Agatha Christie recounted the details of Armas’ death in “The Song of Five Little Pigs”: He was found lying in front of the easel, with his hands stretched out on the bench, and he seemed to be staring at himself A picture being drawn. “He looked—pretty natural. As if asleep. But the eyes were open, and the body was just a little stiff.”—like Socrates’ dying state:
Text: Catherine Harkap｜Translator: Shimei Xu
Agatha Christieof“The Song of the Five Little Pigs”discussed in detailToxicineand its toxicity. Christie is led by the amateur pharmacist Murdis who likes to study herbs. The role of Blake provided five suspects for the poisoning of Armas. The information and opportunities that Querrey needs.
The five suspects were at the Armas home at the time of the murder, as was Armas’ wife, Caroline. They are Philip. Blake, a friend of Armas; Madis. Blake, Philip’s brother, lives nearby; Aisha. Greer, a spoiled socialite whose portrait Armas is painting, and the two having an affair; Angela. Warren, Caroline’s half-sister; Celia. Williams, Angela’s governess.
The afternoon before Armas’ death, Armas and the rest of the Querrey family visited Merdis. Murdis gave a tour of his laboratory and pointed out the various preparations he made with plants. He specifically mentions the preparation of venomine, and tells visitors that it is extracted from ginseng.
Murdis went on to describe the properties of tomatine, lamenting that it was no longer found in the Pharmacopoeia—Christie clearly continued to pay attention to changes in pharmaceutical practice. Murdis found that tomatine was effective in treating asthma and wheezing; it relieved symptoms by numbing pain sensations and relaxing muscles, but it did not cure the real cause.Merdis also readPhaedoA passage in which Plato describes Socrates dying.
Christie recounted the details of Armas’ death. He was found lying in front of the easel, with his hands spread out on the bench, seemingly staring at the painting he was drawing. Friends and family have often seen him in this pose, and it was not unusual for those who saw him from a distance that day. When everyone finally realized that something was wrong, no one was sure whether he was dead or not, so the doctor was called.
“He looked—pretty natural. Like asleep. But his eyes were open, and he was just a little stiff.” The doctor arrived, but it was too late.
Had it not been for Merdis, Armas’ death might have been attributed to natural causes, perhaps thought to be heatstroke. On the morning of the incident, Murdis noticed that his toxin bottle was almost empty, although it had been full the day before. Murdis was worried that someone would take the toxin without knowing the danger, so he went to Armas’s house to discuss the matter with his brother Philip. When he walked to the house, Armas set up an easel in the garden for Aisha. Greer paints a portrait, Elsa waves to Murdis. Merdis watched Armas walk towards the easel, and could see that he was staggering a bit. He thought Armas was drunk, but in fact the poison had begun.
Toxicine did not leave any special signs during autopsies, but the disappearance of the poison from Murdis’ lab gave the forensic doctor a little idea of where to start. Sufficient poison was later extracted from Armas’s body, perhaps by Stapha, to confirm that he died of poisoning by acetidine. Once extracted from the carcass, tomatine is easily identified by a specific chemical color test in addition to the smell.
These coloration tests were crude and unreliable by today’s standards, but would have been fine for forensic scientists and jury members in the 1920s. Toxicine can now be identified using chromatographic techniques. Even if tomatine was not specifically detected at the post-mortem, testing for a broader range of alkaloids should have detected it, which is standard procedure in forensic toxicology screening.
Doctors in the Querrey case believe the poison was administered two or three hours before the body was found. Based on the autopsy results, it is easy to reconstruct Armas. The last hours of Querrey’s life. Christie is very aware of the symptoms of poisoning by scutellaria, and writes about the effects of the poison on Amas’ body. After the others went to lunch, he collapsed on a bench. At this point the muscles start to paralyze.
Agatha believed Plato’s account that Socrates died without pain, but we know that may not be the case. Armas was probably in excruciating pain, and the gradual disorganization of his body should also have frustrated him; the poison would keep him conscious and sensitive until the last moment, though he couldn’t call for help.
A glass and beer bottle found in front of Armas’ body were sent for examination. At first, it was suggested that Armas may have committed suicide. He had a major fight with his wife, but this was not unusual, and he seemed to have no motive to end his life. The police investigated the situation that day, and the suspicion fell on Armas’ wife Caroline. In a drawer in her bedroom, she found an empty bottle of jasmine perfume.
When the bottle was analyzed, traces of toxin hydrobromide were found. Murdis must have prepared the hydrobromide of toxin in his own laboratory, and then made it into a solution for storage. During a visit to Murdis’s lab, Caroline poured acetidine into an empty perfume bottle when no one was looking. Her claim that she stole the poison as a suicide attempt was not accepted.
Besides, it was Caroline who brought the beer to her husband. The police speculated that she took a dropper that was usually used to fill pen ink and added toxin to the beer; the dropper was found crushed to pieces on the way from Armas’ easel to the house. This tool can pick up about one to two milliliters of liquid. Assuming Murdis produced a fairly concentrated solution of toxin hydrobromide, the capacity of the dropper should be sufficient to hold a lethal dose of poison.
Caroline was arrested and put on trial. She did not enter a plea, was found guilty and later died in prison. Years later, Poirot is tasked with finding out whether Caroline actually committed the murder. He visits the “Five Little Pigs” and recreates the day of the crime in his mind. Poirot reveals the true meaning of the many clues that the police investigation has overlooked, using his little gray brain cells to uncover the truth.
There is no doubt that Armas died of toxin poisoning, and it seems reasonable to speculate that the toxin in his system came from Murdis’ laboratory. However, it is not so sure who took it and who poisoned Armas. The arguments against Caroline are so grim that everyone seems to take it for granted that she did it.
One incident, however, convinced Poirot that Caroline could not be the murderer: the assays on the beer bottle and glass in front of Armas showed that only the glass contained toxin. Caroline passed the beer to her husband, but everyone present knew that she did not touch the glass.
Another thing that works in Caroline’s favor is that before she gets her beer to her husband, he’s supposed to be poisoned. The timing of the onset of the poison, as well as the evidence of what happened to Armas, show that he had already tasted the bitterness of toxin before his wife arrived – when he drank beer, he said: “I can’t drink anything today. “
But if it wasn’t Caroline’s hand, who would it be? Anyone could have taken the poison from the lab, or seen Caroline taking it and stealing some from the perfume bottle she kept in a drawer. Caroline believes that her sister Angela stole the poison and mixed it into the beer bottle that Armas wanted to drink.
Angela had had an argument with Armas before the murder, and she was seen touching the bottle of beer that Caroline had sent to Armas. When Armas’ body was discovered, someone noticed that Caroline was wiping the fingerprints on the beer bottle, and then grabbed her husband’s hand to hold the bottle, trying to create the illusion of suicide and divert others’ suspicion of Angela; Know that the cup contains the toxin.
Convinced that Angela was the murderer and wanting to protect her sister, Caroline went to trial for murder without pleading. Poirot therefore excludes Caroline and Angela from his list of suspects. However, this leaves the four little pigs… If you want to find the murderer, please read this book yourself.
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This article is excerpted fromA is for Arsenic: Agatha Christie’s Deadly Dispensing RoomRyefield Publishing
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“Murder Queen” Agatha’s meticulous plot concept is the key to the fascinating novels. Compared with other murder methods, “poison killing” is more common in Christie’s works. Sometimes the poison itself is the highlight of the story, and the deadly substance she chooses is not arbitrary. The chemical and physiological characteristics of each poison All of these provided crucial clues for finding the murderer. If it was a shooting or using a sharp weapon, the cause of death is obvious, but if it was poisoning, it is not necessarily so. Why are some compounds so deadly in tiny doses?
The author of this book, Catherine Harkap, is a chemist and a loyal reader of Christie. She specially selected 14 of Christie’s popular novels and introduced 14 key poisons used in the books. It not only expounds the chemical properties and effects of the poison from a scientific point of view, but also analyzes the real cases of the current use of the poison.
Each chapter begins with a literary quote and goes on to tell us what the poison is, how and under what conditions it kills, what murders have been committed using it, and how it plays out in Christie’s plot. what role.
Through the layer-by-layer advancement and suspenseful narration like a mystery novel, we can not only learn about various chemical substances, but also revisit the plot of Agatha Christie’s original work and understand the secret of her success in creating suspense.
Editor in charge: Lin Junting
Draft Editor: Gu Jiaxuan