Someone must have bought Hercule Poirot a book of nursery rhymes that he read too much. When Carla Crale comes to him to ask him to find the truth about her father’s murder – he was poisoned and her mother was sentenced to life imprisonment for the crime – he decides that the five potential alternate suspects represent the pigs in the rhyme “This Little Piggy…” – which they don’t, really. Seriously, what was Poirot thinking, apart from, “Hey, maybe it might help Dame Agatha come up with a title for a book…”
Amyas Crale, a painter, was poisoned, apparently by his wife Caroline. But her daughter believes that her mother was telling her the truth when she denied her guilt in her final letter, and hires Poirot to find the truth. But sixteen years have passed since the crime took place, fifteen since Caroline died in jail, so all Poirot has at his disposal is the five witnesses – two friends of Crale, the young model he was having an affair with, his young sister-in-law and her governess. With so much time having passed, is it possible that the truth can be discovered?
It’s often said that Christie didn’t like Poirot – often said by her, in fact. But from 1935 to 1942, she wrote eighteen novels, thirteen of which featured the little Belgian – nine in a row, in fact. Anyway, this was the last of the thirteen, before she took a four year break until The Hollow - not my favourite of her books. There’s no sign of any animosity here though, as he gets a good run out in this cracking little mystery.
This is very much played as a mystery based on personalities and psychologies, but it isn’t really. On paper, it sounds rather dull – Poirot interviews all five suspects, reads their accounts of the day of the murder and then solves the crime. It’s not, though. Well, mostly not. As we got the fifth suspect, to be honest, I could have done with the plot moving on a bit.
The mystery itself is, of course, fairly clued and, if you can sift through all the evidence, then it’s all quite solvable.
You can tell there’s a “but…” coming, can’t you?
But… the murderer is pretty obvious – at least three of the suspects have motives that vary from “weak” to “non-existent”. As with Sad Cypress, the reason for Caroline’s silence is dubious. And there’s a massive plot-hole.
This might verge pretty close to a spoiler… apologies, so stop reading if you haven’t read the book.
Still here? Right. Why exactly does Caroline take the poison from Meredith Blake’s cabinet? It’s not to kill Amyas or Elsa, or to commit suicide. I’ve re-read the last section three times and it’s never explained, and I can’t think of a reason that makes sense either. Very annoying.
It has been described by some as one of her best – I can’t agree with that, but it’s worth a look to see her try something different with Poirot. It’s probably her best attempt at the “murder in the past” storyline, certainly the best using Poirot – I prefer Sleeping Murder and need to look at Nemesis again – but the plot-hole really bugs me. If I’ve missed something obvious, do let me know.