Five Little Pigs (1942) – Agatha Christie

Title:Five Little Pigs
Author:Agatha Christie
Publisher:Harper (2007); Collins (1942)
Date published:1942
Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I read this title as part of the official #readchristie2020 challenge (please refer to the official Agatha Christie website). My March pick was meant to represent one of her novels previously adapted for the stage, and I can completely understand how perfect this Poirot case must be on stage or screen. With a simplistic plot, limited setting and relatively small cast of characters, Five Little Pigs is perfect for anyone’s viewing pleasure. Most importantly though it is definitely one of the most surprising of her novels to read for so many delicious reasons.

This little piggy went to market,

This little piggy stayed home,

This little pig had roast beef,

This little piggy had none.

And this little piggy cried wee, wee, wee all the way home.

In this 1942 mystery our favorite Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot is asked to investigate a ‘cold case’ and to prove the innocence of a murderer convicted sixteen years prior of killing her husband. Visited by the daughter, Carla Lemarchant, Poirot is asked to reopen the case of Caroline Crale who supposedly poisoned her husband, Amyas Crale at their bay-side home in Devonshire, England. He was a renowned painter who had spent the last few days of his life painting the portrait of a young woman whom he also happened to be having an affair with. After drinking a glass of beer he was found dead in his garden studio. Carla, who had been sent away to live with relatives at the time of the murder of her father, and subsequent trial of her mother, had no prior memory of the incident having been only five years old at the time. Instead Poirot is faced with the challenge of seeking out the police officials, judges and lawyers connected with the case. However Poirot is not only interested in the facts of the case, and instead sets off to meet the five witnesses present at the time of Amyas Crale’s death.

Carla is determined that her mother be proven innocent, after receiving a posthumous letter from Caroline stating her own innocence. The witnesses become possible suspects as Poirot visits each person in turn and goes over the events from sixteen years ago from five very different perspectives. As Poirot convinces each person to rehash the past he is constantly reminded of the old children’s nursery rhyme of the five pigs who each had their own role to play.

This little piggy went to market

Philip Blake was a stock broker and also Amyas’ dear friend. His impatience at having to relive the past is obvious, as well as his firm belief that Caroline was indeed guilty of the crime.

This little piggy stayed home

Meredith Blake is Philip’s brother whose opinion of Amyas and his treatment of Caroline are not particularly favorable. Meredith, once an amateur herbalist was responsible for curating the poison used to kill Amyas.

This little piggy had roast beef

Elsa Greer is the young woman who posed for Amyas and also proceeded to have a love affair with the much older painter. An extremely unlikable character who had little regard for Caroline, and after the tragedy went on to have several marriages of similar ilk.

This little piggy had none

Cecelia Williams is the governess who taught Caroline’s younger sister, Angela. She was a great ally to Caroline and has a very low opinion of all men in general.

This little piggy cried ‘wee, wee, wee’

Angela Warren is Caroline Crane’s younger sister who was disfigured badly as a child when Caroline threw a glass paper weight at her head when they were very young. A very tempestuous child who was also sent away after the tragedy, and claims to have little or no memory of that time despite being fifteen at the time.

Knowing that each person will have their own unique experience of the event Poirot encourages his witnesses to each write their own account, and that is exactly where everything gets interesting. The accounts, though somewhat different all seem to point in some way to Caroline’s guilt despite the individual character’s having dark secrets of their own. Only Poirot’s adept skill at reading character and not relying on facts will bring Carla some peace regardless of what the truth turns out to be.

I have enjoyed every Agatha Christie I have had the privilege of reading, and Five Little Pigs is definitely no exception. This one kept me guessing until the very last sentence, and I still got it wrong. Long live Queen Agatha!

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