Title: Dead Man’s Folly
Author: Agatha Christie
Narrator: David Suchet
Publisher: Harper Collins [This edition 2007, originally 1956]
ISBN: N/A [downloaded from audible.com]
Length: 6hrs 1min
Genre: Private Detective
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My rating: 4/5
One-liner: A book that simultaneously manages to offer exactly what you expect at the same time as a surprise ending
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Hercule Poirot receives a frantic phone call from his friend Ariadne Oliver, a writer of murder mysteries. She has created a live murder game for a fête to be held in the grounds of Nasse House which is the home of Lord and Lady Stubbs but she believes there is real danger lurking at the House and she begs Poirot to come immediately. Oliver gives Poirot little to go on but her feelings and, perhaps because of this, he fails to prevent the murder of the young girl who was only supposed to be playing the role of victim in the murder game. He subsequently participates in a stop-start investigation before finally solving the crime.
I was prompted to read this book by one of Margot Kinberg’s excellent contributions to the Crime Fiction Alphabet meme. Margot highlighted the humour of the book and as that is an element of crime fiction I enjoy and hadn’t really associated with Christie before I thought it would be an interesting choice for me. I wasn’t disappointed. The Ariadne Oliver character really does make a nice contrast to the somewhat prissy and proper Poirot with her ability to laugh at herself and it does seem like Christie was having a bit of fun with her genre by using the ‘mystery within a mystery’ twist.
This twist is also a perfect device for Christie’s favourite ploy: misdirection of her readers. Even though I know that her plots are always complex and that the obvious clues are red herrings to be ignored I still didn’t come close to picking up on the key hints that led to the solution. As almost always with Christie’s books, the uncovering of the murderer follows a wonderfully convoluted and unexpected journey. One of the things I liked about this book is that Poirot didn’t seem quite so cocky as he is in earlier stories. He doesn’t inveigle himself into every single interrogation and for some time it seems as if he might not even solve the mystery at all. I found this slightly more humble Poirot more likable than I have in the past.
I notice that some people mention struggling to keep track of all the people who appear in this book and I think this is where listening to the audio book had me at an advantage. David Suchet is a superb narrator and manages to provide all the characters a distinctive voice which is very helpful in such a dialogue-rich story. I must admit I am becoming quite addicted to Suchet’s narrations of Christie’s works.
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If you’ve read the print book and listened to the audio book of Dead Man’s Folly clearly the next step is to play the hidden object game based on the book. This screen shot has me tempted.