2020-07-11

Agatha Christie 100 - Five Little Pigs

Poirot's investigation into a more than 15 year old murder by interviewing people involved in this cold case continues Christie's turn into more character driven writing.


Carla Lemarchant comes to visit Hercule Poirot in order to convince him to take a look at the Amyas Crale murder case. It turns out that Crale was her father, and that her mother was convicted of the crime, dying in prison just a short time later. When Poirot learns the circumstances - Carla's mother wrote her a letter from prison, professing her innocence - he is only too glad to contact the five other people involved in the case to learn their view of what happened...

This is a sleeper hit among Christie's works. It's not as feted as some other books in her catalogue, though I think it has always enjoyed a fairly high status among fans. As I said, this novel is more character driven than most of what Christie had written before, though the move into this style of writing was noticeable in some earlier works.

Some people should find this story troublesome, because it consists of about 95% interviews, though Christie manages to spice things up by refraining from a pure Q&A scenario, instead allowing the interviewees to retell the events in their own words, which allows the reader to notice new layers as the story is retold again and again.

Poirot's reasoning is strong, though it would never hold up in any court (which the novel acknowledges), though it must be said that it's not very difficult to guess the murderer well ahead of time.

I'll award this an 88 out of 100. A very strong Christie novel, which could have been improved if the murderer was better hidden.

1943 1951 1956
1966 1986 1987
1990 2015 1983 *
A direct translation of the (British) title this time. Which opens up for a pig bonanza on the covers, but the Swedish publishers have actually been quite restrained in that respect.

The first cover is one of the better 40s covers I've seen. It focuses on the serenity of the artist's work and looks rather lovely. The 1951 cover, on the other hand, is more or less the opposite. A very cartoony look at the bohemian artist.

So perhaps it's no surprise that the Zebra edition from 1956 is a kind of cross between the two. Somewhat cartoony, but the silly depiction of the painting is gone. Though it's replaced with some scratches in the background that I have a hard time making heads or tails of.

The 1966 cover from Delfinserien is very, very 60s in its design. On the plus side, there is still no abundance of pigs, but on the minus side, there are no pigs at all, nor any connection to the artistic setting of the novel. The former is rectified with the '86 cover, though it's still quite restrained in its pigginess. It's the edition I own, and I'm quite fond of it.

And then we come to the book club cover from 1987. It has one thing going for it - the "10 Little XXX" aspect of the whole thing comes through loud and clear. On the other hand, there are pigs, pigs and pigs, and also, the novel doesn't feature a "10 Little XXX" type crime.

Meanwhile, the cover from 1990 is quite possibly the best one from this centenary edition. The palette and the colour blotches in pig shapes are really good and fitting for this title. The recent 2015 edition is also pretty good. It's less abstract than the other books from the same edition. Again, the typography is used in interesting ways, this time with a letter where the colour isn't completely filled in yet by the paintbrush.

The final cover is one we've seen before. This omnibus edition (with Cards on the Table) is featured here too for completeness' sake.

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