Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie

On a trip to Devon in August I fulfilled a long-held ambition and visited the summer home of Agatha Christie, Greenway on the river Dart (see my photo). This is the setting for Dead Man’s Folly, where a summer fete is held on the lawn of the house and a body is then found at the boathouse. So after a trip around the house, gardens, woods and boathouse, re-reading Dead Man’s Folly on the holiday was a lovely indulgence.

Poirot is called from London when his crime-writing friend Ariadne Oliver feels that something is not right in the run-up to the fete, as she organises the murder hunt where a dead body is to be found in the boathouse. Poirot’s respect for his friend means he jumps on a train down to Devon, arriving at Greenway Halt (now a stop on the steam train we also travelled on when we were there) and travels up to the house with some hitchhikers. The young wife of Sir George Stubbs has a screw loose, there are some radical political types hanging about, there’s a secretary who seems to be in love with Sir George, and an aristocrat who once owned the house and now lives in the gatehouse at the end of the driveway. Plenty of suspects then, when the pretend body in the boathouse turns into a real one, and a case that leaves Poirot feeling like a failure.

I also couldn’t resist another Agatha Christie novel set in the area whilst we were staying in Dartmouth, so I read Ordeal by Innocence, set across the river from Greenway. A miscarriage of justice is announced at the start of the book, but rather than filling the family of the murdered woman with joy that it was not the woman’s son Jacko who had killed her, the news sinks them into a mistrustful and fearful waiting game, as they realise it must have been another member of the family that did it. Will another murder be the result, as the amateur sleuths in the family try to find out who the murderer was?

On my last trip to Devon of the summer, staying in nearby Salcombe, I read Five Little Pigs, the last of three books set at Greenway. This sees Poirot at work again, checking a sixteen-year-old murder had really been committed by Caroline Crale, mistress of Greenway, called Alderbury in the book. Her daughter has asked Poirot to find out the truth, years after Caroline has died in prison whilst serving her sentence. Poirot sets about interviewing the five chief suspects and checking everyone’s accounts of the day that the painter Amyas Crale was killed at the Battery at Alderbury. He picks up various clues that had me convinced pretty early who the real killer was, but a satisfying twist at the end proved me wrong.