Having read and re-read most of Christie's famous works, I decided to sample this lesser-known story set in post-war England. Christie delivers as she always has; the story is gripping, perplexing, witty, and charming.
The premise is nothing new for Christie; most of her mysteries are domestic murders, where one of the household must have done it. This book follows the same pattern. What makes this story different and interesting is the Murder Hunt, organized by the character of Adriane Oliver. Since it will be obvious to the reader from the very beginning that Mrs Oliver is based on Christie herself, the whole Murder Hunt plays very effective mind tricks with him. It is as if the author has jumped into the mystery to give vital clues.
The rest of the mystery is the typical blend of varied and fascinating characters, in a sprawling setting. The exotic foreigner, trophy wife, country squire, efficent secretary, all well-recognized mystery story hallmarks are present. Of particular interest is the character of Mrs Folliat, the old and mysterious ex-owner of the estate in which the story is set. As Hercule Poirot quickly divines, there's something about Mrs Folliat...
The only problem with this book arises towards the end. With the exception of Oliver, Folliat and obviously the incomparable Poirot, the other characters are a shade disappointing. I have always appreciated Christie's shrewd analysis of the psyche of the domestic murderer. The reason why it is always near impossible to guess whodunnit is that the ruthlessness is always so neatly concealed within the character of the murderer. However, in this particular story, the characters are not as well-developed as they should be. They are interesting and plausible people, but rather simple. There is little of the shadowy bent of mind that makes them possible murderers. This leads to the actual solution sounding a tad contrived. A further disappointment is that the ending fails to tie up the Murder Hunt with the parallel tale of the actual murder. All along, the Murder Hunt has proven suggestible and exciting, but in the end nothing comes of it.
Having said that, there is nothing seriously wrong with Dead Man's Folly. It possess all of Poirot's cunning and idiosyncratic charisma. And the true mark of the genius is that the reader will neither be able to guess at the solution before Christie herself decides to reveal it, nor will he be able to put the book down.