Jorge Luis Borges

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Elephants Can Remember” by Agatha Christie

Review #97

A Hercule Poirot Mystery

This is a story of a mystery writer, Mrs. Ariadne Oliver, who is approached while at a literary luncheon, by someone unknown to her. Mrs. Burton-Cox is curious to learn the truth about the murder/suicide of Celia Ravenscroft's parents fifteen years earlier. Celia is Mrs. Oliver's goddaughter.

This is a different type of mystery. You already know who the victims are…you’re just trying to learn who was killed first. Who was the actual person to murder and then commit suicide? Mrs. Burton-Cox is concerned because her adopted son and Celia are planning to get married. Does she need to know because she is concerned that Celia might decide to kill her son or is there another underlying reason for Mrs. Burton-Cox's true concerns?

Did General Ravenscroft kill Lady Ravenscroft or was she the one holding the gun? Mrs. Oliver, asks Hercule Poirot to investigate. Working in tandem, Mrs. Oliver and Poirot identify and interview an ever-increasing list of witnesses (the elephants of the title). Poirot painstakingly reconstructs long-vanished relationships and…his deductions eventually lead him to one final witness.

Even the great Christie recycled concepts from time to time; this mystery is one of several "remembered death" titles, characterized by long, descriptive conversations that can be tedious. In this case the contrast between Poirot's severe, analytical style and that of the charming but, erratic Mrs. Oliver adds life to what would otherwise be a rather dull tale.