Published in 1942
by G. P. Putnam's Sons
reprinted by Berkley Books in 1984
New York, NY
I love reading a fresh story and Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie (also published in the USA as Murder in Retrospect) is certainly that. Five Little Pigs, one of Christie's little-known Poirot novels is also the first novel where the murder occurs in the past; in retrospect to the detecting by Poirot. This alone makes it a unique read for Christie fans.
"Amyas Crale's passion for painting and women made him famous. His murder made him infamous. Sixteen years earlier his jealous wife was tried, convicted and sentenced to life for a notorious slaying. Now their daughter Carla, a young woman convinced her mother is innocent, has presented Hercule Poirot with a brilliant challenge: to clear her mother's name by returning to the scene of the murder and finding the fatal flaw in the perfect crime." (Summary courtesy of AgathaChristie.com)
Five Little Pigs was a captivating and quick read. As I read several clues seemed to jump off the page. Maybe this is due to the fact I just finished reading Agatha's autobiography last month, or maybe I've just read enough of her books to pay attention to the details that matter. Either way it was a fun read and although it is a tricky mystery I puzzled through drawing conclusions and in the end I was pleased to find led me to solve the "who" and "why" before Poirot had a chance to assemble the witnesses and begin his methodical recreation of the crime. I count this a victory for me as a reader even if I missed a few minor details.
Something else that I noticed while reading was the little bits of Agatha's personality sprinkled throughout the story. Intended or not, these details appear in the form of certain character personalities or in observations and opinions made by the characters or in some cases the unseen narrator. The two strongest examples both involve Hercule Poirot. At one point Poirot contemplates the the frequency in which he encounters crimes with a nursery rhyme theme (i.e. One, Two Buckle My Shoe and now Five Little Pigs). This was something Agatha Christie also observed within her autobiography. Another such instance is when Poirot remarks on his preference for psychological crimes versus those revolving around a romance, which was popular amongst readers and publishers. Again, this was how Agatha felt. While I must admit to personally enjoying the relational aspect of her mysteries it was in her mind a disruption to the scientific aspect of the crime to include the distraction of a romance.
Overall I really enjoyed Five Little Pigs. For some writers it would be difficult to tell a story where the main event occurs 16 years in the past, but Agatha is successful in weaving the past and present together to give readers yet another entertaining and suspenseful mystery.
Up next, Miss Marple in The Moving Finger.
Click here to read my other reviews of Agatha Christie novels.