Liam Farrell: Is it murder? Or is it infectious?

Researchers have uncovered two previously unpublished Agatha Christie stories, and I think I know where one of them came from.

Liam Farrell
Liam Farrell

The colonel was lying in the drawing room with a squid on his face.

'What is your opinion, doctor?' asked Inspector Stern.

'Seems dead alright,' I observed, facts at my fingertips, though my attention was distracted by a little old lady, scribbling furiously into a tattered old notebook; nosey old bitch, I thought.

'Excuse me, madam,' I said (just in case she was someone important). 'Have we met?'

'Mrs Christie,' she said, proferring a hand and looking me up and down analytically.

'Why a squid?' I said, turning to the matter at hand, and dismissing the old bitch.

'The colonel collected unusual aquatic creatures,' simpered the French maid.

'Unusual indeed,' I observed archly. 'Look closer, inspector, this is no ordinary squid, but the deadly poisonous Obnoxious Squid, from Sumatra.'

'What are the effects of the poison?' asked the inspector.

'First, the victim becomes seriously obnoxious,' I said, to nods of recognition.

'Gosh, yeah,' agreed the butler, 'he had always been obnoxious, but in the last weeks he was off the chart.'

'Later symptoms include a temperature, a sore throat and muscle aches,' I concluded.

'Well that's it,' said the inspector. 'Case closed; death by squid.'

'Une moment, inspector,' interrupted a short, fat man with a moustache and an execrable French accent, 'but have you seen these?' With a flourish he produced a pinata and a rather garish sombrero.

'From this cheap and tasteless kitsch it seems a reasonable surmise that the colonel had recently been to Mexico, non?' he said, obviously enjoying himself hugely.

'I therefore rang the swine flu helpline and an expert who answered the phone told me that the symptoms were compatible, though, as the victim was an adult with no serious underlying disease, Tamiflu was not indicated; plus he was dead anyway.'

'OK,' said the inspector, 'case closed; death due to swine flu.'

'Yes,' I agreed, knowing when I was beaten, 'So long as we can have a crack at that pinata, as a squid pro quo.'


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