Hello! Welcome to another season of Blogaberry Dazzle (a staggered one spread across four months, in case you are interested in joining), and another episode of my passion project / ongoing book series called Project Poirot.
I’m going to keep this brief. Before you begin, you can read up on why I decided to embark on this project and also catch up on my thoughts on books one, two, three, and four here. In this post I will speak about books five, six and seven. These are, in the order of publication: The Big Four, The Mystery of the Blue Train, and Black Coffee.
In keeping with the format shared earlier, I will share the Goodreads blurb of the book to give you a background, and then my review. At the end of this post, I will share my Instagram Live video link where I discuss these books in detail.
Without further ado, let’s begin.
THE BIG FOUR
Framed in the doorway of Poirot’s bedroom stood an uninvited guest, coated from head to foot in dust. The man’s gaunt face stared for a moment, then he swayed and fell. Who was he? Was he suffering from shock or just exhaustion? Above all, what was the significance of the figure 4, scribbled over and over again on a sheet of paper? We follow Hercule Poirot as he finds himself plunged into a world of international intrigue, risking his life to uncover the truth about ‘Number Four’.
Librarian’s note #1: the concept of The Big Four first appeared as weekly short stories very loosely connected in ‘The Sketch’ in 1924. The 12 original stories were: 1) The Unexpected Guest, 2) The Adventure of the Dartmoor Bungalow, 3) The Lady on the Stairs, 4) The Radium Thieves, 5) In the House of the Enemy, 6) The Yellow Jasmine Mystery, 7) The Chess Problem, 8) The Baited Trap, 9) The Adventure of the Peroxide Blond, 10) The Terrible Catastrophe, 11) The Dying Chinaman, and 12) The Crag in the Dolomites. For her 1927 novel, Christie enhanced the linkages between the stories and shuffled them somewhat.
My Review (3.5/5)
This is one of the few Poirot novels that I have not re-read multiple times. I picked it up solely for Poirot Project, and immediately understood why I haven’t re-visited this one over the years.
The Big Four, which Christie keeps touting as Poirot’s seminal case before he retires, is about an international conspiracy which lasts for months on end and entails a number of mini-mysteries, which he solves along the way. The inimitable Captain Hastings keeps him company throughout and plays an essential part in the plot too.
Though fun, adventurous and quite distinctive from Poirot’s other appearances, I disliked its lack of an intimacy which I believe is the hallmark of Christie’s writing. The latter was probably because its original format was as a serialised mystery, a form that I am not particularly fond of.
THE MYSTERY OF THE BLUE TRAIN
A mysterious woman, a legendary cursed jewel, and a night train from London to the French Riviera — ingredients for the perfect romance or the perfect crime? When the train stops, the jewel is missing, and the woman is found dead in her compartment. It’s the perfect mystery, filled with passion, greed, deceit, and confusion. Is Hercule Poirot the perfect detective to solve it?
My Review (5/5)
I’ve re-read this book after a couple of years and I feel differently about it now than I did then. It’s a well-constructed plot which gives out ample clues without taking away the pleasure of finding the culprit at the very end. I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I’m changing my rating from 4 to 5.
I also want to point out that all the Christie novels I’ve read in the recent past have been limited edition facsimiles of how they looked when they were first published over 100 years ago. This has certainly enhanced the experience of reading them!
Inventor Sir Claude Amory feels a bitter taste in the mouth, when the new formula for an explosive material is stolen by someone in the household.
In order to quickly remedy the situation, Sir Claude locks the door and turns off the light, giving the thief a chance to return the formula without being detected. But darkness brings death and Hercule Poirot has to untangle family strife, love and suspicious visitors in order to clarify the murderer and prevent disaster.
My Review (3/5)
This book has been adapted from a play written by Christie, but it was just not her voice. Very disappointing. I could barely finish it.
Added 7 years later: I re-read it after 7 years as part of my “Reading-Poirot’s-in-the-order-they-were-written” project. It’s not so bad. It’s certainly not her best, and even the solution is quite similar to the one she fashioned in The Mysterious Affair at Styles, but I rescind my earlier opinion that it doesn’t have her voice. It most certainly is in line with her earlier books, which according to me, were not as good as her later ones. So, Charles Osborne, who was contracted by her family to novelise it, does a good job, all things considered.
What’s most annoying about this one, however, is the fact that it reads like a play converted to a novel. It’s very heavy on recreating the scene, and not much on recreating the mood.
That’s it for me. Here is the video: come join me for a quick discussion and stay tuned for the next episode of Project Poirot.
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