Rating: four out of five
Year of Publication: 1943
Motive for Murder: Jealousy (No, it is not love)
Plot: The death of a painter at his home in Alderbury, Devonshire, created a wave of sympathy towards the convict, Caroline Crale. Having found his husband died in the garden, she became the suspect and tried for his murder.
The cause of death was of coniine poisoning. The traces were found in a glass of beer drunk by the deceased.
Nonetheless, there were five other suspects: people who were in the house at the time. Caroline Crale died a year later in jail and had left a letter to her then five-year-old daughter.
Sixteen years later Carla Lemarchant –now a young woman- assigned Poirot to clear her mother’s name. For she stated her innocence to her only child. Why? From the five people Poirot then interviewed, there was one who believed that Mrs. Crale told Miss Lemarchant the truth.
This was Christie’s first title using a nursery rhyme. Sounded childish? Or fascinating?
One of the “pigs” was a child of fifteen – Caroline Crale’s stepsister. Was that of importance? Probably. For the girl was taken away after the murder and not questioned by the police on the grounds that she was not perceived of having possessed important information to the case. On the contrary, Christie seemed to argue the point because children remember well.
Naturally, Poirot was sceptical at first; a child was partial to their parent. But all the same, his curiosity prevailed. As his client had pinpointed to him: ‘…She (Caroline Crale) didn’t tell lies – kind lies…Truth was a – a natural impulse to her’.
As a result, could a child’s judgement be trusted? Could they be counted as either a witness or a suspect? In Christie’s world, it was both.
Be that as it may, this novel personally is one of Christie’s best explorations upon characters. Five suspects, five angles on a murder in their narratives. Christie was at her best in deliberating the trick of the minds through a suspect’s interpretation of events. She played it well dwelling upon emotions and subconscious memories in which truth and lies collided.
In the Clues, I felt I should emphasize on what the five “pigs” had to say about the Crales (minus their child). Hence a longer than usual observation in which I picked up some remarkable remarks in the hope that it would jog one’s memory on the story.
Cast of Characters:
– The Five Little Pigs:
Angela Warrens (Caroline’s stepsister) this little pig cried wee wee wee
Celia Williams (the governess to Angel) this little pig had none
Elsa Greer (Amyas’s model) this little pig had roast beef
Meredith Blake (Philip’s elder brother) this little pig stayed at home
Philip Blake (Amyas’ best friend) this little pig went to market
– Minor Characters:
Amyas Crale (the painter)
Alfred Edmunds (the clerk at the young solicitor office)
Caleb Jonathan (the Crales’ former solicitor)
Caroline Crale (nee Spalding- Amyas’s wife)
Carla Lemarchant (Caroline’s daughter)
George Mayhew (the young solicitor)
Sir Montague Depleach (the defense counsel)
Quentin Fogg (Counsel for the Prosecution):
The Most Fascinating Character: Amyas Crale
Everything tastes foul today
Women ‘stimulated’ Amyas Crale – the younger, the better. His series of affairs pained his wife a lot. Yet he loved her very much whilst his adultery seemed to be something he could not help with. They had continual rows over “his women”, which were apparent to everyone in the house – the governess and their childhood friends the Blake brothers.
His latest catch was Elsa Greer, fourteen years Caroline’s junior. Her presence in Alderbury created an icy atmosphere between the two. To his mind, Caroline was just being ridiculous as he was only painting “the child” whilst Elsa”should have held her tongue”.
Meanwhile, the Blakes had expressed their strong disagreement on the matter respectively to Amyas. He responded his the protests that “it will pan out in the end”. For what mattered was to finish the painting at all cost.
If only he had known it had cost his life .
The Five Little Pigs’s Narratives:
On Amyas Crale:
‘Why does Elsa say she’s going to marry you? She couldn’t.People can’t have two wives – it’s bigamy and they go to prison’. Amyas got very angry and said: ‘How the devil did you hear that?’ I said I’d heard it through the library window…………… Amyas said it was just a joke.
On Caroline Crale: I only know this, Caroline did not do it. I am quite certain on this point, and always shall be, but I have no evidence to offer except my own intimate knowledge of her character.
On Amyas Crale: He indulged her (Angela) absurdly one day, and was unnecessarily peremptory on another occasion. He was very much a man of moods – possibly owing to what is styled the artistic temperament.
I was very-very angry with Mr. Crale. How dared he let this girl (Elsa) insult his wife in her own drawing-room? If he wanted to run away with the girl, he should have gone off with her, not brought her into his wife’s house and backed her up in her insolence.
On Caroline Crale: I have never seen anything like the look of scorn she gave him (Amyas). She went out of the room with her head held high. She was a beautiful woman – much more beautiful than that flamboyant girl- and she walked like an Empress.
On Amyas Crale: He (Amyas) said he wished I wasn’t so young, and I said that didn’t matter….. We were made for each other and we’d found each other – and we both knew we’d got to be together always.
On Caroline Crale: Horrible woman…Horrible, scornful, cruel, vindictive woman…I hate her. I still hate her. They didn’t even hang her. They ought to have hanged her. Even hanging was too good for her.
On Amyas Crale: Amyas growled out that she (Greer) wasn’t as stiff as he was. He was stiff all over – muscular rheumatism. Elsa said mockingly: ‘Poor old man!’ And he said she’d be aking on a creaking invalid.
On Caroline Blake: Caroline, as I have told you (Poirot), was aware of my deep affection and friendship for her. I was, therefore, the person in whom she could most easily confide. She had not been looking very happy. Nevertheless I was surprised when she suddenly asked me one day whether I thought Amyas really cared very much for this girl he had brought down.
On Amyas Crale: While he was painting, Amyas was a different man. Although he would growl, groan, frown, swear extravagantly, and sometimes hurl his brushes away, he was really intensely happy.
On Caroline Crale: She had an enormous strength of will and complete command over herself. I don’t know whether she’d made up her mind to kill him then – but I shouldn’t be surprised. And she was capable of making her plans carefully and unemotionally, with an absolutely clear and ruthless mind.
On Elsa Greer: ‘A predatory Juliet. Young, ruthless, but horribly vulnerable! Staking everything on the one audacious throw. And seemingly she won…and then- at the last moment- death steps in- and the living, ardent, joyous Elsa died also.There was left only a vindictive, cold, hard woman, hating with all her soul the woman whose hand had done this thing’.
Sir Montague Depleach:
‘ ..She (Caroline Crale) was alone with the body, you see, while the governess went to call up a doctor. And what she must have done was to wipe the bottle and glass and then press his fingers on them. She wanted to pretend, yo see, that she’d never handled that stuff. Well, that didn’t work….’
‘I’m only sure of one thing. She (Mrs. Crale) loved the man she killed. Loved him so much that half of her died with him…’
– Caroline Crale’s letter to her stepsister “it’s all alright”
– Celia Williams’s witnessing Mrs. Crale’s planting her husband’s finger prints on the beer bottle
– Elsa Greer’s seeing Caroline Crale taking coniine from Meredith Blake’s laboratory