Home > TV and anime > Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Dead Man’s Folly (2013)

Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Dead Man’s Folly (2013)

Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Dead Man’s Folly (2013) (Season 13, episode 3) starts with a car driving through a storm to a country house deep in the heart of Devon. Thunder, lightning and torrential rain cannot prevent the arrival of Sir George Stubbs (Sean Pertwee) and Lady Hattie Stubbs (Stephanie Leonidas) even though the lights do go out as they arrive. A year later, Ariadne Oliver (Zoë Wanamaker) has been tasked with arranging a murder, rather than the traditional treasure, hunt for the local fête at the same Devon country house. Alarmed by what her instincts tell her, she sends an urgent telegram to Hercule Poirot (David Suchet). It seems the Warburtons thought up the idea of this murder hunt, but no matter who’s responsible, she fears she’s being manipulated and that there will be a real murder. She gives Poirot a whistlestop tour of the grounds and introduces the players from central casting. The erratic Lady Hattie, Captain Warburton (Martin Jarvis) the downtrodden MP, the organising Mrs Warburton (Rosalind Ayres), Mrs Folliat (Sinéad Cusack) the lady forced to sell her home to Sir George when her husband died, and Alec Legge (Daniel Weyman), the chemist who wants to put eugenics into practice by killing all the stupid people, much to the despair of his wife, Sally Legge (Emma Hamilton) who not surprisingly runs off with another of the men at this unhappy event. Then there’s the loyal servant to Sir George, Miss Brewis (Rebecca Front), who always appears thoughtful in her service but is privately contemptuous of Lady Hattie and somewhat in love with Sir George. And don’t forget the drunken ferryman waiting to carry someone down the Styx, and the creepy folly in the woods, built where the tree fell in the great storm heralding the arrival of the Stubbs to their new home.

Poirot (David Suchet) and Ariadne Oliver (Zoë Wanamaker)

Poirot (David Suchet) and Ariadne Oliver (Zoë Wanamaker)

Come the day, comes the fête and, with a few jokes at the expense of local revellers, we duly find the dead body. It’s the young girl whom Ariadne Oliver had cast in the role of the murder victim. A nicely ironic twist from the murderer(s) that the right person died in the right place and with the murder weapon selected by Ms Oliver. D.I. Bland (Tom Ellis) appears and begins interviewing everyone he can find which does not include the lady of the house. Lady Hattie is nowhere to be found. The police search everywhere but she’s soon presumed dead. Her cousin, Etienne de Sousa (Elliot Barnes-Worrell) is arrested. The theory is that he killed his cousin and the girl in the boathouse saw him disposing of the body in the river.

One of the strengths and weaknesses of this episode is the decision to shoot mainly at Agatha Christie’s holiday home, Greenway Estate (now owned by the National Trust). It’s undoubtedly a beautiful place and it was the inspiration for this particular book. We’re therefore treated to a guided tour of the estate. Poirot stands on the manicured lawns. Cut to Poiot walking through the woods to the riverside. Back into the woods to see the folly. Back to the lawns for the planning of the fête. Then the tents are erected and we see the gardens full of people. Later we can revisit the empty lawns and see the magnificent rhododendrons. Then it’s time for more trips into and through the woods. It’s all beautifully shot and wastes a considerable amount of screen time since very little of what we see contributes to the solution of the murder(s). The quality of the show would have been enhanced had this time been devoted to building up the characters of the “people” who matter. This should have included the family of the deceased, particularly because her grandfather is also going to have a fatal accident later on. It’s a serious omission for Poirot not to find out more about the victim. How else is he going to establish the probable motive and so identify the killer(s)? As it is, we have one dimensional figures on the lawn, in the house and then wandering about the landscape. Perhaps intentionally, no-one really stands out. In particular, poor Zoë Wanamaker is given almost nothing to do as Ariadne Oliver except demonstrate the power of her intuition to raise the alarm.

Greenway House, Galmpton, near Brixham, Devon, holiday home of Agatha Christie

Greenway House, Galmpton, near Brixham, Devon, holiday home of Agatha Christie

This is not to deny the ingenuity of the plot. It’s fairly obvious how the thread featuring Hattie Stubbs is being driven. This includes her disappearance which is transparent. Nevertheless, the overall mechanism in play is quite pleasing, particularly when we’re reminded how people phrased their remarks which, when he engaged his brain, Poirot was able to connect to produce the right answer. The fact this would all have been even more obvious much earlier if only Poirot had visited the victim’s home is something we must perforce ignore. The episode must last eighty-nine minutes so Nick Dear spreads out the screenplay to fill time available (more shots of people in the woods are required). If this had been an hour-long episode, I would have been cheering loudly. As it is, Dead Man’s Folly gives us too much time to see all the padding and judge the material thin and unsatisfying.

For reviews of other Agatha Christie stories and novels, see:

Agatha Christie’s Marple (2004) — the first three episodes
Agatha Christie’s Marple (2005) — the second set of three episodes
Agatha Christie’s Marple (2006) — the third set of three episodes
Agatha Christie’s Marple (2007) — the final set of three episodes
Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Blue Geranium (2010)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: A Caribbean Mystery (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: Endless Night (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: Greenshaw’s Folly (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side (2010)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: Murder is Easy (2009)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Pale Horse (2010)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: A Pocket Full of Rye (2008)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Secret of Chimneys (2010)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: They Do It with Mirrors (2009)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (2009)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Big Four (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Case of the Missing Will (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Chocolate Box (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Clocks (2009)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Curtain. Poirot’s Last Case (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Dead Man’s Mirror (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Elephants Can Remember (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Hallowe’en Party (2010)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Labours of Hercules (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express (2010)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Three Act Tragedy (2011)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Underdog (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Yellow Iris (1993)

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