Project Poirot Episode 3: The Big Four, The Mystery of the Blue Train, Black Coffee

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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.

Project Poirot Episode 3

THE BIG FOUR

Goodreads Blurb

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

Goodreads Blurb

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!

BLACK COFFEE

Goodreads Blurb

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.

Project Poirot Episode 3

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This blog post is part of the blog challenge ‘Blogaberry Dazzle’ hosted by Cindy D’Silva and Noor Anand Chawla.

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*This is not a sponsored post.

**Copyright in pictures and content belongs to nooranandchawla.com and cannot be republished or repurposed without express permission of the author. As I am a copyright lawyer by profession, infringement of any kind will invite strict legal action.

30 comments

  1. I totally agree with what you feel about Black Coffee. It is like when a book becomes a movie or show or a show is adapted to a book. It doesn’t always succeed.

  2. I haven’t read “Black Coffee “or “The Big Four ” and probably won’t because they do not seem to be one of AC’s great works. On the other hand ” Mystery of the Blue Train ” is typical Hercules Poirot- scintillating, in-depth detective work. I have read it twice.

  3. I remember your Insta Live on the books. I haven’t read Black Coffee yet, will probably skip it. Looking forward to giving The Mystery Of the Blue Train a reread though since I have found an audiobook.

  4. Hey Noor, still date I had a feeling that I am one of the biggest fan of Agatha Christie, but the level of love and passion you have towards her work, I agree I cant match. I love reading her books , admire her, love her style of writing , read both her original and translated work but the level of understanding you hold about her work deserves a round of applause its un-matchable. I love the way you did the analysis of her work and I wish your project Poirot immense success and best wishes to you. Much love.

  5. I would like to read the mystery of blue train. The way you write it is really inspiring me to learn how to write. I am big fan of your writing. Your post are simple, no high vocabulary and the detailing. Love it and I know the research part is the hardwork. Keep it up 👍❤️

  6. Not a coffee fan.. and if it is a black coffee, don’t even ask.. your writing is so inspiring and love your content. Even simplest of things you make it so interesting

  7. I used read a lot of mystery novels. It’s been quite some time now. I would definitely try one of these to restart reading mystery read. I know I would enjoy reading these. The way you have reviewed has enough info yet left us in mystery about the story just apt to get a copy and start reading….

  8. Looks like you had some hits and misses on 5,6&7 Noor. Nevertheless, I still give it to you for having the patience to complete the books despite tge disappointments just for the sake of Project Poirot…kudos 👏

  9. It’s been quite a while that you contributed to Project Poirot 😃 Hits and misses are a part of reading, aren’t they! Love gaining more through you because I myself can’t read them 😃

  10. I used to read Agatha Christi books during my school days and from the library and because of that I dont have more than 3 books at home. Your post is tickling my reading nerve and now I want to grab all the collector editions copies and read it.

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