Saturday, January 9, 2010

The 2010 Book List; Review of The Big Four by Agatha Christie (1927)

You may or may not have noticed that a new wee box has shown up at the bottom of the left-hand column of the blog, the "2010 Book Reading List." This was something that Arsen suggested, in part because he's trying to figure out what readers read. I thought it was a pretty good idea, and might be fun though I fear it will just let the cat out of the bag that my general reading list lacks literary heft and is instead mostly a bunch of old mysteries and sci-fi novels.

I'll also try to throw a quick review for the books as I finish them, and in that spirit, here's my review of...

The Big Four by Agatha Christie (1927)

One of my current reading projects is to read the Hercule Poiroit mysteries by Agatha Christie in more-or-less the order in which they were released. It's been a lot of fun because -- not surprisingly -- some of these books are really great mysteries since the Poirot mysteries include titles such as Murder on the Links, The Death of Roger Ackroyd, and Murder on the Orient Express.

The Big Four has something in common with those mystery greats. It also contains a protagonist named Hercule Poirot. It's one of the earlier books, and is kind of a weird read. It's as if Agatha Christie read a Doc Savage novel and decided that Hercule Poirot should also travel internationally taking on a vast shadowy syndicate of evil led by criminal masterminds. Not surprisingly, it reads kind of like a Doc Savage novel, if Doc Savage were a short old Belgian dude with a big moustache.

This is not a good thing.

The plot itself is more a series of small mysteries than a single complex mystery. In fact, it reads a bit as if Christie took some Poirot short stories, slapped a supercriminal syndicate led by "The Big Four" on it, and called it a novel. It really doesn't hang together as a coherent plot. But some of those smaller mysteries make for pretty good set-piece mysteries.

It's far from a great Poirot novel. But there are some pretty good bits with Hastings, and some of the smaller mysteries are good if you ignore the vast flaws in the overall logic of the plot. So, if you've read a lot of the Poirot novels and are looking for some Poirot short stories that you haven't come across, you might give this one a try.

Summary: Strictly for Poirot compleatists.

Amazon: The Big Four

Where and How Acquired: Used, from John K. King Books.

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