I was intending to do the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge this year but have sadly not done so well at that. I’ve decided taking a dipping-into-Christie-when-I-feel-like-it approach is going to work far better for me. Dead Man’s Folly appealed to me as (as well as being a Hercule Poirot mystery) it is an Ariadne Oliver story.
Opening sentence: It was Miss Lemon, Poirot’s efficient secretary, who took the telephone call.
Who is Ariadne Oliver?
Well, she is a quite fabulous author of detective stories with a quick mind, great imagination and suffers no fools. Remind you of anyone?
I mean, what can you say about how you write books? What I mean is, first you’ve got to think of something, and when you’ve thought of it you’ve got to force yourself to sit down and write it. That’s all.
Ariadne is asked by Sir George Stubbs to help create a ‘Murder Hunt’ game for the village fete that is being held on the grounds of his huge estate. The game ends with a young woman being strangled in the boathouse, so imagine everyone’s surprise when the girl taking part in the game, Marlene Tucker, IS found strangled in the boathouse.
Ariadne Oliver calls on her friend Poirot to help and although the case is not an easy one to crack, he puts his little grey cells to good use and takes a different perspective to the police to work out just how Ariadne’s fictional murder story came to life.
‘I am a gossip,’ said Hercule Poirot. ‘I like to hear all about people.’
Some of Agatha’s books have dated quite badly when it comes to their sexist and racist language and in Dead Man’s Folly, we have a little xenophobia going on but, in a refreshing update, she is calling it out as a small-town backward mentality, rather than using it as a given or accepted way that people think.
Plot-wise, this is technically a great detective story of dual identity, family history and duplicitous deeds. BUT as it is an Agatha story, I have to hold it up against her other, in this case, Poirot stories and while Dead Man’s Folly didn’t quite pull me in as much as some of her others (it is the 33rd Poirot tale, so that might have something to do with it), it was still a very entertaining way to spend an afternoon. Plus, I loved getting to know Ariadne Oliver a little better.
Oh, and if you were wondering what the title refers to…
‘Folly? What is that – a masquerade?’
‘No, it’s architectural. One of those little sort of temple things, white, with columns. You’ve probably seen them at Kew.’
- Get your copy of Dead Man’s Folly here;
- Originally published in 1956;
- 288 pages;
- My rating: