From Goodreads: Hercule Poirot is preparing for a voyage to South America. Looming in the doorway of his bedroom is an uninvited guest, coated from head to foot in dust and mud. The man's gaunt face registers Poirot for a moment, and then he collapses. The stranger recovers long enough to identify Poirot by name and madly and repeatedly scribble the figure '4' on a piece of paper. Poirot cancels his trip. An investigation is in order. Fortunately, Poirot has the faithful Captain Hastings at his side as he plunges into a conspiracy of international scope -- one that would consolidate power in the deadly cabal known as 'The Big Four.'
Comments: This is only the second Hercules Poirot (and third Agatha Christie) book I've read. Had I encountered this Poirot first, I don't know if I would have read another.
I understand that Christie was trying something different with her great detective by pitting him against four masterminds. It shows that he is fallible -- he arrives at the wrong conclusions or he realizes, a shade too late, that he's made the wrong assumptions many times during the course of this book. They are always many steps ahead of Poirot and it's difficult for him to out-wit them. He confesses to Hasting that he doesn't play chess, and I think that's part of his problem.
Because of the way the book was plotted, I had a hard time believing that #4, the Englishman, could pull off all those impersonations -- especially if it was a long-term one. Giving Poirot a worthy adversary is a great idea, I just think it wasn't well executed. Though I didn't enjoy the plot, I still enjoyed Poirot and Hastings. I have a couple of her better-known Poirots and I'm looking forward to reading those.
Start: 4 January 2013
Finished: 8 January 2013
Disclaimer: I purchased this book.