While I respect Agatha Christie for her contributions to the mystery genre, I have to admit I’m not necessarily a big fan of much of her work.
I’ve liked a good deal of what I’ve read, but for the most part little of it seems to end up on my list of favorite mystery stories or she on my list of favorite mystery writers.
But every once in a while, I’ll admit something about a Christie mystery or story captures my attention and I’m inclined to pick it up. In this case, it’s the hook for this collection of short stories.
In the later stages of his career, Hercule Poirot decides that he will take up a series of cases modeled after the legendary labors of Hercules. Each case must someone tie into one of the feats of the legendary hero.
And so, the great detective launches into a series of puzzles that are all (for the most part) of much lower stakes than the usual Poirot mystery. There are few stories here that deal with a murder and most involve a lost object or getting to the bottom of a particular issue or problem. Poirot engages the gray cells a bit.
However, while it’s fun to see Christie tie in the mythological stories of Hercules to the detective pursuits of Poirot, I have to admit that many of these mysteries were a bit too obvious in their solution. In just about half the stories, I deduced the outcome or solution several pages before Poirot did as well as the motivation for the "crime" presented in the story. On the one hand, it’s nice that Christie works to put all the details out there and not appear to come up with a solution out of left field. But it’s another if the reader is too easily able to discern the solution before the detective in the story and there’s no attempts to put in a red herring or two.
Part of this could be the limitation of short story telling. There’s less time to develop red herrings in the story.
In the end, I found myself enjoying the idea behind "The Labours of Hercules" more than I did the actual execution of the book.