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The Big Four (Hercule Poirot, #4)
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Poirot Buddy Reads > Unofficial Poirot Buddy Read SPOILER THREAD: Poirot 6 The Big Four

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Jessica | 377 comments Poirot and Hastings have to defeat a criminal gang ... Enjoy!

I have never read this book before, so will see you here in a couple of days. Please go right ahead in the spoiler thread in my absence!


Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2180 comments Seems I'm in the minority here, as I really liked this book. OK, at times it did seem a bit disjointed, but it was so different from the usual Christie books, that it amazed me. I certainly can't see myself forgetting this book unlike some of the other Christie books I have read.


Susan | 10527 comments Mod
Actually, I haven't read it for years, Jill. I have just started a re-read (or re-listen, rather, on Audible).


Susan | 10527 comments Mod
I am really enjoying this. I have to admit to a real fondness for Hastings and it's nice to have him so centre stage.


Roman Clodia | 905 comments I'm enjoying my re-read of this more than I expected. The James Bond-esque master villains aimed at world domination feels dated but I like the individual stories - the death at the chess tournament is ingenious!

And yes, Susan, Hastings is in top form - bumbling and foolish, but his loyalty is unquestioned.


Susan | 10527 comments Mod
I am listening to the Audible version with Hugh Fraser giving a perfect reading :)


message 7: by Robin (last edited Jun 10, 2018 04:58AM) (new) - added it

Robin I've always enjoyed this novel, contrary to Christie's feeling about writing it. When I first read it, I didn't know of her reservations, so am now thinking about those as I re-read. I think that the short stories are good, and enjoy them as short stories more than I have the ones published as such. However , I think that the real cleverness is in the links. Poirot's and Hasting's characters really come to the fore in these links. Their affection for each other is not diminished by their criticisms- Hastings voiced to the reader and Poirot's in his clever use of words to Hastings. I like the move away from the cosy mystery, as happens with They Came to Baghdad too, and others I thoroughly enjoy. Yes, the idea of world domination is dated. On the other hand, it is quite interesting to see it being placed in terms of rapacious individuals, rather than a philosophy. The use of mannerisms to identify a consummate identity changer is a good feature.


Susan | 10527 comments Mod
I agree, Robin. I never realised that Christie hated the book, because of the associations of her writing it.

One of the things I like about Christie is that she always writes different types of books. Some other GA authors are quite formulaic, but she could write a thriller, a mystery and even something paranormal, with ease.


message 9: by Robin (new) - added it

Robin I agree, Susan. The range is really interesting. Her writing was that of a professional who wanted to make a living from writing. I've not read the romances under her other name - that's right, Mary Westmacott, but like the touches of romance in some of the mysteries. Perhaps they are unrealistic, but they give the characters another dimension.


Susan | 10527 comments Mod
I haven't read the Mary Westmacott novels either. Might be an idea for a future buddy read, so we can compare those with her mysteries?


message 11: by Sandy (new) - rated it 1 star

Sandy | 3016 comments Mod
And I never knew 'Mary Westmacott' existed. I thought she wrote genre other than mysteries under 'Christie' ... I'm thinking of a paranormal story about a doll, but don't remember the name. I didn't care for it.


message 12: by Robin (new) - added it

Robin Your idea, about comparing the romances is a good one, Susan. I'll have to see if they are cheap on kindle.


Susan | 10527 comments Mod
Sandy, I do remember the paranormal story about the doll - I think it was in one of the Miss Marple collections?


message 14: by Annabel (new)

Annabel Frazer | 301 comments The Dressmaker's Doll is either in one of the Miss Marple collections or The Hound of Death. Or possibly Lord Listerdale Mystery?? I love all her slightly supernatural and quirky standalone short stories.

Must admit I simply cannot get on with her Mary Westmacott tales though, which is odd - I've always championed Christie as a creator of great characters, never mind the puzzles, so why don't I like the MWs, which are pure character-driven tales? I read The Rose And The Yew Tree and was very disappointed - both the characters and situations seemed completely contrived and unnatural.


Roman Clodia | 905 comments I like how this book documents social and geographical changes: Chinatown, which today means the area around Leicester Square/Shaftesbury Avenue, then meant East London/Limehouse which is now regenerated as Docklands.


message 16: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2180 comments I lived in East London and my parents referred to Limehouse as Chinatown.


Susan | 10527 comments Mod
Is Christie breaking one of those rules of detective fiction by using a Chinaman? She does have a French, American and English member of The Big Four, I suppose.


message 18: by Annabel (new)

Annabel Frazer | 301 comments Roman Clodia wrote: "I like how this book documents social and geographical changes: Chinatown, which today means the area around Leicester Square/Shaftesbury Avenue, then meant East London/Limehouse which is now regen..."

That always used to puzzle me when I read Christie as a student in London. It was ages before I figured out it was a different area.


Roman Clodia | 905 comments I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek introduction of 'Achille Poirot': 'You surprise me, Hastings. Do you not know that all celebrated detectives have brothers who would be even more celebrated than they were if not constitutional indolence?' :))


message 20: by Robin (new) - added it

Robin Roman Clodia, I was thinking about that too. The changes are immense and I love knowing about the past context. I also think it is amusing to read about Soho as sinister in some of Christie's novels and how it is today.


Susan | 10527 comments Mod
Soho was known as quite bohemian and dangerous, certainly up to the early Sixties, I would have thought.

RC, I also loved the idea of Achille Poirot! Poor Hastings, he fell for everything in this book...


message 22: by Annabel (new)

Annabel Frazer | 301 comments Chelsea also appears as edgy and rough in books like The Pale Horse.


Tracey | 254 comments Certainly a change from the Poirot books I've read so far! It was interesting to read the background to this book, from the links in the other thread. The chess game and Achille were the highlights for me. Hastings must have spent months away from his wife, it was almost as if he was staying away intentionally!


Tracey | 254 comments Susan - good point about the inclusion of a Chinaman. I think it works as the big four are international. Though I'm not sure which was published first, this book or Ronald Konx's rules?


message 25: by Christopher (new)

Christopher Huang (christopher_huang) | 49 comments "The Big Four" was published a year or two before Ronald Knox's rules, I believe. I also believe the point of the "no Chinaman" rule was to eliminate then-prevalent racist cliches in crime fiction, so ... yeah, making the big four international doesn't help if the Chinese member of the group remains a cliche.


Susan | 10527 comments Mod
He is the mastermind and the most intelligent. I was quite impressed that one of the Big Four was female.


Roman Clodia | 905 comments It did make me smile that Poirot goes into the villains' hideout with aniseed on his shoes so that the bloodhounds can follow them! It seems so homely when set against the death-ray of unimaginable power that the 4 wield.

A slightly underwhelming finish, though - I'm glad that Christie turns back to detection with her next Poirot outing.


Susan | 10527 comments Mod
She did well under pressure, but it wasn't her best effort, I agree.


message 29: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2180 comments I do think this will stay with me more than some of her other books


Susan | 10527 comments Mod
If this was one of her, supposedly, worst novels, it was pretty good. Yes, the ending was a little weak, but it was also fun.


Sandy | 24 comments I thought this book, though definitely not her best, was entertaining. It was fun to read a Poirot that was different.


Susan | 10527 comments Mod
Next month we see the first of Christie's novels which takes place on a train The Mystery of the Blue Train, which I haven't read for ages either. Looking forward to that one and already have it downloaded on Audible.


message 33: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9421 comments Mod
Please note the Poirot buddy reads are now in their own folder, directly below the buddy reads folder when visiting the group home page.


Adrian | 136 comments Jill wrote: "Seems I'm in the minority here, as I really liked this book. OK, at times it did seem a bit disjointed, but it was so different from the usual Christie books, that it amazed me. I certainly can't s..."

No, I agree entirely Jill, I really enjoyed it and thought the format of separate linked investigations leading to the final denouement, worked well, but as someone (somewhere) likened it to a Holmesian format and I love Holmes, I probably would like this :)


Jessica | 377 comments I am glad that you all liked it! I also had to chuckle at the I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek introduction of 'Achille Poirot': 'You surprise me, Hastings. Do you not know that all celebrated detectives have brothers who would be even more celebrated than they were if not constitutional indolence?' as Roman Claudia said. And I was quite glad when it turned out that there was no such brother at all. It did make me wonder about the residence he apparently still held in Spa? Or would Poirot have located one just for this purpose?

Can you imagine the commitment of Poirot to this ruse to actually give himself a real scar? And on his precious upper lips no less!


Susan | 10527 comments Mod
Well, he even sacrificed his mustache... Such commitment!

Jessica, please don't forget to post the upcoming reads. If you want to take us into 2019 that's fine.


Jessica | 377 comments Susan wrote: "Well, he even sacrificed his mustache... Such commitment!

Jessica, please don't forget to post the upcoming reads. If you want to take us into 2019 that's fine."


Yes, I will go and do that now :-)


Frances (francesab) | 415 comments Roman Clodia wrote: "I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek introduction of 'Achille Poirot': 'You surprise me, Hastings. Do you not know that all celebrated detectives have brothers who would be even more celebrated than they ..."

Another Holmes reference occurs in chapter 12 when Hastings admits to being engaged in reading "The Clue in Crimson"!


Frances (francesab) | 415 comments While it took me a while to warm up to this being an international criminal gang rather than a more classical murder mystery, I did enjoy the sequential stories and the long drawn out tracking of the criminal masterminds. I agree that it was really charming to see the relationship between Poirot and Hastings, however poor Hastings wife was left in South America for a shockingly long time. It certainly appears that Christie is modelling her sleuths directly on Holmes and Watson.


Tara  | 831 comments This is the type of story where the identity of the killers/criminals almost does not even matter. Discovering who is numbers one through four doesn't add too much to the plot, it is mostly the danger and suspense that matters. I enjoyed a few tidbits throughout, but I doubt I would read this one again. However, it would have been interesting if there had been a real Achille hidden somewhere in the background, with an even keener mind that Hercule!


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