Headscratchers / Five Little Pigs

  • Elsa's account of the conversation between Amyas and Caroline in the library - the one in which Caroline says "You and your women!" - was a lie. Are we to assume that Elsa was not called to recount that conversation at Caroline's trial? If she had, Caroline would have smelled a rat immediately.
    • I think the implication was that it was real - it was also when Caroline said: "I'll kill you one of these days!" The actual words did incriminate her, but only because Elsa drastically changed the manner in which they were spoken to sound furious and threatening, rather than affectionately exasperated.
    • While Elsa did lie to Poirot about hearing Amyas say he was going to leave Caroline, this part was probably invented for Poirot in particular. All she had to do at trial was recount the parts that were actually said, and Caroline would think nothing of Elsa mishearing the intent behind the words.
      • No, according to ex-superintendant Hale, Elsa's testimony in the court didn't substantially differ from what she wrote to Poirot (which is logical - she didn't want him to have any discrepancies to jump onto). I guess Caroline just decided that passionate Elsa, being sure that it was Caroline who killed Amyas, committed a perjury to get her revenge - or even that Elsa convinced herself that such a conversation must have taken place (not at all an unknown concept for Christie, by the way, - recall the woman from Major Despard's story in Cards on the Table). That would actually be in line with Caroline's general condescending attitude towards Elsa, which also explains why it probably didn't even cross Caroline's mind that Elsa could have had an agenda of her own.
    • Consider also that tone and nuance can be tricky things at times, especially for a third party who is (seemingly) not privy to the entire conversation and is only overhearing a random part of it. As far as anyone is aware, Elsa only overheard that part of the conversation, not the rest that made it clear that Caroline was being affectionate, and so might have assumed that it was meant in a more hostile and threatening tone than Caroline intended (especially in light of what later happened). It's only because Poirot surmises that Elsa overheard the entire conversation that he realises that she also had to be aware what Caroline's real tone was, and that she was lying on the stand. As far as Caroline was concerned, Elsa was simply misinterpreting a fragment of a conversation that she heard out of context.

  • It seems as though Poirot missed the opportunity for an Engineered Public Confession at the end. Why did he not secretly bring officers or other witnesses to overhear his private conversation with Elsa?
    • He knows that it would be futile because even if Elsa were incriminated, her husband would get her off the hook, since she's of high class now and the case is more than ten years old. He even mentions this at the end, but knows that Elsa has trouble living with herself.
    • Also, he couldn't have known for sure that Elsa would decide to have a private conversation with him (it was Elsa's decision to start it).
  • So how did Poirot know what Angela Warren had been reading in the weeks up to the tragedy? What's even more striking, I've come across two different versions of what exactly the book was - either "the life of painter [Paul] Gauguin" or "The Moon and Sixpence" by W. Somerset Maugham. I suspect it's just some Mind Screw on part of Dame Agatha, but maybe I'm wrong?
  • Poirot only arrived in UK when he was already a mature man. How come he became obsessed (to Ear Worm degree) with English nursery rhymes he'd never heard in his childhood?
    • That's the thing about Ear Worm's - they're usually about the strangest, and often very unlikely things. Most of the time, it's simply a phrase or piece of music that for some reason, strikes a chord with a situation you've seen or experienced lately, one that seems very vivid to you for some reason. Who knows? Maybe Hastings' most recent letter to Poirot mentioned one of his children learning their nursery rhymes, he mentioned the five little pigs specifically because they saw some at the market. It might even play into one of the themes of this book; that the smallest incidents can be the most illuminating in the memory, which is also a major recurring theme - even a trademark - or the Satterthwaite and Quinn stories.
    • How do you know he never heard them as a child? He speaks almost flawless English (he deliberately obscures how well he can speak it to throw people off) which shows he may well have been taught it as a child....maybe learning English nursery rhymes was part of his studies.
      • Rather unlikely, I would say. At the time of Poirot's youth English hadn't acquired the position of international lingua franca yet, for it to be studied since childhood. Would have been a bit more likely if he came from Flanders, but he's obviously a Walloon.
        • It might not have been on the school curriculum, but Poirot took up the study of English at some point. Who's to say he might not have had some reason to learn it as a child? We don't really know that much about his family life.
    • Poirot is quite educated and well read on many subjects. When he moved to England, and decided to stay, itís not unlikely he read some books on nursery rhymes and fairy tales etc out of interest and as a matter of general and common information.
      • It's very unusual to get an Ear Worm from reading alone though. Even if there was musical notation on those books (and if Poirot can read notes), one still usually has to actually hear the music for it to be drilled down in one's head.
        • I'd say it's very likely he heard the song being sung by children in the streets, from the children of his many acquaintances, or on a boat or plane while travelling — children used to do that, in the days before TV, the internet, and widespread concerns about predators. Poirot spends a good deal of time travelling from one place to another, has lived in England for some years and he notices everything. At some later point he might have asked what he was hearing, and then looked it up for his own interest. You never know when some little tidbit might be the key to a mystery — like it was here.
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