24. The Big Four - an Hercule Poirot mystery
by Agatha Christie
Kindle book - 12
The Big Four is an unusual Hercule Poirot mystery. It has elements of international intrigue. The lives of Hastings and Poirot are in danger. There are four people who intend to take over the world. They are from China, the United States, France, and England. They each have their particular strengths, and in combination they are slowly working on achieving world domination. It is up to Hercule Poirot and his 'little grey cells' to save civilization. The book is comprised of various cases which on the surface seem like regular criminal investigations but which in reality are related to these four people. This is the first book I am aware of in which Poirot has operatives - people who do various jobs for him, including his brother (!!) Achille.
I found the book rather disjointed. There would be a chapter with a case, and then the next one was several months later. They all had the 'big four' connection, but for me they didn't hold together that well as a book. The book had an odd feeling about it. Poirot didn't seem like himself. It was worth reading, but it definitely didn't shine.
After I finished, I read in my Agatha Christie - A Reader's Companion by Wagstaff and Poole that:
The book was written at a difficult time for Christie. The year had begun with the death of her mother and was followed by the collapse of her marriage, which led her to the verge of a nervous breakdown. An indication of the degree of the trauma is contained in a letter to her publishers in which she proposed a change of name. But they insisted that her public had become used to her as Agatha Christie and she accepted this with considerable reluctance. Written when she was desperate for money, the novel is a rewriting of twelve Poirot short stories first published in The Sketch.Well, that explains it. Poor Agatha. I really must read more about her life.
Here is the first US dustjacket. I do love reading the titles by 'popular authors.' It is so interesting to see how her work has survived and thrived heartily while so many of her contemporaries have, as they say, drifted into obscurity.