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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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A country house murder mystery in true AC style. A very entertaining read. We have the typical setting of a very English country house, in Devon, together with the traditional country fete. A colourful cast of characters including an old acquaintance of Poirot - Ariadne Oliver (a rather fussy character altogether)- a writer of detective fiction who lures Poirot to the event due to her, it turns out, real concern of murder being committed. The denouement, when it arrives, is utterly fantastical again-as a reader we are carried along with the tale and the sheer unbelievable explanation comes really as little surprise. The ending of this is bizarre in its abruptness. However, the presumption is there, possibly, that the perpetrator/s will get just desserts. As an ending, however, I can't help feeling somewhat disappointed with it. I enjoy the little gems of wisdom, or the witty final comment, from M. Poirot at the conclusion of his case, and look forward to them. Sadly with this one, they didn't come.
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on 6 June 2017
Despite the novels of Agatha Christie having been extensively featured on British television and having enjoyed many, I am almost embarrassed to confess that this is my first read of her work in print. Having read very few of the novels that are typically considered as the golden age of crime fiction I chose this book for several reasons, not least because of it's compact length and a humorous synopsis which made it sound so accessible to a novice of the genre. The other significant factor was that this is one of the seven Christie novels to feature the eccentric crime fiction novelist, Mrs Ariadne Oliver, surely an alter ego of the eminent author herself that allows her the opportunity to poke fun at a somewhat ditzy character whose mind races ahead and consequently renders her thought processes almost incomprehensible to others. I suspect, however, that this is a way to disguise both her sharp observation and excellent judgement of characters. Ariadne's extraordinary feminine intuition and humorous diversions provide a means of lightening the atmosphere and bring an element of farce to proceedings. At one point she even acknowledges how in person she can seem quite nonsensical and yet in novel form her stories always seem to come together. Dead Man's Folly is also one of the few Christie novels to be based on a specific location, that being Greenway, her cherished property in South Devon on the banks of the River Dart and here named Nasse House in Nassecombe.

When Poirot's secretary passes his the phone it is to be greeted by the "booming contralto" of Mrs Ariadne Oliver, the so called Queen of Crime Fiction, and he is surprised to be urgently summoned to assist her in some a unspecified matter of significant importance. As a friend of Mrs Oliver he is not in the least perturbed by her somewhat cryptic request and hot foots it to her side. What transpires is that Ariadne has been employed to help entertain the crowds at a village fete and arrange a Murder Hunt - in essence an original take on the more familiar Treasure Hunt theme. The fete is to take place in the grounds of Nasse House, the home of London financier Sir George Stubbs and his wife, Mrs Hattie Stubbs. Despite being engaged to arrange this murder staging, the feminine intuition of Ariadne suspects that she is being engineered or jockeyed along into delivering a scenario as a means for someone with a far darker motive and she has an ominous suspicion that someone is planning an altogether more sinister occurrence. Her aroused anxiety and subtle appreciation of the atmosphere convinces her to call her good friend, Poirot, with his function being that as an outside observer whose unbiased opinion and logic can predict and indeed prevent such a situation. Poirot's wonderfully innocent reason for attending the fete is in his capacity to present the prizes to the winning competitors who deduce the murderer, the weapon and the motive of the staged scenario correctly. Following the final clue leads to the discovery of the intended "victim", a village Girl Guide by the name of Marlene Tucker.. but when this proves rather too accurate, both Poirot and Ariadne Oliver are baffled. Inspector Bland enters the fray to question guests and residents alike, but for all his erstwhile efforts he is no match for the deductive powers of Hercule Poirot.

Among the attendees at the fete are the wealthy and self-titled Sir George Stubbs, a man of somewhat vulgar taste who has become the epitome of a country squire since acquiring Nasse House. Accompanying him is his ornamental wife, Hattie, a somewhat simple woman twenty-years his junior and Mrs Amy Folliat, the previous lady of the manor, now resident in a small lodge within the grounds. Adding to this Christie provides a domineering secretary/housekeeper, Miss Amanda Bewlis, a rather pompous young architect, Michael Weyman, the local MP and a recently married couple spending three months in a neighbouring cottage, Alex and Sally Legge. Combine this cast to the mix of the fete guests, Murder Hunt competitors and the 'foreign trespassers', aka the residents at the youth hostel adjoining Nasse House and the arrival of a far removed and distant relation of Lady Stubbs who she has not seen since her teenage years. A splendid array of eccentric characters bring humour and serve a variety of functions for the author, whether it be to satirise the attitudes of the landed gentry or divert attention from more significant elements. The great detective might not be able to prevent or identify the murderer on the day of the fete, but he doesn't like to be confounded by anything that is not as it seems. Poirot's composed demeanour and impeccable manners make it hard for him to make enemies, and many often wrongly assume that as a foreigner he must be ignorant of the idiosyncratic British behaviour and the ebb and flow of the prevailing atmosphere.

At 230 pages this is a gloriously readable and outrageously witty opportunity to meet both Ariadne Oliver and the mincing Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. I had worried that the large cast would lead to confusion but in fact Christie paints her characters as larger than life and very often blatant stereotypes, meaning they cement a place in the readers consciousness. The comedy element is just one aspect of this novel that shines through, it also provides an expose on village life and an examination of the landed gentry at the time and their attitudes, not least to foreigners. The lack of discretion amongst the guests at Nasse Combe with respect to both their host and the others in attendance is wonderfully revealing. Originally written in 1956, I was surprised at just how much applicable humour the novel contained and how Christie can cut like a knife with some of her choice words, my personal favourite being one of the ways of referring to Lady Stubbs limited intelligence via the more polite term "somewhat queer in the top storey".

Of the seven novels featuring Mrs Ariadne Oliver, six of these also feature Hercule Poirot, the first of which, Cards on the Table, was written in 1936. I definitely intend to discover some more of these gems, which even decades later remain as drying witty as when they were originally penned. Interestingly, this is one of the few Christie novels not to feature the classic denouement climax of a gathering in the drawing room with all invested parties. In typical style, a grouchy Poirot is disappointed with his efforts, both for neither managing to prevent the actual murder or swiftly identify the perpetrator. His lengthy route to a final satisfying solution does however feel like a job very well done. As with most Christie novels, looking back the clues become all too apparent and embarrassingly clear, yet are hideously fiendish to spot and catch on to at the time. Needless to say, I failed abysmally and Christie's fierce intelligence and astute plotting make he a match for anyone. I was also wryly amused by the pinpointing of a specific forty-five-minute range for the time of death which I suspect must have more to do with oiling the cogs and making the plot click together as opposed to any medical accuracy!

It seems sad that Agatha Christie was never present to meet the actor David Suchet who has become synonymous with the dapper little Belgian detective, Monsieur Hercule Poirot. Kudos to Monsieur Poirot though who is actually attributed with some bang on the money comments nailing down just how unflattering shorts and pink female thighs are:

Poirot nodded absently. He was reflecting, not for the first time, that seen from the back, shorts were becoming to very few of the female sex. He shuts his eyes in pain. Why, oh why, must young women array themselves thus? Those scarlet thighs were singularly unattractive!

Review written by Rachel Hall (@hallrachel)
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on 13 June 2017
another great book from the master.
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I always enjoy reading Agatha Christie books, and having recently visited Greenways it was interesting because this is where it was filmed.
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on 6 April 2012
A superb piece of story telling, and all the better for Poroit being in it from the beginning.

The best Christie I've read to date.

5 1/2 stars!
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on 15 July 2015
Love this book kept me guessing Love the plot More Agatha Christie Please
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on 15 June 2014
A special invite from a recurring character pulls Poirot to another country mansion to help perpetrate a murder (murder mystery party, that is). The reader will never guess what happens next (hint: Poirot).

It's an interesting setup, and Christie proves herself again the master of creating interesting scenarios and complex character relationships to fill out what at heart is the same plot.

I thought some of the characters we're let off lightly in this one, not seeing enough of the detective digging into their lives as expected, but overall the conclusion was brilliantly drawn and once revealed, the pieces all fit together to perfection.

Another lovely mystery which I enjoyed failing to solve.
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on 19 October 2012
When Mrs Ariadne Oliver is asked to organise a charity murderhunt at the home of Sir George and Lady Stubbs, she throws herself into the breach with her usual flair and gusto. However, not long after she arrives at their country pile, she begins to feel uneasy, as if someone is steering her plans in a direction which is not quite what she had in mind. Could something be afoot in this quiet country village? Are this wealthy couple as devoted as they seem? Ariadne has her doubts and on the strength of her"woman's intuition" she decides to call her old friend Poirot. Another winner here, unfathomable plot, fabulous characters and plenty of wit and banter between our two intrepid sleuths. Wonderful, you will enjoy this!
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I found this a totally engrossing read and it was nice to Mrs Ariadne Oliver involved in this investigation by the inimitable Hercule Poirot and his 'little grey cells'. Ariadne telephones Poirot because she feels there is something odd going on at Nasse House where she is arranging a murder mystery for the house guests to investigate. She wants Poirot to come and stay to see if he can work out what is going on.

Poirot's curiosity is aroused and he immediately packs and catches a train for Devon. When the murder mystery turns out to involve a real murder both Poirot and Mrs Oliver are totally baffled - as are the police and it is several weeks before the case is finally solved.

I did pick up the clues but unlike Poirot could not in the end make anything of them so I wanted to keep reading to find out what was really going on. The book is well plotted and the characters well drawn and the motivations interesting. What more could any fan of classic crime novels want?
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on 17 October 2005
If it's murders, detectives, clues and a whole cast of stereotypical English characters then "Dead Man's Folly" is as a fine example of an Agatha Christie novel as you could wish for.
Mrs Ariadne Oliver, that well known writer of detective fiction is organising a "Murder Hunt" for the summer fete of her current hosts, Sir George and Lady Hattie Stubbs. Sir George is a self-made man of newly obtained wealth and has set himself up in the English country seat of Nasse House in Devon. He is welcomed into country life especially by Mrs Folliat, the previous owner and lady of the manor, who now having fallen on tougher times is living in the lodge of the manor.
The Murder Hunt Mrs Oliver has devised is a devilish set of clues which should lead the would be detectives to the boat house on the estate where 14 year old girl guide Marlene Tucker has been designated as "the body." However Mrs Oliver senses an air of misfortune around the house and summons her old friend M. Hercule Poirot to come down to the house and see if he can understand the forces at work.
All seems to be going fine at the fete until Mrs Oliver and M. Poirot discover that Marlene Tucker's impression of a dead person is all too realistic and the poor girl has been strangled. To add to the woes of the country party, soon after this discovery Lady Hattie goes missing with only her hat found in the fast running waters of the river.
Like most Christie novels this features an array of typical characters and a typical array of red herrings, false leads and real clues. The final solution is pretty well contrived and as with many a Christie book you do feel that the plausibility of the plot is questionable.
There are some great un-PC descriptions, especially of Lady Hattie who is not too bright. The depictions of the foreign backpackers who trespass on Sir George's property are likewise fun to read in this day and age. Ariadne Oliver is also an excellent character to read about and she's always a great addition to the story.
Unusually for a Christie the murder victim her is "a complete innocent" i.e. not a character directly connected with the subjects of the plot. In this sense the book has a poignancy that isn't normally found in a Christie book. That said, the scene where Marlene's mother is interviewed by Poirot shortly after her death shows that sorrow and sympathy were feelings that Christie didn't normally write about.
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