Dead Man’s Folly by Agatha Christie

Dead Man's FollyAriadne Oliver, crime novelist and thinly disguised conduit for Dame Agatha herself, has been asked to provide the clues for a murder hunt at a country house fete. Her intuition leads her to call her old acquaintance (from Cards On The Table and Mrs McGinty’s Dead) Hercule Poirot. Ostensibly there to present the prizes for the ridiculously convoluted competition, he instead is asked to confirm Mrs Oliver’s feeling that something is… wrong. Needless to say, once the pretend victim of the murder hunt becomes the real victim of a murder, Poirot is forced to agree with her…

A second entry for Agatha Christie in my Golden Age month, mainly as a treat for my students making me look good on exam results day, this is from a time when, if Agatha was becoming tired of Poirot, she was still writing plenty of books with him in – he’d appeared in four of the previous ten novels, including Mrs McGinty’s Dead, one of my favourites. So how was this outing?

Well, it’s a full appearance for Poirot – he’s in virtually every chapter, rather than being relegated to a mid-book entrance. He gets a chance to express his opinion on a variety of topics, including a woman’s inability to wear shorts (!) and surprisingly, at one point almost gives up the case due to complete bafflement.

Which is odd, because the problem is, Poirot has overlooked something and I can’t believe that he would have overlooked it. Which means Poirot comes across as a bit of a thicky…

I’ll say at this point that I have read it before and honestly can’t remember if I worked it out the first time, so I was going in with the shape of the solution in my head, if not the details, so I was working from an advantage. I don’t think I got it the first time round…

One of the problems is that the red herring characters never get brought into the plot particularly well and after the list of suspects is reeled off, some of them are barely mentioned again. Add in one of her favourite misdirections, and the mystery element of the book is, in hindsight at least, a little disappointing.

But… that doesn’t stop it from being a page-turning read. I can’t remember the last time I read a book in a single afternoon and I was right to pick it up as a “treat”. Dame Agatha demonstrates here that even when she’s a little off-form, she can still write a book that is eminently readable. So, by no means the best Christie novel but a long way from the worst, even with my grumbles, this is Highly Recommended.


  1. I have read all Agatha Christie’s books and I rate this book as just Average.
    After a slow start, it does become a page-turner, but the ending is a major disappointment. After a lot of dithering, the solution is too abruptly given with the murderer popping out of nowhere. The plot development leaves much to be desired. Also some key information is kept hidden from the reader till after the murderer’s identity is announced.
    Several of the clues are pointless. There are too many red herrings and distractions.
    However, even an average book by Agatha Christie makes more interesting reading than some other mystery writers’ books ( such as the Perry Mason books, the review of one of which you decided to cancel due to being bored.).


  2. Usually, Christie is very good at imagining what male characters should talk, but when she has Poirot say “seen from the back, shorts were becoming to very few of the female sex” I questioned his judgement. I don’t believe that any heterosexual man ever honestly agreed with that statement.


  3. With all due respect to Sarah and Santosh Iyer, I was impressed with this book. I picked up the threads of the clues Christie left in the book, but I followed them in the wrong direction. I won’t say that this is a masterpiece along the line of And Then There Were None or Murder On The Orient Express, but it’s much better than Murder Is Easy and a LOT better than They Do It With Mirrors.

    One thing I do wonder about. During the murder, there is a character who disappears and is presumed dead. This disappearance may not technically be an impossible crime, but I think it’s pretty darn near close. I’ll talk more about this book a bit later…


    • Well, most of Christie’s books are a lot better than Mirrors…

      Not sure that that’s an impossible crime – if it is, it’s not sold as one and certainly doesn’t have that interesting a solution.


    • I do not regard Murder On The Orient Express as a masterpiece. I agree with Rich Westwood (Past Offences) that the solution stretches belief and is artificial.


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