2020-09-09

Agatha Christie 100 - Dead Man's Folly

Another Poirot tale featuring Ariadne Oliver, though she's mostly active in the beginning and then simply puts in a couple of shorter appearances later.


Mystery writer Ariadne Oliver has been co-opted into designing a murder game during a fair at Nasse House, though when she begins suspecting ulterior motives behind the whole thing, she implores her old friend Hercule Poirot to come down to the manor. But even though our Belgian friend turns up, he is unable to prevent the murder - and sure enough it's the victim in the murder game who turns out to be the real murder victim as well.

This story putters along nicely for a fair amount of the time, and as this was one title where I had actually forgotten everything except the set-up that I described in the paragraph above, I had a jolly good time reading this one. Poirot's investigations are a bit slow and it takes him some time to arrive at his final conclusions, but generally it moves along nicely.

But that's where the wheels start to come off, because the solution is as close to being unfair as Christie ever came. There are certainly clues scattered throughout the book, but they mainly relate to the disappearance of the lady of the manor and her identity. The only way for the reader to catch on to the identity of the true villain is to make assumptions from those clues, because they do not relate directly to the murderer.

A bit of a shame, because otherwise this felt like a good read. It's really just the final chapter that lets it down. So I'm in a sort of conundrum when it comes to rating this story - should the disappointment of that final chapter colour the rating of the whole thing or not? On the whole, I didn't feel that my time was entirely wasted - as I said, there are clues that can be reasoned out by the reader - so I'll be charitable and keep the rating on the higher side. 62 out of 100.

1957 1962 1973 1995

Just four Swedish editions of this one, and another confirmation that apart from the most well-known novels (and a few exceptions), there's been no new Christie editions for quite a long time. Död mans fåfänga is another literal translation of the British title, though the double entendre of the British word "folly" is different from the double entendre of the Swedish "fåfänga". The former is either a small building on the grounds of a manor or it can simply mean a mild touch of madness or eccentricity, while in Swedish, "fåfänga" has the same meaning when it comes to the building, but its secondary meaning is "vanity". However, the word works in both cases and the title is a very good one in either language.

The 50s cover is just a bit too cluttered, but manages to convey the setting of (the beginning of) the story quite well. Without those black columns, I think I'd have liked it a bit more. The Zebra edition from 1962 instead chooses to focus on Hattie, the disappearing lady of the manor. The cover is striking, but doesn't give much information about the story contained within... (Even the short excerpt at the bottom of the page is extremely vague.)

Then we have the 1973 edition, which features the British Fontana cover. Again, a bit cluttered, and for some reason the Swedish edition has darkened the image somewhat, which doesn't help. The latest edition, from the mid 90s, has its trademark skull, this time featured on a key. Perhaps a bit too minimalistic, but on the whole quite interesting.

No comments:

Post a comment