Agatha Christie’s Dead Man’s Folly was first published in 1956. It is a Hercule Poirot mystery and as with Elephants Can Remember, he is teamed up once again with the famous mystery author and Agatha Christie’s alter ego, Ariande Oliver.
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Mrs Ariadne Oliver telephones the great detective Hercule Poirot in a flustered state. She demands that he immediately drop everything and join her on the country side. She senses that something is deeply wrong in Nasse House where she is staying – however she cannot quite put her finger on it.
Poirot is interested; he is never one to blink in the face of a challenge and so he hops on the first train to Devon – arriving there that same afternoon. He finds Mrs Oliver sitting in the garden and she tries to explain exactly what it is that has been bothering her.
She was commissioned by the owners of Nasse House to create a Murder Mystery Hunt for the fete – which is to take place the following day and her intuition tells her that there is something wrong – that there is potential for a real murder and she wants Poirot to prevent it.
With Poirot hotly on the tail of a murderer before they have even committed the crime, you would expect – given his own arrogance and faith in his skills of deduction and detection – that he would be able to prevent the murder; however this is not the case. Poirot not only allows the murder of a young girl, but by the end of the book, there are multiple victims.
For the most part, the only motive we can see for the murder of the girl is that she must have seen something she shouldn’t have. She is a ‘moronic girl’ of 14, with no enemies and her entire life ahead of her. But as the story continues, we learn that there is much more going on than first meets the eye at Nasse House.
There is a relatively large cast of characters and in the beginning Agatha Christie throws them all at us in a flurry. It made me feel overwhelmed and conveyed the reality of the situation. Poirot is a new entrant into the middle of the preparations for the coming fete and we all know how intimidating being the new arrival can be!
As I delved more deeply into the story, I began to wonder the exact same thing as Ariadne Oliver. I felt as though there were things wrong and pieces of evidence that just didn’t quite add up; however I wasn’t able to put my finger on it. There was something intrinsically wrong at Nasse House and this is accentuated by the disappearance of the Lady of the house after the murder of the girl.
The solution to the puzzle is held in a few statements by a couple of different characters. Statements made in passing, which when spoken didn’t mean much, but by the end meant everything.
Not surprisingly, I enjoyed this book very much. I had a suspicion as to who the murderer was from the beginning – for no reason other than my own experience with these kinds of novels and it turns out that I was correct. There were a number of clever red-herrings and in the end the book comes to a satisfying conclusion.
The title – Dead Man’s Folly – is extremely clever in that it has a double meaning. A folly can be an ornamental building – of which one figures in this story – or it can be foolishness. Once you find out who the murderer is and the motive behind it, you can see that Agatha Christie meant it both ways.