Four and Twenty Blackbirds – About the story
Four and Twenty Blackbirds is a short story by Agatha Christie.
It was first published in the Strand Magazine in 1941. The story was later published in 1950 in the US in the anthology Three Blind Mice and Other stories. It was against published in UK in 1960 in The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding.
In the story, a man deviated from his usual eating habits. Few weeks later, Poirot finds he was dead, and decides to investigate.
Poirot is eating out with a friend, Henry, and the conversation turns to people’s habits. Henry eats regularly in the restaurant that they are in and he points out a white-bearded man as evidence of his theories. This bearded man eats the same meal there on Wednesday and Saturday and always orders much the same items as part of his three-course meal. The waitress brings their meals and sees Henry staring at the bearded man. She tells him that except the previous week he also came in on Monday and ordered things he had never ordered before. This piques Poirot’s curiosity.
Bearded man missing
Three weeks after the restaurant meet, Poirot and Henry meet on a Tube train. Henry informs him that the bearded man has not been seen in the restaurant for a week. He theorizes that the man might have dies and change in habits might be due to behavior change after getting some bad news from doctor. Poirots doubts the theory and decides to investigate himself.
Poirot easily finds out the dead man’s name and his doctor’s contact. The man lived alone and died after an accidental fall downstairs at his house and was found near the milk bottles. He died at approximately 10.00 p.m. on that day and had eaten a meal a couple of hours before, at the same restaurant Poirot saw him in. He had a letter in the pocket. In response to the question of relatives, Poirot is told that the man had a twin brother, Anthony, who died on the afternoon of the same day as his brother after a long illness and that their only surviving relative is a nephew, George Lorrimer. Poirot is interested in the dead man’s teeth and it is confirmed that they were very white for their age.
After several calls of investigation, Poirot accuses Lorrimer of murder. His reaction to the accusation further cements Poirot’s conviction in his guilt.
Anthony left a large fortune for his brother. Lorrimer, who would eventually inherit the money, was impatient for it. He thus killed his uncle. He later disguised him in the restaurant but did not succeed in impersonating his uncle’s eating habits which served as clue and nudge for Poirot to begin investigation. His uncle did not eeat the food which stained teeth whereas Lorrimer’s teeth were stained which served as another clue to crack the case.