Amyas Crale's passion for painting and women made him famous. His murder made him infamous. Sixteen years ago his jealous wife was tried, convicted, and sentenced to life for the notorious slaying. Now their daughter Carla, a young woman convinced that her mother was innocent, has presented the brilliant Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot with an equally brilliant challenge: to clear her mother's name by returning to the scene of the murder and finding the fatal flaw in the perfect crime.
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William Morrow Paperbacks
August 01, 2006
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Excerpt from Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie
Counsel for the Defence
'Do I remember the Crale case?' asked Sir Montague Depleach. 'Certainly I do. Remember it very well. Most attractive woman. But unbalanced, of course. No self-control.'
He glanced sideways at Poirot.
'What makes you ask me about it?'
'I am interested.'
'Not really tactful of you, my dear man,' said Depleach, showing his teeth in his sudden famous 'wolf's smile', which had been reputed to have such a terrifying effect upon witnesses. 'Not one of my successes, you know. I didn't get her off.'
'I know that.'
Sir Montague shrugged his shoulders. He said:
'Of course I hadn't quite as much experience then as I have now. All the same I think I did all that could humanly be done. One can't do much without co-operation. We did get it commuted to penal servitude. Provocation, you know. Lots of respectable wives and mothers got up a petition. There was a lot of sympathy for her.'
He leaned back stretching out his long legs. His face took on a judicial, appraising look.
'If she'd shot him, you know, or even knifed him-I'd have gone all out for manslaughter. But poison-no, you can't play tricks with that. It's tricky-very tricky.'
'What was the defence?' asked Hercule Poirot.
He knew because he had already read the newspaper files, but he saw no harm in playing the complete ignorant to Sir Montague.
'Oh, suicide. Only thing you could go for. But it didn't go down well. Crale simply wasn't that kind of man! You never met him, I suppose? No? Well, he was a great blustering, vivid sort of chap. Great womanizer, beer drinker-all the rest of it. Went in for the lusts of the flesh and enjoyed them. You can't persuade a jury that a man like that is going to sit down and quietly do away with himself. It just doesn't fit. No, I was afraid I was up against a losing proposition from the first. And she wouldn't play up! I knew we'd lost as soon as she went into the box. No fight in her at all. But there it is-if you don't put your client into the box, the jury draw their own conclusions.'
'Is that what you meant when you said just now that one cannot do much without co-operation?'
'Absolutely, my dear fellow. We're not magicians, you know. Half the battle is the impression the accused makes on the jury. I've known juries time and again bring in verdicts dead against the judge's summing up. " 'E did it, all right"-that's the point of view. Or "He never did a thing like that-don't tell me!" Caroline Crale didn't even try to put up a fight.'
'Why was that?'
Sir Montague shrugged his shoulders.
'Don't ask me. Of course, she was fond of the fellow. Broke her all up when she came to and realized what she'd done. Don't believe she ever rallied from the shock.'
'So in your opinion she was guilty?'
Depleach looked rather startled. He said:
'Er-well, I thought we were taking that for granted.'
'Did she ever admit to you that she was guilty?'
Depleach looked shocked.
'Of course not-of course not. We have our code, you know. Innocence is always-er-assumed. If you're so interested it's a pity you can't get hold of old Mayhew. Mayhews were the solicitors who briefed me. Old Mayhew could have told you more than I can. But there-he's joined the great majority. There's young George Mayhew, of course, but he was only a boy at the time. It's a long time ago, you know.'