The Poirot Project: A Mysterious Affair, Murder on the Links, Roger Ackroyd and the Big Four

The Poirot Project: The Mysterious Affair at Styles, The Murder on the Links, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The Big Four by Agatha Christie
Series: Hercule Poirot
Published by Harper Collins Genres: Golden Age Mystery
Source: Purchased: print book

I read these over a year ago, and rather than do full blown reviews of each of them, I am just going to jot down my thoughts, impressions and memories. When I began the Christie Project, I considered reviewing each book as I read it, but decided against it because it is sometimes difficult to review books in a vacuum. Before I could review them, I felt like I needed, in my own mind, to have an understanding of where I would personally put the book in the overall series in terms of quality. Christie was prolific, and her work is definitely of varying quality even within her various series. Plus, it is difficult for me to come up with sufficient material for a review of a piece of detective fiction since being spoiler-free is critical.

So, now, with a bit of distance between myself and the books, these are my thoughts:

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot #1): Year of publication: 1920
Setting/Locations: English country
Narration: third person
Investigator: Hercule Poirot and Hastings

This is the book where she introduces Hercule Poirot, and is also her very first published mystery. In terms of quality, I would put it in the fair-to-middling category. It is a good example of an English country house murder, and we are also introduced to Poirot’s primary sidekick, Hastings, who is Watson to his Holmes. Having said that, it is fairly bland, and not very innovative.

Year of publication: 1923
Setting/Locations: France
Narration: third person
Investigator: Hercule Poirot and Hastings

The Murder on the Links (Hercule Poirot #2): Poirot goes to France for this one, which is, again, not Christie’s best (nor her worst) work. I am no golf fan, which put me off this book for quite a long time, although it has little, actually, to do with golfing. The most noteworthy, and in my opinion cringeworthy, aspect of this book is Hasting’s romantic relationship with “Cinderella,” a young woman he meets who basically lies through her teeth to him, and whom he ultimately marries. Hastings is unremittingly thick – dumber than usual – in this installment. There is also a fair amount of ogling of nubile and attractive young ladies, which is sort of gross.

Year of publication: 1926
Setting/Locations: English country
Narration: first person
Investigator: Hercule Poirot and Dr. Shephard

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Hercule Poirot #4): This book could also be known as “When Agatha Got Her Game” because it is a total surprise. She goes out on a narrative limb with this story and holy hell does it ever work. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is one of her most innovative and startling books, and I know that I am not the only person whose jaw figuratively hit the floor at the reveal of this book. It is that good – one of her ten best books, in my opinion, out of more than 70 total mysteries.

Year of publication: 1927
Setting/Locations: England
Narration: third person
Investigator: Hercule Poirot and Hastings

The Big Four (Hercule Poirot #5): How in the heck Christie could’ve followed Roger Ackroyd with this disastrous entry remains one of the greatest mysteries in writing. As good as Roger Ackroyd is, this one is not. It is ostensibly a mystery, although it walks right up to the line of being a spy thriller, and if there is one thing that Agatha Christie sucked at, it is writing spy thrillers (Passenger to Frankfurt, I’m looking at you). Unless you are going to read everything that Agatha Christie ever wrote, for the love of all that is holy, skip this one. Skip. It. It sucks.

Also, I’ve skipped the third Poirot installment, Poirot Investigates, because it is a short story collection, and I plan to go back and listen to the shorts!

10 Comments

  1. Lovely. The Big Four is another one that I haven’t read in my big re-read her work. I’m seriously considering giving it a miss. I read it before and obviously tried to expunge it from my memory, because I do remember little about it other than the ending – and that it was bizarre and horrible.

    The question I have is – If TBF, which was an early novel was already bizarre and horrible, how does it differ from PTF? There is quite a time gap in there and I would kind of like to revisit what changes / differences there are.

    • Christine

      December 11, 2016 at 10:24 am

      It hasn’t been that long, and I’ve tried to expunge The Big Four from my memory. However, they both feature an Austin Powers-esque/Bond’esque international group of supervillains. I honestly don’t know what she was thinking – was she trying for satire? Because, if she was, they were both a failure. Was she trying for humor, or were they an effort at a serious spy thriller (I sincerely hope not).

      I think that PTF is actually worse than TBF, although it is a matter of degree. So, rather than improving, she actually got worse.

  2. I really liked this post! (Will we see more as you continue your Christie reads? I can hope!)

    • Christine

      December 11, 2016 at 11:26 am

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! And, yes – the next group is publishing on Wednesday! I’ll hopefully be able to get one or two finished a week!

  3. I’ll have to dig out my Roger Ackroyd because I can’t remember anything about it – though admittedly about 30 years have passed since I read it…

  4. I enjoyed The Murder of Roger Ackroyd but unfortunately I guessed the solution early on (something I almost never do) and that spoiled the story for me. I haven’t read The Big Four or Murder on the Links yet, but I still have plenty of other unread Christie novels to choose from so I’m not in any hurry to read those two – especially not The Big Four, having read your thoughts on it!

    • Christine

      December 13, 2016 at 9:34 am

      Yes, I would stay far away from The Big Four! There are many other Christie mysteries that are so much better!

  5. Yikes comment on wrong post. As I was saying I loathed The Big Four. I loved the Murder of Roger Ackroyd so much. That one and also The Murder at the Vicarage had great endings.

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