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The Big Four by Agatha Christie
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The Big Four (1927)

by Agatha Christie

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Hercule Poirot Mystery (5)

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1,868343,697 (3.42)67
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    Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie (Ludi_Ling)
    Ludi_Ling: Some 30 years may separate them, but both feature the same slightly inane global conspiracy theory plot.
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English (31)  Danish (1)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (34)
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
Like most of Christie's political suspense mysteries, The Big Four falls flat. The string of coincidences and lucky breaks would shame even Dickens, while the tricks and twists are so contrived that they're almost laughable. At one point Poirot and Hastings are captured and the criminal mastermind asks Poirot if he has any last requests. He asks to smoke a cigarette, which their captor places in Poirot's mouth. What do you know — the cigarette is actually a blowgun tipped with curare, allowing them to escape. And that's just one of the many impossibly silly moments in this story. Oy.

The only redeeming feature of this novel is the humor. Poirot, as described by his friend Hastings, is quite funny. So is Hastings' own lack of self perception. Another comic bit comes in with the revelation that Poirot has a twin brother, Achille Poirot. "Do you not know that all celebrated detectives have brothers who would be even more celebrated than they are were it not for constitutional indolence?" Poirot asks the astonished Hastings. Hehe.

I'm a Christie fan and enjoy most of her work, but I can't warm up to her efforts at international conspiracy stuff. Give me her country house, cozy mysteries any day — that's where she earns her reputation as one of the best-loved authors in the mystery genre. ( )
  wisewoman | Jul 28, 2014 |
I haven't read a lot of Agatha Christie but this was certainly the most clichéd mystery novel I have read. Hastings comes across as more dim-witted than usual and all the villains are stereotypes of 20s racial views. The story is certainly of its time but not the best of Christie from what I've read so far. ( )
  pcollins | Jul 27, 2014 |
An excellent Christie work. There are many small mysteries solved by the little grey-celled Belgian that all stack together to lead to the Big Four themselves and their crimes. ( )
  sriemann | Jul 24, 2014 |
I love the Grand Dame of mystery, and Hercule Poirot is one of my favorites. His adventures can be quite different from each other, but this is the first Poirot book I've read where Christie indulged in her secret criminal conspiracy plot device. She clearly had a fondness for spy intrigue and shady evil organizations, and I've read some of her other books that develop this theme, but never with Poirot before. While I find her books in this vein entertaining, I do prefer her more pure mysteries. The evil masterminds strike me as cartoony and unbelievable. I am being harsh - I like Noir style mysteries, and the Thin Man series, and they have many traits in common, but I suppose I am happier when Christie is spinning out a web of lies and deceit in an intimate setting of family and friends, rather than crafting spy capers.

To leave meandering, and address this particular book, I did enjoy it, and read through it in only two days. The story reunites Poirot with his old friend Hastings, who serves as a wonderful foil to his sleuthing. Hastings rightly points out Poirot's arrogance and finicky ways, but consistently overestimates his own talents and intelligence, and is righteously indignant when anyone points out his flaws (especially in comparison with Poirot). Nonetheless, the two men are close friends, and the story begins with Hastings embarked on a surprise visit. He lives in South America, but is in England for business. However, when he arrives at Poirot's flat, the Belgian is about to embark on a business trip to South America! Poirot is reluctant to go - he has been occupied with a mysterious organization called the Big Four, who he suspects are mastermind criminals. Poirot made a promise, though, and he intends to keep it. Until an unexpected visitor joins them, walking into the sitting room from Poirot's bedroom.

The man is covered in mud and nearly catatonic. He keeps repeating the same phrases over and over. More unusual, of course, is the fact that he arrived from the bedroom of a flat on an upper story, where the only entry is a window, and that he is rambling about the Big Four. Poroit eventually realizes that his trip to South America was arranged by the mysterious 4, and he promptly heads back to his flat, but not in time to stop the bad guys from killing his visitor, who turns out to be a part of British secret intelligence. Now that Poirot's suspicions are confirmed, the hunt is on, and he will stop at nothing to track down and destroy the Big Four.

Although the book is a novel, it often feels like a collection of short stories. In order to fight the Big Four, Poirot and Hastings follow every lead they find that is connected to the group. These nebulous connections lead into mini mysteries of their own, like the old man with his throat slit in his own house when no strangers visited the town, and the scientist who went missing in France. Some of the smaller episodes are more spy adventure, such as when Hastings goes undercover in the rich American's house to find out if he is one of the infamous four. Eventually, Poirot learns how to anticipate his opponents' moves, and puts all the random clues and leads together, planning a way to completely outmaneuver the Big Four and end their tyranny.

While not my favorite Poirot adventure, this novel is still highly entertaining and readable. The relationship between Poirot and Hastings is precious. Several times I laughed aloud at things one of them said. The small mysteries are satisfying, and the ending is appropriately grand and melodramatic. I know not everyone likes Christie mysteries, but I don't understand why, because she is such fun. This is not one of her finest works, but it's still a good time. ( )
  nmhale | Jun 21, 2014 |
Far-fetched plot, but great characters make up for it. ( )
  librariabillie | May 13, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Agatha Christieprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Laine, Anna-LiisaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I have met people who enjoy a channel crossing; men who can sit calmly in their deck-chairs and, on arrival, wait until the boat is moored, then gather their belongings together without fuss and disembark.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Alone, each was formidable. Together, they were virtually invincible. The Big Four -

a brilliant Chinese man,
an American Millionaire,
a French woman scientists and
an elusive maser of disguise -
a criminal conspiracy with diabolical designs.

Even the indomitable Hercule Poirot is appalled as he follows a trail of murders in what could very well prove to be his final case.
    ------------------------------

"No, no; rearrange your ideas, mon ami," Poirot said. "Exercise your little gray cells. You are Mayerling. You hear something, perhaps - and you know well enough that your doom is sealed. You have just time to leave a sign.
Four o'clock, Hastings. Number Four, the destroyer ....
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0425098826, Paperback)

An emaciated stranger approaches Hercule Poirot, shouts a warning about "the big four" and drops dead. Who knew Poirot's inquiry into the man's odd behavior would lead to an underground laboratory, an insane asylum, and rumors of a secret weapon?

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:29:02 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

They are formidable enemies in their own rights: a French scientist, an American millionaire, a brilliant Chinese gentleman, and a master of disguise. But together they are the Big Four, a partnership with one simple goal, murder. Hercule Poirot has never come up against an opponent so vicious, or so deadly.… (more)

» see all 10 descriptions

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