“The Big Four” by Agatha Christie – definitely not one of this author’s best novels

I am currently rereading my Agatha Christie collection starting with the Poirot books. It’s not a priority for me so it will happen over several years and I have now got to The Big Four which was written and originally published in 1927. It is not a typical Christie crime novel but actually a sort of conspiracy story where Poirot and his sidekick Captain Hastings overcome a world-wide gang who fear him so much that they try to get him out of the way. The gang’s actual purpose is foggy and not well developed and the story is told in a series of episodes as Poirot continually encounters the gang, thwarts their endevours and finds out the identity of its members.

This is a book of its time and it was not a great time for equality and diversity. The book is full of stereotypes of foreigners and description that will make you wince when you read them – it is particularly bad about China and the inscrutability of the Orient. The attitude to women is not a lot better. You could cope with this if the story was plausible and well written but it is really preposterous and it is obvious that this author’s skills did not lie in big conspiracy type novels but were better suited to more domestic, crime stories.

In each episode the author shows how Poirot, by use of his “little grey cells” overcomes the evil gang and wins the day to the amazement of the police. Poirot behaves completely out of character in this book as he continually takes action and becomes involved in setting traps rather than his usual, more sedentary, detection methods. Captain Hastings appears to be able to live on thin air and leave his home and wife in Argentina for long periods to stay with Poirot and recount the story for us – as usual, all his own deductions are flawed.

This is not a great book. It is possibly not a good book. It is outdated and unsatisfying. I really don’t recommend reading it unless you are keen to read all the author’s output. Agatha Christie’s crime novels are where she excels and I definitely recommend those.

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