Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Big Four by Agatha Christie (1927)

My worn paperback
When I was in seventh grade (or so), I not only started reading Agatha Christie, I started buying books by her too.  All throughout high school, I collected Agatha Chrisites, usually paperbacks.  I also joined a mystery book club, so had several hard cover editions as well.  Sometime between college and now, I dumped almost every single Agatha Christie I owned, based on some formula that today I don't remember.  I kick myself for this now (I kick myself for dumping my college textbooks too, which I desperately want now; I was so stupid).  I did save a few Christies though,  including The Big Four.  For some reason, I considered this one of her best, or the very least, one of my favorites.  I have no idea why I even thought this, because re-reading The Big Four  was not a pleasant experience.  It's bad.  It's not horridly horrible, but it's bad enough I didn't want to finish.  I did though, but I really didn't care about anything in the book.  It's not one of Christie's best.  It may be her worst (we will see about that).  I wonder what my 16 year old self found so enthralling about this book?  The thriller aspect was dull; there was little to no mystery, and most of that not very puzzling or difficult to figure out.  There were many outlandish happenings - including an electrified chess piece - that belong in James Bond rather than Agatha Christie.  A book like Murder on the Orient Express is really ingenious with its intricate plot, red herrings, great characters.  The Big Four has none of these.

One of my regrets - and something eventually plan on rectifying - is that I've never read a single Sherlock Holmes story. I've read some Sherlock Holmes written by modern authors - a Laurie King, some short stories.  But nothing in the original.  I've watched and adored the new Sherlock Holmes with Benedict Cumberbatch.  But I haven't yet tackled the original stories.  They are on my list, but haven't reached them yet.

So in stating that The Big Four is probably Christie's attempt to copy Sherlock Holmes and Watson, while probably a true statement, is based on conjecture on my part.  And based on loving the Cumberbatch.  But much of Poirot and Hasting's adventures reminded me of the (sometimes outrageously far fetched) adventures of Holmes and Watson, portrayed by Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.  For some reason, an electrified chess piece in Holmes would be thrilling; with Poirot it felt stupid and heavy handed (very Charlie Chan).  Number Four was a very Moriarty-ish type of character (Moriarty as played by Andrew Scott); I had a hard time picturing Poirot up against Moriarty.When I was in seventh grade (or so), I not only started reading Agatha Christie, I started buying books by her too.  All throughout high school, I collected Agatha Chrisites, usually paperbacks.  I also joined a mystery book club, so had several hard cover editions as well.  Sometime between college and now, I dumped almost every single Agatha Christie I owned, based on some formula that today I don't remember.  I kick myself for this now (I kick myself for dumping my college textbooks too, which I desperately want now; I was so stupid).  I did save a few Christies though,  including The Big Four.  For some reason, I considered this one of her best, or the very least, one of my favorites.  I have no idea why I even thought this, because re-reading The Big Four  was not a pleasant experience.  It's bad.  It's not horridly horrible, but it's bad enough I didn't want to finish.  I did though, but I really didn't care about anything in the book.  It's not one of Christie's best.  It may be her worst (we will see about that).  I wonder what my 16 year old self found so enthralling about this book?  The thriller aspect was dull; there was little to no mystery, and most of that not very puzzling or difficult to figure out.  There were many outlandish happenings - including an electrified chess piece - that belong in James Bond rather than Agatha Christie.  A book like Murder on the Orient Express is really ingenious with its intricate plot, red herrings, great characters.  The Big Four has none of these.

One of my regrets - and something eventually plan on rectifying - is that I've never read a single Sherlock Holmes story. I've read some Sherlock Holmes written by modern authors - a Laurie King, some short stories.  But nothing in the original.  I've watched and adored the new Sherlock Holmes with Benedict Cumberbatch.  But I haven't yet tackled the original stories.  They are on my list, but haven't reached them yet.

So in stating that The Big Four is probably Christie's attempt to copy Sherlock Holmes and Watson, while probably a true statement, is based on conjecture on my part.  And based on loving the Cumberbatch.  But much of Poirot and Hasting's adventures reminded me of the (sometimes outrageously far fetched) adventures of Holmes and Watson, portrayed by Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.  For some reason, an electrified chess piece in Holmes would be thrilling; with Poirot it felt stupid and heavy handed (very Charlie Chan).  Number Four was a very Moriarty-ish type of character (Moriarty as played by Andrew Scott); I had a hard time picturing Poirot up against Moriarty.  Although that would make an interesting mash up.  I think Martin Freeman is far sexier than Hastings too. 

One interesting side note about The Big Four - my previous Christies included some annotations of the meanings of certain words, phrases or 1020isms.  I didn't have anything in The Big Four that didn't make sense to me though.  Maybe that's why my 16 year old self liked it so much - it's really straightforward.  A sixteen year old could read it pretty well today and understand most if not all of what was going on.    Although that would make an interesting mash up.  I think Martin Freeman is far sexier than Hastings too. 

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Not the best Christie - this lacks the intricate plots, stock characters with a bit of extra oomph, and red herrings of later books like Murder on the Orient Express or And Then There Were None.  #4 - the Destroyer, reminded me of Moriarty from the Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes series;  this would have made a far better Sherlock Holmes and Watson (circa 2013) than it did a Poirot novel.  Give me the Poirot of Evil Under the Sun over this international man of mystery any time.


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