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The Adventure of the Dartmoor Bungalow is a short story by Agatha Christie which was first published in issue 1615 of The Sketch on 9 January 1924. It was the second 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 April 1927, the story was published in The Blue Book Magazine. The text in this latter case was the same (with minor abridgements) as in the novel and so this can be considered a serialization of the novel rather than a republication of the original short story carried in The Sketch.

The short story formed the basis for chapters 3 and 4 of the The Big Four ("We hear more about Li Chang Yen" and "The Importance of a Leg of Mutton").

In the Sketch series, this story is preceded by The Unexpected Guest and followed by The Lady on the Stairs.


Poirot consults an expert on Chinese secret societies for information on the Big Four. He tells them he has a letter from a seafarer who says that the Big Four is after him. They hurry to Dartmoor where the letter-writer lives but are too late.

Plot summary

(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)

Poirot and Hastings pay a visit to John Ingles, a fairly unremarkable retired civil servant but to those in the know, an expert on the underground world of Chinese secret societies. Ingles tells them that he believes Li Chang Yen to be the "controlling brain" behind the many incidents of unrest and revolution around the world. He prefers to remain out of the lime light but he "pulls the strings" and "things happen far away."

Ingles has not heard the phrase "The Big Four" in connection with Li but one Jonathan Whalley, a former seafarer whom he knew in Shanghai, had recently written to him to borrow money because had to escape from "The Big Four".

Whalley's note came from Hoppator in Dartmoor. Poirot, Hastings and Ingles hurry there but find that the man has just been murdered that very day. Whalley had been hit on the head and then his throat had been cut and some jade figures he had had been stolen. Grant, his manservant has been arrested. The case against him is overwhelming. There are bloody footprints which match the boots he wears. Some valuable jade figurines are missing and are found in Grant's room. The police also learn that Grant is an assumed name. He had been imprisoned five years before for felony and housebreaking and had just come out recently. But Poirot's attention focuses on a still frozen leg of mutton in the larder. He then declares Grant innocent and hypothesizes that the murderer is young man who came in a trap wearing clothing which was slightly bloodstained.

Poirot interviews Grant. Grant denies killing Whalley but admits to stealing the jade figurines. He tells Poirot that when he got out of prison, a man from a prisoner help society had got him his job with Whalley. The man had also given Grant a pair of boots. Poirot explains his conclusions. The murderer had collected Grant from prison and set him up as the scape goat. He had given Grant one pair of two similar pairs of boots. The murderer then drove up in a butcher's cart ostensibly to deliver the mutton. Mutton is not delivered on Sundays and if it had been delivered on Saturday it would have thawed in the summer hear. Therefore it must have been delivered on the Monday of the murder itself. He wore the same boots as Grant, and nobody would have noticed a butcher with some blood on his clothes.


Research notes

  • Japp doesn't appear in this story in person, but Hastings describes how the "magic name of Inspector Japp" secured for him and Poirot the cooperation of Inspector Meadows.

Comparison between the original story and the version in the novel

  • Jonathan Whalley's house is at Hoppator (which is consistent with a location in Dartmoor). In the novel, this is changed to Hoppaton.
  • Chapter 3 in the novel contains several additional paragraphs:
    • A large section at the beginning deals with the aftermath after the death of Mayerling. Hastings waits to see if the man from the asylum would return but he doesn't. There is an inquest which returns a finding of accidental death. Hastings gives evidence but Poirot doesn't even bother to attend. He spends the time thinking and does not reveal anything until one week later when he drags Hastings along on the visit to Ingles.
    • The conversation with Ingles is expanded. In particular, there is a section in the novel where Ingles tells Poirot that he has heard stories of four men who opposed Li Chang Yen. All had died, from stabbing, poisoning, died of cholera and a fourth from electrocution. A fifth man, a chemist who worked for Li was willing to talk. Ingles sheltered him in his residence but the next morning the house was burnt down and the man was killed.
  • The text of Chapter 4 is the same as that in the original story.

Film, TV, or theatrical versions

Agatha Christie's Poirot

Publication history

  • 1924: The Sketch, Issue 1615 (London), 9 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. 44 No. 6 (Chicago), April 1927
  • 1972: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, vol. 59 no. 5, whole no. 342, May 1972, as "The Importance of a Leg of Mutton."[1]