Books

Five Little Pigs – Agatha Christie

This little piggy went to market.

This little piggy stayed at home.

This little piggy had roast beef,

This little piggy had none.

And this little piggy went “Wee! Wee! Wee!” all the way home

This in my opinion is on the best Agatha Christie novels for its plot and structure. Using the idea of a nursery rhyme Christie has Hercule Poirot embark on revealing the truth about a murder that was committed 16 years earlier.

Carla Lemarchant comes to Poirot because she knows her mother; Caroline Crale is innocent of killing her father Amyas Crale. But Carla wants to be sure, as she is worried that perhaps there is a hereditary tendency of the women to lash out in extreme anger.  Poirot then embarks on reconstructing the events leading up to Amyas Crale’s death. There are potentially five suspects, Phillip Blake Amyas’ best friend, Meredith Blake, Phillip’s brother and neighbour of Amyas. Elsa Greer, whose portrait Amyas is painting and has got under everyone’s skin. Miss Williams, governess and tutor to Caroline Crale’s sister. And Angela Warren, Caroline’s younger sister of thirteen who Caroline dotes on.

The five suspects, the five little pigs as you will. This particular book shows the method not just of Christie as a writer but one you can imagine Poirot going through himself. With the facts that he has learned from Carla, he revisits everyone connected with the case. The first part of the books is where Poirot visits all those concerned, not just the five but also the defence, the prosecution, the police and the solicitors.

From this as readers we begin to form a picture of Caroline Crale and what may or may not have happened on that fateful day. Part two of the book deals with the narrative of each of the five suspects and shows that how one day can b viewed so differently from each person. However the ultimate conclusion was said by them all apart from one, Caroline killed Amyas.

In the final and third part of the novel, we reach the point which is probably the favourite of many Christie readers – Poirot’s conclusions, his little grey cells working and the dénouement. Five more questions have to be asked after reading the narratives, a reconstruction and then the truth. At this point we find out the truth. Is it a truth that Carla Lemarchant can accept?

The only way to find any of this out is to read the book!

I read this book fairly quickly and its structure and the way it is laid out with Poirot tapped into my great love (or should that be obsession) of organisation.

I know some people pour scorn on Christie use of nursery rhyme titles as titles of her novels – but I think it is a clever tool to build stories around and of seeing how something so innocent can be so devilish in murder! I am sure many of us remember having our toes tickled as babies and that rhyme somehow penetrating the psyche somewhere along the line. 

Allow me to put characters with the appropriate pigs.

This little piggy went to market. Phillip Blake a man who dealt in stocks and shares

This little piggy stayed at home. Meredith Blake the man with an interest in poisons and stays at home to indulge in it.

This little piggy had roast beef, Elsa Greer. The women who has everything, the best now Lady Dittisham

This little piggy had none. Miss Williams, the tutor and governess who leads a simple life but very principled.

And this little piggy went “Wee! Wee! Wee!” all the way home. Angela Warren, Caroline’s sister and rather a boisterous young girl who places no relevance to the actions at the time but only in retrospect and with an adult knowledge does she understand.

The five pigs, the five suspects and one man to solve it all Hercule Poirot. Poirot does not deal with just the facts, if he did then I feel he would not have survived past his first case. Poirot deals with the psychology.

He was fascinated by the problem of personality.

When he talks to the family solicitor of the Crale’s

…I think you are interested in – character, shall we say?”

Poirot replied.

“That, to me, is the principal interest of all my cases”

What fascinates me is how every one sees and event so differently to others. even though they in effect experienced many of the same pleasures, enjoyment and outcome. Fundamentally that is what I suppose makes us all different and Poirot all the more interested in character!

My reason for this choice is because I watched the television adaptation and it is one of the better ones and I waned to see how true to the story it kept. Therefore please look out for my normal post comparing the two – the book and the adaptation. 

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4 thoughts on “Five Little Pigs – Agatha Christie

  1. I could read (and watch) this one over and over again. The construction appeals to the logical side of my brain, I think!

    You’re right, the nursery rhyme theme does work well in here, but I remeber finding most of the other nursery rhyme books a little contrived.

  2. Excellent review. This is one I haven’t read yet, and now I really look forward to it. I love the way you showed who was which pig!

  3. thanks for sharing. I haven’t read this one. I’m sure I’ve seen the TV version. I shall keep my eyes out for a copy.

  4. wonderful review ! I must say that this novel is quite intricate, in fact, you are always wondering why and how could any of these five little pigs could have murdered Amyas Crale! A great piece by the great Agatha Christie.

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