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The Big Four: A Hercule Poirot Mystery (Hercule Poirot Mysteries) Paperback – Print, August 30, 2011
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“It is always a delight to meet Hercule Poirot again. He is one of the few detectives with real charm.” (Dorothy L. Sayers)
“The acknowledged queen of detective fiction.” (The Observer (UK))
From the Back Cover
Framed in the doorway of Hercule Poirot’s bedroom stands an uninvited guest, coated from head to foot in dust. The man stares for a moment, then he sways and falls.
Who is he? Is he suffering from shock or just exhaustion? Above all, what is the significance of the figure 4, scribbled over and over again on a sheet of paper? Poirot finds himself plunged into a worldof international intrigue, risking his life—and thatof his “twin brother”—to uncover the truth.
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The underlying premise of this story is that Poirot is up against an extremely powerful, overreaching cabal that operates in the shadows- few government bodies know about this group, yet they are responsible for much of the chaos that is going on in Poirot's universe. I think this story itself progresses in the span of a year, maybe more maybe less it's tough to tell. The neat thing about taking me a long time to read this book as that made this whole ordeal feel drawn out, as it's supposed to. I read before I go to bed, and when I start back up the next night, I find that a few weeks or months have elapsed since I read the last part and it does help me feel the frustration Poirot must feel. Clues are extremely hard to come by, and Poirot seems to be growing increasingly paranoid as time passes. It's frustrating, it's unnerving, it's a massive conspiracy...you don't really know what the mystery you are trying to solve is until you are more than halfway into the book.
This book is very different than any other Poirot book that I've read, and I can see it is not for everyone. Like I mentioned, Agatha Christie usually builds a rich environment of complex characters that you start to become invested in, as you learn about their relationships with each other and their lies. In the Big Four, you hardly know who you are dealing with and so you don't get to delve deep into the character psyche as much. Of course, we are invested in Poirot and Hastings but they are not the story here. I know this is intentional because the big four are supposed to be this super secret group of people that no one knows anything about, so I can't really fault Christie here. However, I wish we got to spend more time on the Countess and her story.
As always, Poirot's and Hastings' relationship is out in full play. They have a very nuanced friendship that is very difficult to understand. I hope we see more of the two as I love their back and forth.
Although The Big Four was published nearly 9 decades ago, and with the exception of mentions of carts and carriages, only newspapers to learn the news of the day, and a complete lack of electronic devices, the story could be set today. Hercule Poirot’s detective work has truly stood up to the test of time. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys mysteries and detectives.
Of course, it is an early work - 1927, I believe; so it does not dull my enthusiasm for the Queen of Mystery. And it is interesting to compare with her more masterful works.
Even with its weaknesses, this is a mediocre novel written by a superior novelist.
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