Throwback book review: “Five Little Pigs” by Agatha Christie

Amyas Crale is dead, and Caroline Crale is to blame, or so everyone thought. Sixteen years after the death of famous painter Amyas Crale from poisoning, a letter from the convicted brings Belgian detective Hercule Poirot into the case, investigating whether justice was truly served all those years ago, or whether Crale’s often-scorned wife Caroline was sentenced for a crime she did not commit. But memories are a fuzzy thing, and Poirot’s five other suspects are not making it easy. Philip Blake – the victim’s best friend, Meredith Blake – Philip’s brother and a Crale family friend, Elsa Greer – the ambitious young girl, Cecilia Williams – the governess, and Angela Warren – the younger sister. All were there sixteen years ago, and all have their opinions on the crime, but is one of them lying? Or is this one mystery that has already been solved?

British writer Agatha Christie – known as the “Queen of Mystery,” is one of the best-selling authors of all time, her work only outsold by Shakespeare and the Bible. An inspiration for many mystery writers even now, the genius in Christie’s writing lies not just in the “big reveal” her detectives give at the end of a novel, but in the side stories she has scattered throughout. A Christie novel is never just a murder mystery. It is a mystery-romance, a mystery-comedy, a mystery-drama, and much more. Every character is often a caricature of a person, animated to the extreme. The women are extremely beautiful or imposing, the men are either rich, intimidating, or childish. Poirot himself, an over-the-top Belgian detective with an incredible mustache and the confidence of someone who has never been wrong, is the archetype for what a detective character should be. But no character is one dimensional, there is always a secret struggle, a difficulty that they need help with which in the end Poirot is able to do.

“Five Little Pigs” is excellently written, keeping the classic Christie style even as the author deviates from her typical approach to a Poirot mystery. It is a fast-paced novel where the reader is drawn in with Poirot to the case upon the arrival of a young girl with a letter and works to piece together past events alongside him. The brilliance of an Agatha Christie novel rarely lies in who did it, but the explanation of how. Christie can deftly weave together a narrative that few readers could see coming, often throwing in a twist even when the novel seems to have reached its conclusion. A Christie book truly stands the test of time and is why I highly recommend it to any reader who enjoys a good mystery or wants to try their hand at being a detective.

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