Agatha, you slay me...


Question: is there just one Agatha Christie mystery that I can solve before it is explained to me?

Answer: not yet, damn it.

Gah. As I merrily roll along with the Agatha Christie Read Along (hosted by Book Club Girl) this summer, I vacillate between moments of sheer joy with Christie's brilliant plotting and utter frustration with my seeming inability to get ahead of her twisted mind. My dogged determination to solve just one Agatha Christie mystery before the Big Reveal was thwarted yet again with Dead Man's Folly, a 1956 Hercules Poirot story originally written as a short story but later fleshed out into a full length novel.

Dead Man's Folly begins on the lightest of notes. Adriane Oliver, a popular mystery author (and recurring character for Christie) has been hired by a wealthy couple to design a murder mystery scavenger hunt for a large party being held at their estate: "...it's all much harder to arrange than you'd think. Because you've got to allow for real people being quite intelligent, and in my books they needn't be." Oliver, embodying all of the flighty characteristics of a mystery writer ("Don't bother about me, I'm just remembering if there's anything I've forgotten"), becomes convinced - sans any real evidence - that some sort of foul play is imminent and calls her old friend Hercule Poirot to help her out, tout de suite. 

Of course, no foul play has yet been committed, but we are introduced to a cast of potential wrong-doers anyway. There is the estate owner and his beautiful, young wife whose elevator doesn't quite reach the top floor (or does it?). There is the titled but bankrupt former owner of the estate now reduced to living in a cottage on the grounds. An angry, unstable architect who might be having illicit relations with the beautiful mistress of the house. A jealous secretary. And at least a half dozen others for good measure...and this is before the murder even takes place. Whew. After the murder occurred, I was hopeless.

With enough red herrings to fill an aquarium, Dead Man's Folly had me baffled. So baffled, in fact, that when our dear Poirot finally explains who did the dastardly deed and why, I found it necessary to read the explanation TWICE to understand it. Gah. Clearly, I need a detective's notebook and a decoder ring.

Interestingly, Dead Man's Folly wasn't critically well-received upon it's original publication. The Times called it "flat and facile" with "disastrous" dialog (ouch), while the Times Literary Supplement that same year criticized the sheer volume of characters, calling all of them "very, very flat."  The one bright spot was The Observer, who was generous enough to offer: "Stunning but not unguessable solution." Hmmmm...not unguessable, you say?  Screw you, Observer.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Masterpiece Theater's latest installment of Hercule Poirot this past weekend was, in fact, Dead Man's Folly. I managed to catch the episode and, as usual, Masterpiece Theater did impeccable work. Aside from some major foreshadowing, I was quite impressed with their faithfulness to the novel...worth the watch and it's available, of course, online at pbs.org



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Title: Dead Man's Folly
Author: Agatha Christie
Publisher: William Morrow
Date: 2014
Pages: 226
Source: Book Club Girl & William Morrow

16 comments:

  1. I always think, 'oh this time I will get it right', and I never do! I feel your pain.

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    1. I swear to God, next Agatha book I read, I'm keeping a little detective notebook to write in. #booknerd

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  2. I've only read one Christie book and I felt like all it had was red herrings - there were no real clues as far as I was concerned.

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    1. Oh, the clues are there. I just don't SEE them until they are pointed out to me in the last damned chapter. Then I feel completely stupid. That lady was smart as hell. Gah.

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  3. I enjoyed Christie's books when I was younger. I don't seem to have the patience for them now. I should say that I've tried them recently on audio and I was not a fan of that format. Maybe the books would be okay.

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    1. I don't think I could tolerate them on audio now that you mention it. Ewww. I am constantly flipping back to previous pages to re-read something or check for a clue I might have missed. No way on audio. Ick.

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  4. Love this author and her books! I read and enjoyed this one as well. I have yet to figure out the mystery for any of her books but that is why I enjoy reading her books so much. Great review!

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    1. Maybe it's nostalgia for us? Or just reading someone who was at the top of her game? I don't know. But I just love her books. I own every single one. Ohhhh, and her website has printable PDFs that tell you what order to read them all in....yes, I'm a complete OCD reader.

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  5. You are not alone in the not knowing business!

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    1. I'm starting to get a little bit irritated with it...I'm going to conquer one of her mysteries if it's the last thing I do. But I'd better do it before I run out of her books to read...

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  6. I've never read Christie and I think it's time that I rectify that.

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    1. Oh gosh, Holly, she really is a lot of fun. But go to her official website and get an idea of what to read first. She has series and standalone novels and I think reading one of her standalone novels would serve best to start. They really are addictive.

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  7. Agatha Christie is simply the best.

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  8. I haven't read this one, but I did watch the Masterpiece Mystery on Sunday. It was really good.

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  9. I NEVER guess the murderer. Never.

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Fire away!