Three Grand Dames of Mystery: The Big Four by Agatha Christie

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The Big Four by Agatha ChristieA cabal of four important people from around the globe are trying to take over the world by fomenting chaos, giving them room to step in, in Agatha Christie’s The Big Four, and it is up to Hercule Poirot to save the world, since no one but Hastings actually believes him. Number one is the main, but little-heard-of leader of China, number two the top American financier, number three France’s greatest scientist, and number four “The Destroyer,” whom Poirot has reason to believe is an obscure actor who pulls all the strings.

This book is different from other Christie books, which focus on individual cases, while The Big Four follows Poirot from case to case as he follows the crimes committed by Number Four to eliminate anyone who gets in his way. Number Four poses as anything from an asylum worker to an old man to a butler, but he is such a great actor that no one, not even Poirot himself, recognizes him from event to event.¬†This book serves more as an adventure novel than a true mystery, as we learn the identity of the Big Four early in the book and follow Poirot’s attempts to foil their goal to take over the world.

This is probably my least favorite Hercule Poirot book, with a fairly weak plot. One redeeming feature is the inclusion of two less-common figures. The Countess Vera Rossakoff, whom Poirot met in an earlier short story, works for The Big Four, but with less eagerness than the members of the cabal. Just as Sherlock Holmes has a weak spot for the villain Irene Adler, Poirot has a similar weak spot for this Russian so-called Countess, whose flamboyance is delightful. The other character is the introduction of Hercule Poirot’s twin brother, Achilles, who, in Hercule’s estimation is not nearly as handsome as he is. Just as all great detectives have brothers who could be greater than they if only they were not so lazy, Hercule has Achilles as his brother.

The book does seem far-fetched through today’s eyes, but keep in mind that Mussolini, elected to power in 1924, had been in power for three years by the time this book was published in 1927 and Hitler was on his way to power. Seen through the eyes of 1927, The Big Four¬†does not seem as strange.

The book is narrated by Hugh Fraser, who continues to do a fabulous job of reading.

Though The Big Four is not nearly as strong a book as the other Christie books, it’s worth reading just to enjoy the characters and imagination. I’ll award it three stars.

The Big Four is available in multiple formats. To order from Amazon, click here. You may also find it in your local library or bookstore.

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