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By Julian Barnes

This can be, briefly, an entire, unsettling, and often exhilarating imaginative and prescient of the realm, beginning with the voyage of Noah's ark and finishing with a sneak preview of heaven!

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Gently, Poirot picked the little dog up and sat down with Augustus on his knee. He said: ‘So I have captured the Nemean Lion. ’ Poirot nodded. ‘I think so. You organized this business – with Augustus to help you. You took your employer’s dog out for his usual walk, brought him here and went on to the Park with Augustus. The Park Keeper saw you with a Pekinese as usual. The nurse girl, if we had ever found her, would also have agreed that you had a Pekinese with you when you spoke to her. Then, while you were talking, you cut the lead and Augustus, trained by you, slipped off at once and made a bee-line back home.

Lady Hoggin shook her head. ’ Miss Carnaby said brightly: ‘But I have the dog lead still. ’ She left the room. Hercule Poirot profited by her absence to ask a few pertinent questions. ‘Amy Carnaby? Oh! she’s quite all right. A good soul, though foolish, of course. I have had several 30 The Labours of Hercules companions and they have all been complete fools. But Amy was devoted to Shan Tung and she was terribly upset over the whole thing – as well she might be – hanging over perambulators and neglecting my little sweetheart!

And today, most fortunately, is a Thursday. ’ Twenty minutes later Hercule Poirot was climbing the stairs of an obscure block of flats tucked away in a little street leading off a more fashionable one. No. 10 Rosholm Mansions was on the third and top floor and there was no lift. Poirot toiled upwards round and round the narrow corkscrew staircase. 43 p q He paused to regain his breath on the top landing and from behind the door of No. 10 a new sound broke the silence – the sharp bark of a dog. Hercule Poirot nodded his head with a slight smile.

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