Review: The Big Four

My “to-review” list is rapidly filling up with Agatha Christie books. Christie books are my go-to audiobooks because I find them comforting and easy to listen to…which means I read them much faster than I review them!

Up on the docket today is The Big Four. Published originally in 1927, this is Christie’s fourth Poirot novel, and fifth published Poirot book overall (Poirot Investigates, a collection of short stories, was published in 1924).

Synopsis from Goodreads: “Framed in the doorway of Poirot’s bedroom stood an uninvited guest, coated from head to foot in dust. The man’s gaunt face stared for a moment, then he swayed and fell. Who was he? Was he suffering from shock or just exhaustion? Above all, what was the significance of the figure 4, scribbled over and over again on a sheet of paper? Poirot finds himself plunged into a world of international intrigue, risking his life to uncover the truth about ‘Number Four’.”

I can tell you right now that this one is not among my favorite Christie books, primarily because it feels all over the place and there is so much going on. This is largely due to the fact that since Christie was dealing with so much personally (the death of her mother, the divorce from her first husband, and a supposed mental breakdown), she had a more difficult time getting stories out and so, The Big Four is actually a compilation of a series of shorter Poirot stories. This is not the only time she has done this–on several occasions she created a larger novel out of a short or shorts, but it just doesn’t work as well with this one, in my opinion. It is hard in places to keep track of time and SO much of this story doesn’t feel plausible. Additionally, all of the events and action together don’t fit Poirot’s character–this is the detective who relies on the “little grey cells” over gallivanting off here and there constantly…and yet we have exactly that in this novel. With regards to this novel, in his book Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World, Mark Aldridge states,

It might be better to imagine Tommy and tuppence, married investigators always looking for a big adventure in poirot’s place–thrill-seekers who would be happy to run around the world in order to unmask the evil cartel behind a collection of murders and thefts of sensitive material.

p. 35

I have to agree with Aldridge here. This is not all to say that there aren’t any good moments. It is good to see Hastings here and there are great moments of classic Poirot deduction. I just can’t help but wonder what the effect would have been had we seen these published as a collection of related short stories instead of what feels like a hastily stitched together novel. If you are a Christie fan, you will probably still find some enjoyment in this one, but it is definitely not as strong as some of her others!

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