n an attempt to snare the enigmatic art thief Marrascaud, Poirot and the Metropolitan Police set an irresistible trap: at the society debut of wealthy aristocrat Lucinda Le Mesurier, a priceless painting called 'Hercules Vanquishing the Hydra' by Marrascaud's favorite artist will be displayed, with Lucinda wearing exquisite diamond jewelery. A confident Poirot is convinced the criminal will be apprehended, but he does not foresee the eventual, disastrous outcome: not only does Marrascaud pinch the painting, but Lucinda herself is brutally murdered, and her jewels are stolen as well. The catastrophe weights heavily on Poirot's conscience, and he sinks into a steady depression, despite the entreaties of his physician, Dr Burton. Three months after Lucinda's murder, a lonely chauffeur asks Poirot to find his true love, the maid of celebrated Russian ballerina Katrina Samoushenka. Pitying the man, Poirot agrees to reunite the lovers pro bono and sets off to the Hotel Olympos in Rochers Neiges, Switzerland, where Katrina is supposedly staying. Run by the hearty (yet corrupt) Italian Francesco, the hotel is world-famous for its Alpine spa treatments, and much to Poirot's surprise, it is also Marrascaud's current hideout. But what identity has the villain taken? Among the guests, Poirot not only finds the bedridden Katrina, but also her imperious Austrian psychotherapist Dr Lutz, M.P. Harold Waring, who has shouldered the blame for an illicit scandal involving his superior, bossy Mrs Rice and her daughter Elsie Clayton, whose abusive husband is also staying at the hotel, parlor-game enthusiast Schwartz, and the only woman who has ever stirred his heart: former jewel thief Countess Vera Rossakoff, whose criminologist daughter Alice Cunningham is also present, along with her unsightly pet bulldog, Binky. A motley crew, indeed, and just as impenetrable. When an avalanche strands the guests, it becomes even more imperative to find Marrascaud. But several distractions prevent Poirot from facing his nemesis. Why is Katrina being deliberately evasive about the fate of her maid? Why does Dr Lutz have such a powerful hold on her? Why does Elsie's husband always dine in his room? What is Countess Rossakoff doing in Switzerland, and has she really given up her life of thievery? Why is Schwartz so hard to read? What happened to the old servant, Robert, and why is his replacement so inexperienced? Who tried to frighten Alice? As more and more questions pile up, less and less time remains as Poirot strives towards redemption for his past mistakes. But will he succeed in battling his inner demons as Hercules succeeded in conquering his twelve Labours, or will Marrascaud be the first criminal to prevail against the Belgian detective?

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