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In the House of the Enemy is a short story by Agatha Christie which was first published in issue 1618 of The Sketch on 30 January 1924. It was the fifth of a series of connected stories to be published in the magazine under the series title "The Man who was Number Four: Further Adventures of M. Poirot". In January 1927, the stories in the series were woven together with minor changes and some additional connecting paragraphs and then published in novel form as The Big Four. Later the same year, in July 1927, the story was published in The Blue Book Magazine.

The short story formed the basis for chapter 8 of The Big Four (also with the title "In the House of the Enemy").

In the Sketch series, this story is preceded by The Radium Thieves and followed by The Yellow Jasmine Mystery.


Poirot suspects that Number 2 is Abe Ryland, an American multi-millionaire. An opportunity arises when Ryland moves to England and advertises for a secretary. Hastings goes undercover and gets the job.

Plot summary

(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)

Poirot receives a letter from Abe Ryland who is annoyed at Poirot for refusing to handle his case (see The Unexpected Guest at short notice. Poirot tells Hastings that he suspects Ryland is Number 2. Ryland is in England and looking to hire a secretary. Hastings alters his appearance and gets the job under the assumed name of Major Neville.

Over several weeks, Hastings gets to know the members of Ryland's staff, in particular a stenographer Miss Martin whom he has a liking for. One day Miss Martin confides in him and tells him she is planning to resign. Apparently Ryland had shouted at her after she had accidentally opened a letter she had been instructed not to. She couldn't understand Ryland's fury: it was just a short, innocent message about the purchase of a quarry. Hastings considers the text and realises it is in code. He decodes it by taking every fourth word: it is a message to meet at the quarry at a certain time. And ends with the word "Four".

Hastings hurriedly notifies Poirot and goes himself to the quarry to spy on the meeting. There he is captured by Ryland and a man named George who threaten to bury him in a landslide. But Poirot had foreseen the trap and arrives with ten Scotland Yard men and they rescue Hastings.

Later Japp tells them it had all been a hoax. It wasn't Ryland at the quarry but the footman James in disguise. He had made a wager with his fellow servants that he could trick Hastings to mistake him as Ryland. Still, Poirot is satisfied. They have proven that Ryland is Number 2. As for James, he must be yet another of the personas of Number 4.


Research notes

  • Poirot again teases Hastings about his weakness for women with auburn hair.
  • Hastings had worked as the secretary to a Member of Parliament.

Comparison between the original story and the version in the novel

  • The text of the chapter in the novel is the same as in the original story.


  • Savoy Hotel - Hasting's interview with Ryland
  • Hatton Chase - seat of Duke of Loamshire. Ryland had rented it for six months.

Film, TV, or theatrical versions

Agatha Christie's Poirot

Publication history

  • 1924: The Sketch, Issue 1618 (London), 30 January 1924
  • 1927: The Big Four, William Collins and Sons (London), 27 January 1927, Hardcover, 282 pp
  • 1927: The Big Four, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1927, Hardcover, 276 pp
  • 1927: The Blue Book Magazine, Vol. 45 No. 3 (Chicago), July 1927[1]