does so with the help of Dagmar Hammett-Ferrier, the current Prime Minister's wife: they find a woman who closely resembles Dagmar and arrange for her to be photographed in various unseemly places across France and England. The X-Ray News takes the bait and publishes the photos, writing about how Dagmar is a libertine; everyone in the UK turns against her; and then, in a show trial, the truth is revealed, the Ferriers vindicated, and the X-Ray News utterly destroyed.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: Naturally, but several of Hercule's labours align very closely with those of Hercules', even if they started out with tenuous connections.
    • After defeating the Nemean Lion, Hercules wore its skin. After solving the Pekingese kidnapping ring (with Amy Carnaby helpfully pointing out that, according to legend, Pekes are descended from lions) Poirot says he wants Augustus's "mantle of invisibility", which turns out to mean making Sir Joseph feel that, if he continues to poison his wife, Poirot will know.
    • The Lernaean Hydra is the gossip surrounding the suspicious death of Mrs. Oldfield, which simply grows anew whenever one version is disproven.
    • Hercules' pursuit of the Arcadian Deer takes him over great distances. The golden-haired Nita proves to be very elusive, and tracking her down leads Poirot to Italy, and finally, Switzerland.
    • The Erymanthian Boar must be captured alive, which Hercules achieves by driving the boar into thick snow. Marrascaud is cornered at a hotel on a remote, snowy mountain, and Poirot is asked to capture him alive.
    • The Augean Stables are known for being literally full of horseshit, like Hammett was by pretending to be an upstanding statesman while embezzling millions of pounds, and Poirot must keep his record officially clean by discrediting a tabloid that was going to publish the story. Hercules cleaned the stables by diverting the flow of a river to wash the mess away, and Poirot symbolically gets into the mud himself to fabricate a story about Dagmar Hammett-Ferrier and use another force of nature, the fascination with sex.
    • The Stymphalian Birds are a flock of man-eaters who terrorized the countryside in search of food, and were driven off with the clanging of magical bells. In this case, they're a pair of women who harass Elsie and Harold for blackmail money. The stymphalian bird analogues are actually Elsie and Mrs. Rice, who are plotting to steal Harold's money by claiming they need it for bribes (saying Elsie killed her abusive husband and they need the money to get her off) and later blackmail (claiming that two Polish women they talked to were the blackmailers). Poirot comes along at the end and drives them off by figuring out their scheme, using not bronze bells, but the copper wires of the international teletype system.
    • Hercules tames the Mares of Diomedes, driven mad by their diet of human flesh, by feeding their master to them. General Grant is supplying the cocaine to his "daughters", who are in fact his pushers, and his ring is brought down when Poirot convinces Sheila to give evidence against them.
    • Playing it for laughs, after retrieving the painting of Hercules claiming the Girdle of Hippolyta, Poirot is suddenly swarmed by autograph-seeking young girls, which he directly compares to the subsequent attack by the Amazons.
    • The Capture of Cerberus required Hercules to descend into the Underworld. Poirot's case has him investigating Hell, a nightclub themed around various mythological underworlds.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Harold is furious at how unfair life has been to Elsie. It's all an act on her part.

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