Monday, July 28, 2014

Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie

Young Carla approaches M. Poirot for his help in investigating a murder committed 16 years ago. Her mother was accused and then convicted for killing her husband, Carla's father, Amyas Crale. Crale was a famous painter and womanizer. He was known for his artistic temperament and promiscuous ways. He had several lovers in the past but used to always return to his wife. Things were different now, Elsa, his latest muse is a sublime young beauty. The middle aged Amyas has fallen for her and now wants to marry her despite him being married and having a little daughter.

Middle aged men often fall prey to their carnal desires but this man has gone too far he is keeping his muse and his wife under the same roof. The result is that foolish painter is found poisoned. His wife is accused of murder, the evidence and the battery of witnesses against her is too strong. She is convicted and dies in prison. Carla, her only daughter believes that her mother was innocent and that now she wants closure for herself and her mother. Poirot now has to investigate a murder committed 16 years ago.

Christie is in fine form in this book. She weaves an indelible tale of murder, infidelity and heartbreak for her readers. This can be rated as one of her better performances, after a series of duds that I have read from her this comes a pleasant surprise. The fact that I was on a vacation does no harm to this review.

This 340 page novel is full of well made characters, starting from Amyas, Caroline(his wife), Elsa, Philip and Meredith Blake (family friends), Angela Warren who is disfigured sister of Caroline and the governess. Poirot one by one interviews all the witnesses and likely suspects as he tries to recreate what happened 16 years ago. Poirot is quick to pass judgement on his suspects and the suspects also retaliate the same way. Poirot is shown as prejudiced against his many interviewees owing either to their success, sex or profession. You also get to know about Poirot through his prejudices, he is sometimes even shown as a pathetic old fool in front of strong female characters like Angela Warren.

I see that Christie often makes infidelity as one of the motives behind the crimes in her book. In my personal experience those who have indulged or have experienced infidelity tend to take it out in some form. Almost all marriages in her books are unhappy ones, and she can portray that emotion very well. Perhaps that came to her with experience.

Christie manages to give the readers a nice red herring, but I was quick to spot it. While reading I thought that the reader could have been spared the 340 page novel, some of the content is repetitive. It could have been easily cut down to make the novel more fast paced but in retrospect the mood of novel comes from its characters which need time and space.'

The part in the book where characters can recall a conversation which happened 16 years ago is truly unbelievable. I can't remember what happened 16 days ago forget 16 years. While reading the book I often remonstrated on this curious problem.Then I though of some really traumatic incident in my life and tried to recall what had actually happened. I confess unlike the elephantine memory of the characters in the book my mind could recall only hazy details but then I was never very good at recalling.

This book is quite similar to another Poirot piece "The Hollow" which was prodigiously boring. This one in comparison is an excellent entry in the Poirot series.

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