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The big four by Agatha Christie

The big four (original 1927; edition 2016)

by Agatha Christie

Series: Hercule Poirot (5)

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2,822673,533 (3.32)106
A ruthless international cartel seeks world domination... 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'.… (more)
Title:The big four
Authors:Agatha Christie
Info:London : HarperCollins, [2016]
Collections:Your library
Tags:to-read, audiobooks

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The Big Four by Agatha Christie (1927)

  1. 01
    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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Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
For years I wanted to read everything Agatha Christie wrote....every book, every short story and each play. But life is always so busy....and Christie wrote more than 60 detective novels and 14 short story collections. I came to love Christie's books when I was 9 and bought my first Hercule Poirot books at a garage sale. For years, I carried a tattered list of her books I didn't already own in my purse, buying titles to fill in my collection when I could. But I never found time to read most of them.....and in the pre-internet age it was difficult to keep track of them all. Some books were published under one title in the UK and another in the US....or some stories weren't available in the US at all. And book listings in the front of paperbacks were not necessarily in order. It just became too Herculean a task .....and life whirled me away in other directions.

Until now.

Armed with the internet, digital library offerings, and my own book collection, I have finally started my Christie quest. And I'm loving every minute of it!!

The Big Four was published in the UK and the US in 1927 and features one of Christie's most popular characters, Hercule Poirot. I was excited to reach this title in my quest because this is my first reading of this Poirot mystery!! I own a tattered paperback from the early 1980s, but never read it. I'm sure I picked up the copy at a thriftshop, garage sale or used book store somewhere and was delighted to cross the title off my Christie shopping list...but then the paperback joined the collection on my shelves and was never enjoyed. I have now happily rectified that situation! I'm really not sure how I missed out on reading this book. It was published just weeks after Christie disappeared for 11 days (December 3-14, 1926). Public interest in her disappearance and eventual discovery at a hotel in Harrogate caused sales of The Big Four to skyrocket. I never knew this interesting fact until now. If I had, I might have read this book long before 2020! As it is, knowing a bit more about the background (the internet can be a wonderful learning tool!) of the story and its timing, made this an even more enjoyable audio book for me.

The audio version I listened to is narrated by Hugh Fraser (Harper Audio). Fraser gives a great performance. The unabridged audio is 5 1/2 hours...so it's a relatively easy listen.

The Big Four is actually a mashup of several earlier published short stories centering around the diabolical antics of a international group of four criminal masterminds. The stories were first published in the Sketch magazine in the UK from January - March 1924. US publication in Blue Book Magazine followed in March 1927 - January 1928. The 12 short stories are: The Unexpected Guest, The Adventure of the Dartmoor Bungalow, The Lady on the Stairs, The Radium Thieves, In the House of the Enemy, The Yellow Jasmine Mystery, The Chess Problem, The Baited Trap, The Adventure of the Peroxide Blonde, The Terrible Catastrophe, The Dying Chinaman, and the Crag in the Dolomites. Each story was worked into one or two chapters of The Big Four. The stories are all interconnected and assembled as a novel the tales actually flow pretty well. I would never have known the story started out as different short tales had I not learned as much while doing pre-reading research into the book. I can see why Christie went this route.....her personal life at the time was in tatters. Her mother had died, she was deeply depressed, her husband left her for another woman.....who can write a new, glorious murder mystery while perhaps having suicidal, dark, depressed thoughts? She cobbled together prior stories that work perfectly well together....and granted herself some time to work on her personal life. Kudos, Agatha!

The book was adapted by the television series Poirot in its final season.

The basics: Poirot gets a surprise visit from an old friend, Captain Hastings. But, they don't get to have a relaxing reunion.....the two are pulled into international intrigue as a group of 4 mysterious criminals attempt to further their attempts to gain world dominance. While the concept of taking over the world through nefarious means is now a cheesy plot, back when this book was written the plot wasn't cliche. There were a couple times as I listened to this story that my mind pulled up visions of Dr. Evil, Mojo JoJo and James Bond villains.....but all in all, it is an enjoyable Poirot adventure. A bit dated....but enjoyable.

There were spots in this tale that I found a bit ..... racist isn't the term I'm looking for really. Let's say...racially or culturally insensitive. The plot pretty much jumps right into the concept that The Bad Guys must be affiliated with American criminals, Russians or the Chinese. And a few antiquated terms (like coolie) are used. But, the book is nearly 100 years old. Political intrigue tales just don't age very well. The cultural concepts of 1920s England just seem a bit cheesy, cliche and insensitive in 2020. Even so, I still enjoyed Poirot and Hastings sleuthing out the identities of these 4 sneaky, international masterminds. They tried to trick, out maneuver and even kill the master detective. Silly ploy....they were the Diet Coke of Evil....not quite evil enough. ha ha.

So glad I finally read this book!! I wish I could read the stories in their original format. I'm going to do some sleuthing of my own and see if I can't ferret out the original tales online just so I can say that I read them. Moving on to the next novel: The Mystery of the Blue Train! (Another Christie novel I haven't read before!) ( )
  JuliW | Nov 22, 2020 |
In which Poirot and Hastings set off on a terrifying adventure to track down four master criminals with plans of world domination (no, literally.)

Well, it’s not very good, but it’s great fun… If the plot summary above didn’t inform you, it’s not a Poirot novel by any stretch of the imagination; instead, it’s one of the last vestiges of Christie’s 1920s thrillers. The plot is big and bold, like an early Hitchcock film but less well-executed, with spies and secrets, underground lairs, night-time executions, and the Christie equivalent of the informant who is shot with a blow-pipe just as they’re about to reveal the big secret.

Reportedly put together by Christie in the aftermath of her divorce, needing a quick buck, "The Big Four" does, however, genuinely make us concerned for the well-being of Poirot, Hastings (in one of his last appearances) and his wife (waiting for him in South America, to which he was exiled by Christie before even one decade of short stories and novels). It’s certainly a spirited read, bringing back one of the most interesting recurring characters from Christie’s 1920s output, but it just feels so out of place. Poirot is James Bond, and his villains respond accordingly. I would never suggest this novel to a Christie newcomer, but it’s good fun as long as you don’t try and take it seriously.

Incidentally, this is one of the bigger question-marks should a future (final) season be commissioned of the David Suchet Poirot series. As an early novel, and one so action-focussed, it will prove a bit of a challenge, I daresay.

Poirot ranking: 36th out of 38. ( )
  therebelprince | Nov 15, 2020 |
Not one of her better plots and frankly I found the whole thing slightly stupid. I mean, even Hastings should have seen some of this coming. The whole things concerns the Big Four who plan to... Yea, we know they mean to make trouble, but their exactly plan? Who knows? She tried her hand at a spy thriller story, so I commend her for taking a leap, but the result isn't up to the Christie Standard. ( )
  Colleen5096 | Oct 29, 2020 |
Poirot and Hastings face the Big Four, an arrogant crime syndicate. Makes a change from the individual murderer narrative and overall I quite enjoyed this one ( )
  ShreyasDeshpande | Oct 24, 2020 |
tough one for the poirot but ending is not so good ( )
  devendradave | Sep 1, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Christie, Agathaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adams, TomCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fraser, Hughsecondary authorsome 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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A ruthless international cartel seeks world domination... 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'.

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They are a vicious international quartet of criminals known as "The Big Four". Number One was a brilliant Chinese, the greatest criminal brain of all time; Number Two was a USAmerican multi-millionaire; Number Three was a beautiful Frenchwoman scientist; and Number Four was "the destroyer," the ruthless murderer with a genius for disguise, whose business it was to remove those who interfered with his masters plans. These four, working together, is a partnership with one simple goal, establish world dominance with murders.

Belgian detective Hercule Poirot was preparing for a voyage to South America when an uninvited guest, coated from head to foot in mud, stood at his doorway, collapsed, then recovered long enough to scribble the number four on a piece of paper. Now, "The Big Four" pursues eliminate the only man who can foil them: Hercule Poirot. It's up to Poirot and his faithful assistant Hastings to follow the clues and stop the deadly cabal from achieving its devastating end. But do they really avoid the Grim Reaper? In the most dangerous case of his career, the little detective will not be diverted by poison, a falling tree, electrocution, or a hit-and-run. Poirot appears to meet his end when a bomb explodes in his apartment. Hastings, devastated, vows to avenge him--but can he succeed without Poirot?
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