As those that follow my blog know, I recently visited Greenway, the holiday home of Agatha Christie in Devon, whilst on a business trip that I turned into an Agatha Christie pilgrimage. Agatha grew up just down the road in Torquay and had know Greenway since a young girl. When older, a well established author and happily married to her second husband, she heard that Greenway was for sale she bought it and spent many summers there with her family.
The house was given to the National Trust some years ago by Agatha’s grandson and therefore it is perfectly well preserved as her home. It is a lovely home in a lovely position but what makes it so beautiful is walking around Agatha’s home, seeing her piano and her things
It was all the more joyful for me therefore to come across this particular book. In the video at the start of the tour of the house Agatha’s grandson speaks of how the murder in Dead Man’s Folly is set in the boathouse at Greenway. Whilst I was in the gift shop (where I spent far too much money) I listed to a volunteer describing the time when they filmed Poirot at the house, Dead Man’s Folly being the episode. The book I therefore read when I got home was exactly that. And the most lovely part of reading it having been to Greenway was that I was transported there once again.
Poriot is contacted by his friend, the crime writer, Ariadne Oliver, who ask that he attend Nasse House in Nassecombe immediately. He takes a train from London at the earliest opportunity and hurries to her she he is disappointed, if not angry, to learn that she is heading a murder hunt that will be run at the Fete being held at the house the very next day. Feeling that he has been asked to simply assist in writing the ruse he expresses his displeasure but is corrected and learns that Oliver is actually very concerned that a real murder is going to happen. She feels that her efforts at setting up a murder are being jockeyed by others, that she is being swayed into making things happen that she had not intended and she feels that the reasoning for these occurrences are sinister though she can not point out who is responsible or exactly what part of the story they are messing with. In the meantime she has explained Poirot’s presence by saying that he will give the prizes out at the fete the next day.
That evening he stays at Nasse House and meets the suspects, sorry other guests and the owner, Sir George and his wife somewhat vacant wife Hattie, Lady Stubbs. The other guests include the former owner of the house Mrs Folliat Miss Brewis the secretary, the an architect who is designing the tennis courts and laments the awful position of the folly, a local MPs wife and a couple of are holidaying in one of the cottages on the estate. Amongst others!
We learn that Mrs Folliat’s family had owned Nasse for generations but that she lost both sons and her husband and ended up having to sell the house to cover debts. Mrs Folliat was guardian to Hattie who’s family were all killed during a fire and she was able to introduce her to Sir George who purchased Nasse House. He now allows Mrs Folliat to live at the gate keepers cottage. Hattie is described as being quite simple though Miss Brewis won’t hear it, she hates the woman and describes her as shrewd.
The fete starts the next day and goes according to play until the body is found in the boat house by Poirot and Mrs Oliver and the murder hunt commences. How did it happen right under their noses? Was it one of the visitors at the fete? One of the residents at the YMCA that has recently opened up down the road and who’s occupants insist on regularly trespassing in the grounds looking for as short cut to the ferry?
What I’ve learned with reading Agatha Christie stories is that you’ll never guess who did it and my murder detective’s brain so desperately wants / needs to! But as I had read so many recently I knew I wasn’t going to do it. I had been categoric as to who had done it in Crooked House and was utterly wrong. Couldn’t have been more wrong it I had tried really hard to pick the person who definitely didn’t do it! Agatha writes them like that. Drops in little hints that read like you could miss them though you pick them up of course and then run with them. Ha ha, caught you out Agatha. Oh, no, I didn’t. You got me!
So with Dead Man’s Folly I just relaxed and read it, didn’t stop to think who had done it, what was going on because the fun of an Agatha Christie isn’t in that. The fun of it is enjoying the writing, the mystery and getting to the end and seeing it all drop into place.
I absolutely loved this book. And knowing the end I know I never ever would have worked it out. Never. And I wasn’t mean to. I found the Poirot episode on catch up and they did it so well and it was filled at the house and in the grounds and in the tranquil boathouse.
I would highly recommend both to you but particularly the episode if you are never going to get to Greenway because it is a great representation of it.