Title: Dead Man’s Folly
Author: Agatha Christie
Publication date: 1956
Ariadne Oliver, Queen of Crime Fiction, has been asked to devise a “Murder Hunt” for a fête at Nasse House, the home of Sir George Stubbs. But she begins to suspect that someone is manipulating the scenario of her game and fears that something very sinister is being planned.
She sends for her old friend Hercule Poirot. At first he is not inclined to take her very seriously but soon a series of events propels him to change his mind.
Then suddenly all Ariadne’s worst fears are realised when the girl playing the part of the murder victim is found strangled in the boat-house. For Hercule Poirot, the Murder Hunt has become a grim reality.
Dead Man’s Folly is one of the numerous book written by the Queen of Mystery, Agatha Christie. Recently I got my hands on an enormous collection of Christie’s books and I’ve decided to give them a go. I mean, I’ve often been told by friends and teachers that she is the best in this genre and that her mysteries remain mysteries until the very end. After reading this book I am inclined to believe them.
The story follows Hercule Poirot as an old acquaintance of his, Ariadne Oliver (who is also a writer and referred to as the Queen of Crime Fiction, hahaha) contacts him for assistance. She has been hired to arrange for a game of sorts where she would device a murder story for a gathering and people would have to follow certain clues to unravel the mystery and find what happened to the victim and who the killer is. It all looks as if she is just kind of crazy and imagining things until the worst happens – the girl that was supposed to play the victim becomes the victim – killed the same way her character was supposed to die, left in the murder sight of the game.
If I have to be perfectly honest I was not particularly impressed with the book or the story by the time I reached the middle. Most of the characters were extremely boring or annoying and Poirot just kept agreeing with everybody. But I kept reading because I wanted to know who killed the girl and why. And boy, oh, boy, was I in for a surprise. I honestly didn’t have any idea who the killer is or why the whole thing had happened by the time I reached the last five pages. I had my suspicions, of course, but each and every one of them was wrong. I felt like a dumbass 😀
After I finished the book I had to take good ten minutes to think it over to make sure all fits and it did, perfectly. Every random conversation, every detail I found out of place – it all played its role so at the end the reader is left scratching their neck and wondering how they could have missed it. I mean, there was no way we could have deduced the ending the way Poirot did but there were enough clues at least to figure out who the killer is… I think. I am simply baffled of the amount of tricks and misdirection Agatha Christie used to discreetly throw us off the right path – like Sally Legge not going for tea when she claimed she did; Amanda Brewis saying she brought the desserts to the victim saying Hattie told her to – while Mrs. Folliat claims Hattie would never care about the girl so much to send her husband’s secretary to check on her; Michael Weyman, not being able to provide any alibi and even Hattie who had suddenly disappeared into thin air…
Agatha Christie is literally like a magician (one of the good ones) that uses misdirection to trick you into thinking you are observing carefully and can’t miss the trick while at the same time the trick is being played on you and you have no idea. Thinking about it now, I am still WOWed.
Another thing I realized is that the most stupid-looking and harmless characters are usually the ones that surprise you the most. That’s why I felt like a moron at the end, since I thought the ones I had all figured were the ones I was most surprised of. That was nice and I am happy my initial frustration didn’t sway me from continuing to read the book.
One thing that did keep annoying me till the end of the book is the expressions and the behavior of some of the characters. I know these books are written in a completely different time and I realize that the translation was probably not very good (I read them in Bulgarian since they are from the older editions – 1994, Abagar Holding- Sofia) but still – throughout the book they referred to most of the girls as stupid and ugly, to foreigners as criminal elements and there was this period where they kept talking about rapers and psychos as if they were interesting, exotic animals. It may have been on purpose, I guess, but I have no idea what that purpose was or why it was necessary.
Anyway, I am still quite happy with the book and the way the whole plot developed. I would happily give it 4/5 rating.
What about you? What rating would you give? What are your thoughts and takes on Dead Man’s Folly?