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The Dying Chinaman is a short story by Agatha Christie which was first published in issue 1624 of The Sketch on 12 March 1924. It was the eleventh 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. For background as to the circumstances of this, see The Big Four. The short story here formed the basis for chapter 16 of The Big Four (also with the title "The Dying Chinaman").

Later the same year, in December 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 novelisation and so this can be considered a serialization of the novel rather than a republication of the original short story text as carried in The Sketch.

The original text of the story as found in The Sketch was therefore quite rare until 2016. In that year, HarperCollins published The Big Four (Detective Club Edition), a collection of the "Big Four" short stories as they first appeared in The Sketch.

In the Sketch series, this story is preceded by The Terrible Catastrophe and followed by The Crag in the Dolomites.


Hastings is determined to hunt down the Big Four on his own in order to avenge Poirot. He ignores advice from both friend and foe to return to South America. He gets a message that Ingles' Chinese servant is dying in hospital and has an urgent message for him.

Plot summary[]

(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)

Another shock greets Hastings shortly after Poirot's funeral: John Ingles, his only other ally, has fallen overboard on his boat to China. It is apparently an accident but Hastings knows this to be murder by the Big Four.

Hastings recovers from his injuries sustained during the explosion, he is determined to continue the hunt for the Big Four on his own. Dr Ridgeway and the Home Secretary are both lukewarm to the idea and advise him to return to South America. Hastings also has a chance meeting with Number Four and later with Vera Rossakoff. Both also warn him to return to South America.

Soon after, Hastings gets a call from St Giles Hospital. Ingles' Chinese servant has been stabbed and is dying. He has a message in his pocket for Hastings. This may be a trap set by the Big Four, but Hastings goes to St Giles anyway. The servant is at the end of his tether but manages to mumble a few words before dying: "Handel's Largo" and "carrozza" and a few other Italian words. Hastings is puzzled. Returning home, he finds a letter from Poirot delivered through his solicitors. Poirot wants him to leave for South America. It is part of the plan, Poirot assures him. Hastings decides to trust his friend. Perhaps by going to South America, the big Four would think he is dropping the case and this would leave him free to 'wreak havoc in their midst'.

Hastings boards a ship for South America but this is stopped in mid-ocean by a British naval destroyer. Hastings is brought on board the destroyer and taken to Belgium and thence by car to Spa in the Ardennes. There he meets ... Poirot! Hastings is shocked, but it was a necessary, if cruel, trick. Only Hastings' genuine grief would convince the Big Four that Poirot was truly dead. Now they are free to plan the final destruction of the Big Four.


Research notes[]

Comparison between the original story and the version in the novel[]

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


  • St Giles' Hospital
  • Spa, Belgium

Film, TV, or theatrical versions[]

Agatha Christie's Poirot[]

Publication history[]

Original short story text[]

As part of novelisation[]

  • 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. 46 No. 2 (Chicago), December 1927 - as "The Enemy Strikes" which incorporates both chapter 15 and chapter 16 of the novel.[1]