Book Review: Dead Man's Folly by Agatha Christie (1956)

Synopsis: Hercule Poirot receives a surprise phone call from mystery writer Ariadne Oliver inviting him to Nasse House in Devon, the home of wealthy Sir George Stubbs. Officially, Poirot is there to attend a festival and award a prize to whoever solves a pretend murder mystery designed by Ariadne. Secretly, he was invited because his friend feels as though something is amiss and a real murder is being planned. When the 14-year-old village girl picked to play her pretend murder victim is found strangled, her suspicions are confirmed and Poirot must help the police figure out who killed the teenager and whether or not Sir George's much younger wife, Hattie, who disappeared at about the same time the murder was being committed, is also dead.

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Review: I wound up reading back-to-back Hercule Poirot novels this week. The first one, Hickory Dickory Dock, was OK but not one of my favorites. This one, however, turned out to be one of those books I simply had a hard time putting down.

I think the thing that really caught my attention when it came to this book was the victim. Normally, in murder mysteries like this, the victim usually ends up being someone who had it coming, whether it is because of something they did or they simply have a personality that makes people want to kill them. This victim, in comparison, seemed to be an ordinary teenage girl with neither of those qualities.

The other potential victim, Hattie, would make a bit more sense, especially there were two potential suspects in Sir George's secretary and her newly-arrived (and very arrogant) cousin, who she said she was afraid of. However, her disappearance only served to make things even more confusing as far as the murder went.

On one hand, she could be dead and the teenager, witnessing the murder, was simply collateral damage. But, since there was no body found, I was highly doubtful that was the case. However, at the same time, if she wasn't a victim, it made her a primary suspect. And, once again, there was seemingly no motive. Plus, if she was still alive, then how did she leave the premises without anyone noticing her?

Also making this an intriguing mystery was the wide range of potential suspects who had an opportunity to commit two murders (if two murders had been committed) ranging from the home's former owner to a variety of trespassers from a nearby hostel. I even had the butler on my radar, despite the fact he was barely even mentioned, simply because Poirot made a comment about the butler looking familiar.

As it turns out, I was able to take an educated guess about some of the background story that ultimately led to murder. This, however, was mostly based off of assumptions made because of what I've read in other books (a person who is supposed to have died years ago, for example, may not actually be dead) and, until Poirot made his final revelations, I must admit I was pretty much stumped. Heck, I even wound up staying up later last night than intended just because I had to get to the last chapter to find out who did it. I can't say that about a lot of other books.

Final Opinion: This wound up being an entertaining murder mystery with a long list of suspects and no apparent motive. I enjoyed every page and would highly recommend taking the time to read it.

My Grade: A

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