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. Later the same year, in December 1927, the story formed the second part of The Enemy Strikes which was published in The Blue Book Magazine. This latter appearance may be considered a serialization of the novel.
The short story formed the basis for chapter 16 of The Big Four (also with the title "The Dying Chinaman").
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.
(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 4 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.
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
- 1924 The Sketch, Issue 1624 (London), 12 March 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. 46 No. 2 (Chicago), December 1927 - as "The Enemy Strikes" which incorporates both chapter 15 and chapter 16 of the novel.