John's Reviews > The Big Four

The Big Four by Agatha Christie
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it was ok

This is a weird one. Apparently (I looked this up, because the book was so weird) Christie wrote a series of short stories about Poirot for some magazine and these stories were mashed together into this book. You can sort of tell that something like this is up, because the mashing didn't work all that well and things still seem a little disjointed.
But really, the main problem here is that Poirot is fighting a team of supervillains, and he uses disguises and smoke bombs and has to find their secret underground lair and the whole thing is just...odd. It comes off like Poirot fan fiction. I mean, he's the same character and all that, but the things he is doing are just not what I want Poirot to do. And the supervillains make no sense. They are a Chinese mastermind, a French woman scientist, an American billionaire, and an English master of disguise. How did these people get together? Why are they a team? Do they have any motive to speak of? They just want to take over the world and cause anarchy, for some reason. Sometimes Christie has characters talk of this "big four" wanting to cause world revolution "like in Russia", but that fails to clear things up. Are they communists? Why would the billionaire be a communist?
I don't want Poirot to fight supervillains. I want him in little English towns, ferreting out murderers who have motives. I like it when priggish British ladies say things like "What on earth are you on about, you batty little man?! Are you accusing me of murder?" to which Poirot says things like "You have, as they say, caught the bird in the bush, Madame. This is exactly what I accuse you of." And then he and Hastings drink sherry or something.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
August 1, 2011 – Finished Reading
August 24, 2011 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-23 of 23 (23 new)

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message 1: by Petercsm730 (new)

Petercsm730 Epic review.


Lenny That makes SO much sense, what with all of the weird times he went to solve another mystery

(https://liveinlibrary.wordpress.com)


Keela Well said! LOVE your review - it's spot on.


Sarah Thompson This is the best review haha


message 5: by Diana (new)

Diana Gomez I haven't read this, and might not now, but this review is the best. Your last paragraph is perfect


message 6: by Jess (new)

Jess Roelandts Strange, strange book and perfect review :)


Cherry I love this review! This sums up exactly how I felt about it. Thanks for the insight on the mash-up. That makes sense, it just didn't flow like the others.


message 8: by MrsER (last edited Jan 14, 2017 06:30AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

MrsER If you read John Buchan's Richard Richard Hannay stories, you will find much similarity in style. It was understandably the fashion to write that kind of story then. Other authors also used the same kind of subject then. If you read with this in mind, you will enjoy the book. Mrs. Christie was a wonderful writer, no matter what she wrote. I think it is a great pity that some people will take your word completely without even giving it a try.


message 9: by Kathleen (new) - added it

Kathleen Daly Very good review. You've saved me from reading something that would only annoy the s''' out of me for exactly the reasons you said. You made me laugh out loud with "your batty old man". A popular expression I've heard there these days is, "he's as a daft as a bat". Lol!!


María-Columna I have read many of Christie's books and love most of them. But this one... I totally agree with your comment. Nothing else to say. Thanks.


message 11: by Anna (new) - rated it 3 stars

Anna Kaling "A woman scientist" aka "a scientist."


message 12: by MrsER (last edited Jan 29, 2019 01:50PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

MrsER Anna wrote: ""A woman scientist" aka "a scientist.""

Anna, English is not my mother tongue, so your comment got me thinking... In my mother tongue, the article would define the noun (o cientista, a cientista) as masculine of feminine. I took the reviewer "a French woman scientist" as a Frenchwoman scientist.


message 13: by Anna (new) - rated it 3 stars

Anna Kaling Language is interesting, MrsRK! In this case it wasn't intended that way - you can see the other (male) characters are referred to by nationality without the gender - an English actor rather than Englishman actor, for example.


MrsER Anna wrote: "Language is interesting, MrsRK! In this case it wasn't intended that way - you can see the other (male) characters are referred to by nationality without the gender - an English actor rather than E..."

I understood the reviewer decided to make it clear that the character was a French scientist who happened to be a female; I do not see why specifying her gender might be a problem. There is a countess in the story; how would you go about mentioning her "without gender"? I guess where I come from people have no problem with gender being made clear.


message 15: by Anna (new) - rated it 3 stars

Anna Kaling It's a problem when 'white male' is assumed to be the default - you'll note the gender of the mastermind, billionaire, and master of disguise weren't made clear - because they're male, which the reviewer (and many others) see as the default state, even though slightly over half the world's population is female.

I suggest a quick google if you don't see why this is a problem. Here's just one opinion piece that touches on a few of the issues: https://cratesandribbons.com/2013/01/...


MrsER Anna wrote: "It's a problem when 'white male' is assumed to be the default - you'll note the gender of the mastermind, billionaire, and master of disguise weren't made clear - because they're male, which the re..."

I cannot see any harm done by a fiction book published in 1927--NINETY years ago! People reading this book must know things were different in the past. I don't understand this excessive sensitivity, really. It looks like everybody except "white males" are always on the lookout of some kind of esoteric offense. I don't mean to be rude, but I find this excessively silly.

And, frankly, I don't see how writing "a male Chinese mastermind, a female French scientist, an male American billionaire, and a male English master of disguise" would be of any improvement to Mankind! (Should I have written Womankind and Mankind?
And which should be given precedence: mankind or womankind?)


message 17: by Anna (last edited Jun 27, 2017 06:32AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Anna Kaling The review was written in 2011 and it's the review I'm responding to, not the book. But you're not interested in reasonable discussion, so I'll leave it here. :)


message 18: by MrsER (last edited Aug 03, 2017 08:10AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

MrsER Anna wrote: "The review was written in 2011 and it's the review I'm responding to, not the book. But you're not interested in reasonable discussion, so I'll leave it here. :)"

I fail to see why the review being written in 2011 has any bearing on this exchange. It seemed to me you were commenting on the review, not responding to it. Anyway, the review was about the book; so when you write a comment it cannot fail to be related to the book. Unless you want to discuss something else?

I have been answering your comments reasonably. So, I conclude, you have a problem with reason and prefer to discuss emotionally instead? Well, then, yes, I agree: let's leave it here! :-)


message 19: by Ana (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ana Beatriz THIS! I do not want a Poirot fighting against masters of crime who are together the-devil-knows-why. It gets odd and seems like a fanfiction in every aspect.


message 20: by MrsER (last edited Dec 30, 2018 08:08AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

MrsER Ana wrote: "THIS! I do not want a Poirot fighting against masters of crime who are together the-devil-knows-why. It gets odd and seems like a fanfiction in every aspect."

Just wanting won't make it go away. The book is there, it was written and there is nothing any of us can do. When I read it I found similarities to stories by Buchan's. Yet I recognized her writing style; it didn't seem to be fanfiction to me. But, well, that is how I see it. (And since you expressed such dislike of this book in your review, I suggest you stay away from The Labours of Hercules.)

E uma nota para ti, Anna: o "THIS!" no início não fez sentido algum. Ou seja, se tivesses escrito em português, que palavra terias usado?


message 21: by Mike (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mike Books Yes it's bit like Poirot meets James Bond. Interesting it was written in seperate sections, which explains the long gaps of time which occur.


Natalie Thank you!! I was wondering why I was having such a hard time getting into this book and why it felt so chopped up. Everything makes sense now.


Natalie Also a point about the "French woman scientist" a year and a big after the fact... The fact that the scientist ended up being a woman was a key part in the book and probably why the reviewer chose to include it. At the time this book was written, Male was the default and one of the "twists" was that the scientist was indeed female (therefore they didnt suspect her).


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