Yours truly, a diehard fan of Agatha Christie, is at your service with the review of yet another AC work. As soon as I am finished with Dead Man’s Folly, my heart has prompted me to pen its review without delay.In the novel, the word ‘folly’ has not been used in the sense of its dictionary meaning which is idiocy or ignorance. Here it refers to a structure. Folly is a building constructed primarily for decoration, but either suggests some other purpose by its appearance or is merely so extravagant that it transcends the normal range of garden ornaments or other class of building which it belongs to.Treasure Hunt is a game quite popular to be played in the parties. In this game, something hidden is hunted with the help of clues. A similar hunt can be carried out to solve some problem also by going on from one clue to another. I hope, the movie buffs remember such a contest shown in the Hindi movie Student of the Year (2012). However in this novel which was written as early as in 1956, the authoress has elaborated a game named as Murder Hunt in which the participants have to catch a murderer out of the given suspects on the basis of the clues and the first hand information available. Locating the victim’s body is also a part of this game.As it had to be in an Agatha Christie story, the game of Murder Hunt becomes an opportunity for a killer to perpetrate a real murder. Unfortunately, it happens just under the nose of the detective hero – Hercule Poirot who has been called over the place by an old acquaintance – Mrs. Ariadne Oliver who is an authoress of detective stories (her character is in some other AC novels too viz. Elephants Can Remember). Mrs. Oliver had called Poirot to a fête arranged at a property called Nasse House in Devon (England) to apprise him of her apprehension that this Murder Hunt game which she only was arranging as a part of the fête, might lead to some real undesirable thing.The venue, i.e., Nasse House originally belonged to the family of Foliats whose lone survivor is Mrs. Amy Foliat is also living there with the permission of its present owner known as Sir George Stubbs. Mrs. Amy Foliat has lost not only her husband but also two sons of hers. She happened to foster a pretty but extremely naive, docile and suggestible girl named as Hattie. Sir George Stubbs got introduced to Hattie through Mrs. Foliat only and they got married despite the difference of 20 odd years in their ages. Hattie appears to be moronic to the other people because she is too much conscious with her appearance, attire, adornment etc. with no concern for anything else or anyone else in the world. There are many guest at Nasse House plus an architect doing some work there who frets over the inappropriate location of a Folly in the property.The location of the vast property is such that it’s possible for the trespassers to move through it towards the river from the side of the woods or the other way round. And hence when a teenager girl who was playing the part of the victim in the Murder Hunt game staged by Mrs. Oliver, is actually found to be the victim of some murderer with her dead body found in the boathouse which is also a part of the property, then the case appears to be that of an open murder because any trespasser not being a part of the gathering, also could have killed the girl named Marlene Tucker. Another bothering incident that has simultaneously taken place is that Mrs. Hattie Stubbs has disappeared. Firstly, she only is considered as the probable culprit but gradually it dawns upon the investigators – Hercule Poirot and police inspector Bland as well as the other people that perhaps Hattie also has been murdered and Marlene Tucker got murdered because she unfortunately must have become an eye-witness to Hattie’s murder or something associated with that. But ! Hattie’s dead body is not found even after an extensive search.Hercule Poirot returns to his place, much ashamed on himself that neither he could stop Mrs. Oliver’s suspicion from coming true nor could catch the culprit or at least coming closer to that by forming a logical hypothesis of the murder that has taken place. He had found the activities of many of the in-house mates as well as outside visitors as unusual or suspicious and found out many things by his leg-work but could not solve the mystery. All the facts are before him but despite analyzing them again and again and feeling within him that there’s something that is vividly visible but not being caught by his eye, he is not able to hit the nail of conclusion correctly by his deductive reasoning. One more death has taken place which is of a very old (92 years) boatman – Merdell. Considering his age and his intoxicated state, everybody has considered his death (by drowning in the water-body) as a mishap only. A restless Poirot, feeling guilty within him, does not give up even after leaving that place. He keeps on thinking and thinking and digging out some extra information and then he returns to Nasse House to present the solution of the mystery.Will the readers of this review allow me to assert that I had guessed the culprit beforehand, in fact while in the middle of the novel itself ? However I am not worthy of any prize for that because I could guess only the culprit and not many other things that are an integral part of this intriguing mystery. I could not guess the real identities of many people, the relationship between the people, the motive of the murder(s) and above all the modus operandi of the murder(s). All these things became known to me only when the mystery-queen herself clarified everything in the dénouement from the mouth of the genius Belgian detective called Hercule Poirot.The thing that we can learn from this novel (and many other novels of AC) that to reach the solution of a mystery or a puzzle or a problem, we need to look at the same facts differently. As said earlier, there must be something lying just before our eyes but escaping our sight. And therefore, sometimes it’s advisable not to look for something new but to change the angle of looking at the things which are already there. Let’s not forget that the darkness is always under the lit lamp, if an eye contains a straw, that straw may be visible to all but to that eye itself and if there are four interpretations of the a given fact not yielding to the desired solution, there may be a fifth one that may unlock the mystery and make every damn thing fall in place. And that’s the specialty of Agatha Christie which always jolts the reader like anything in the climax of a particular novel of hers. Red herrings are scattered in the novel to confuse the reader but all the relevant facts are there as well. If we are not able to join all the parts correctly to complete the picture, it’s our deficiency and not the authoress’.
When a creative person sets a high bar for his / her works, then his / her every performance is judged against that only. And perhaps that’s the reason, Dead Man’s Folly was not received with the expected amount of appreciation by the reviewers when it was published because the reviewers compared it with her best only. However I consider this highly engrossing as well as impressive novel as worthy of a five star rating. This rating is not because of my bias towards Dame Agatha Christie. It actually deserves it. Just enter the venue of the incidents with the world famous detective Hercule Poirot and find yourself as spellbound for 288 pages.
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Wow! I want to read the book soon. Thanks for sharing your review 🙂
Hearty thanks Purba Ji. Hope, you will like it very much.