Three Grand Dames of Mystery: “Five Little Pigs” by Agatha Christie

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Agatha Christie enjoyed using nursery rhymes to set up the elements of her books, and Five Little Pigs uses “This little piggy went to market. This little piggy stayed home. This little piggy ate roast beef, and this little piggy had none. And this little piggy went wee-wee-wee all the way home.”

Hercule Poirot is challenged to prove his claims of being able to solve a mystery by sitting back in a chair and thinking when presented with a case 17 years old. Approached by a young lady who grew up in Canada and who just learned that her mother had been convicted of killing her father, Poirot is challenged to revisit the past, especially in light of a letter sent from the mother to her very young daughter claiming innocence. Even those who believe in Caroline Crale’s guilt are shaken by this letter, as all recognize the inherent truthfulness of this lady.

Thus, Poirot takes on this unusual case and sets out to interview each of the five principal witnesses, each represented by one of the five pigs of the nursery rhyme in the murder of Amyas Crale. The victim is a famous painter who faced conflict at home between his wife and the 20-year-old girl he was painting and who clearly was having an affair with Amyas. Elsa even announced to Caroline that she herself was engaged to Caroline’s husband, so Caroline was to move out of her home.

The book is unique in being told several times from the perspective of the five witnesses: Amyas’s best friend and stockbroker (pig who went to market); the friend’s reclusive older brother, who saw himself as a protector of Caroline (pig who stayed home); Elsa, the young mistress (pig who ate roast beef); the governess of Caroline’s younger sister (pig who had none); and Angela, the sister whom Caroline is guardian of and who has not allowed adversity to prevent her from becoming a success in life as a prominent archaeologist (who refused to be the pig crying all the way home). Each witness’s narratives, both in discussion with Poirot and in writing for him, reveal different aspects of the case that together add up to a different answer than any one narrative suggests.

This book is done very creatively and makes you keep jumping from character to character in your guesses about who committed the murder. I must confess that though I found this book really enjoyable and fascinating the first time I read it many years ago, by now, after several readings, the many repetitions of the story, despite their disparities, gets a little tiresome.

The narration is performed by Hugh Fraser, who reads most of the Poirot books. He continues to do a good job in reading the numerous parts found in the book.

Five Little Pigs is written with creativity and takes a fascinating angle in its plot. Despite my finding it a bit tiresome in my 10th or so reading, I think it’s well worth anyone’s reading and enjoying the book and give it four stars.

To purchase this book for yourself, click here on Amazon.

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