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Literature: Five Little Pigs

Five Little Pigs is a 1942 mystery novel by Agatha Christie. (For many years, American editions were published under the title Murder in Retrospect.)

Sixteen years ago, Caroline Crale was convicted of the murder of her husband, the painter Amyas Crale. Their daughter approaches Hercule Poirot to investigate the case. Poirot visits the five people present at the time of the murder, and each of them gives a slightly different story.

The story was featured in the television series Poirot in 2003.


This detective mystery provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Sexuality: Philip Blake is gay in the 2003 adaptation.
  • Asshole Victim: Possibly subverted. Several characters sided with Caroline Crale when she was convicted of murdering her husband Amyas, since he was having an affair with his model - one of many. It turns out he never intended to leave Caroline, and he was murdered by said model. It depends on the reader whether you think that the fact that he never intended to leave Caroline is enough to get Amyas out of the "Asshole" category, or if you think he's still an asshole for having an affair and letting Elsa think he loved her enough to leave his wife.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Caroline and Amyas.
  • Betty and Veronica: Caroline (Betty), Amyas (Archie) and Elsa (Veronica)
  • Brutal Honesty: Caroline Crayle believed in this, at least according to her daughter. The reason that Carla believes her mother is innocent is because Caroline sent her a letter saying so, and Caroline never told her daughter comforting lies.
  • Clear Their Name: The daughter wants to prove that her mother was innocent.
  • Death by Adaptation: Well, she is dead by the start of both the novel and the Poirot adaptation, but in the novel Caroline Crayle'd got a life sentence and died a year later in prison, while the adaptation had her executed.
  • Death by Woman Scorned: Played straight. Also subverted, because it is not the woman we assume at first.
  • Does Not Like Men: Miss Williams.
  • Exact Words: Caroline is overheard fuming about the unfairness of the situation. She's not mad that her husband has fallen for yet another model, but that he's going to break the model's heart.
  • Gayngst: Philip Blake in the Poirot adaption. In the original his bitterness was because he was infatuated with Caroline.
  • Gender-Blender Name: When this novel was written and originally published, "Meredith" was still an exclusively male name; it wasn't until very late in the twentieth century that it lost this status, and became mainly a girls' name.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: The five suspects matches the five little pigs in the nursery rhyme ‘This Little Piggy’:
    “This little piggy went to market. (Philip Blake)
    This little piggy stayed at home. (Meredith Blake)
    This little piggy had roast beef. (Elsa Greer)
    This little piggy had none. (Cecilia Williams)
    And this little piggy went "Wee! Wee! Wee!" all the way home. (Angela Warren)”
  • It's All About Me: By everyone's account, Amyas was a raging egomaniac.
  • It's for a Book: When speaking with some of the witnesses, Poirot claims he is writing a book about famous murders.
  • Karma Houdini: Downplayed. Poirot admits to the killer he has no physical evidence to prove their guilt and they won't publicly confess to it. However, they don't get away consequence-free: Elsa Greer has never been able to move on from the day she murdered the only man she ever loved. She lives a wealthy but utterly joyless and miserable life. "I died that day."
  • Late to the Punchline: Angela mentions having one of these moments, where she actually said aloud "Oh! Now I get the point of that story about the plum pudding." This led her to recount a similar incident where she realized the significance of something she observed the weekend of the murder.
  • Living Lie Detector: Miss Williams to a degree. When she was a governess, none of the kids even tried to lie to her, feeling that it'd be pointless. Poirot, at first, tells to other people that he's writing a book about the case, but he tells the truth to Miss Williams right away.
  • Market-Based Title: It was originally published in the US as Murder in Retrospect. Later publications restored the original British title.
  • "Rashomon"-Style
  • Really Gets Around: Amyas Crale
  • Parents as People: Lampshaded by Poirot when he finds strange that every witness seems to forget that the murder victim has a baby daughter: Miss Williams as the governess discusses it when she explains that middle class children know that their parents love them but are too busy providing for them to pay attention; the love between the affluent murder victim and his wife was so intense that the baby could never have been their first concern.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss / Kiss-Kiss-Slap: Amyas and Caroline, constantly. Amyas had affairs and he had very nasty fights with Caroline, but despite this, they were very much in love. Amyas never considered leaving her and she always forgave him.
  • Straight Gay: Philip Blake in the Poirot adaption.
  • Woman Scorned: Subverted with Caroline, but played straight with Elsa
    • Gender-flipped with Philip Blake, who wanted to make Caroline look as black as possible at least partially because she rejected him when they were young.
  • Unrequited Love Lasts Forever: Meredith Blake's love for Caroline. Subverted, however, because while he claims he's still in love with Caroline, reading his account of the crime makes it obvious he's actually in love with Elsa.
    • Another possible example is Elsa, who still seems to be in love with Amyas Crayle even after he rejected her and she murdered him.

Evil Under the SunMystery LiteratureLord Edgware Dies
Evil Under the SunLiterature/Hercule PoirotCat Among the Pigeons
Five Find-OutersLiterature of the 1940sFor Whom the Bell Tolls
Evil Under the SunCreator/Agatha ChristieCat Among the Pigeons

alternative title(s): Five Little Pigs
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