My sixth re-read in my month of re-reading. I needed something of a comfort read, and for me Agatha Christie hits the spot. Why it should be that murder mysteries should and often are considered comfort reading – is something I have often wondered about. Last night I was so tired – and just a tiny bit grumpy – and yet as I snuggled down against my pillows, a mug of low fat hot chocolate nearby, I read the first few pages of A Dead Man’s Folly and everything seemed suddenly much better.
I first read Agatha Christie when I was about 11 – I have loved her stories ever since. I love both Poirot and Marple, though Poirot is definitely my favourite of the two. It may seem that a whodunit is an odd choice for a re-read – but luckily I usually forget. I can’t even remember for sure which Agatha Christie novels I have read – I just know it’s probably most of them, several of them twice. I watch the TV adaptations too – and those too I forget – so can watch again – it’s very useful at times.
Dead Man’s Folly I think I have read twice before – and have seen a TV adaptation too – so maybe it was no real surprise that I began to remember key points after about 60 pages. It all remained very muddled in my head though and so I had to read on to see what I had remembered correctly.
In Dead Man’s Folly, Hercule Poirot is summoned to Devon by Ariadne Oliver – a character of Agatha Christie’s that is quite obviously a thinly disguised self-portrait. I’ve always really rather liked Ariadne Oliver, she is an eccentric, and like Poirot, something of a stereotype – still Agatha Christie novels are not the kind of novels to take too seriously. Ariadne Oliver is involved in the preparations of a fete in the grounds of Nasse House – as part of the preparations Ariadne is designing a muder hunt – like a treasure hunt with clues hidden around the grounds. Ariadne tells everyone at Nasse House that Poirot is there to present the prize however her real motive in getting Poirot to Devon is because she is convinced that “something is wrong” There are the usual collection of Christie types scattered around Nasse house and the immediate surroundings, a young married couple, a cynical young architect, the former owner of Nasse house living in the lodge, Sir George Stubbs the wealthy new owner and his much younger wife, who is apparently rather suggestible and the bitter secretary come housekeeper. The day following Poirot’s arrival the fete gets underway – a local girl guide is to play the part of the body in Mrs Oliver’s murder hunt – only Ariadne’s belief that something was wrong proves all too accurate when she and Poirot find the poor girl dead in the boathouse. Within a couple of hours it is also obvious that the beautiful Hattie Stubbs is missing.
One of the criticisms often levelled against Agatha Christie – is that she cheats. Well – yes she does – in that Fred Bloggs will later turn out to be Joe Brown who disappeared down the Amazon seventeen years earlier and hasn’t been heard of since. Some people don’t like the fact that the reader therefore doesn’t have all the information – and so can’t solve the mystery themselves. That has never bothered me. The reader can make a shrewd guess to the who without knowing the why and how after all. I think I always prefer to have everything revealed to me at the end anyway, and so I don’t try to work it out – that’s the job of the detective. This was perfect easy reading for me – as I never tire of dear old Poirot.