It’s not the best Agatha Christie book I’ve read, but I found it entertaining, if rather repetitive and predictable – I worked out the mystery quite easily. Celia’s parents, apparently a happily married couple, were found shot dead on a cliff top – apparently as a result of a suicide pact. Some twelve to fifteen years later Mrs Burton-Cox, concerned that Celia is about to marry her son, approaches Mrs Ariadne Oliver, the mystery novelist, at a literary luncheon and asks the question – who killed whom? As Ariadne is Celia’s godmother she is curious and starts investigating, enlisting the help of Hercule Poirot.
The mystery is unraveled by Poirot and  Ariadne  by talking to the people who knew the couple and comparing their stories. Mrs Oliver interviews several elderly witnesses who she describes as “elephants” because they can remember certain incidents from the past. Much hinges on memory and interpretation of the events, highlighting the unreliable nature of witnesses and their memories, and the brilliance of Poirot in getting to the truth.

In my opinion it would have better if it were shorter and more concise, but then this was Agatha Christie’s last Poirot mystery, published in 1972 when she was in her eighties!I did like the comments Ariadne makes about the relationship between authors and their readers, but as I put the book back on the hotel’s bookshelf I can’t give any quotes! This is only the second book I've read featuring Mrs Oliver, but occurs to me that Agatha Christie was using her to express her own views on writing and her reaction to her readers. Ariadne doesn't like “literary lunches” and is shy about talking to people about her books, especially disliking those who simply gush and tell her how wonderful her books are. 


  • CarrieCarrie Derby, United Kingdom
    I didn't used to like the books featuring Mrs Oliver, but as I have got older I have come to enjoy them more, especially since I can relate to so many of the niggles and grumbles Ariadne has.  They aren't perhaps as exciting and as tightly written as the earlier books, but I have enjoyed that about them too.  Definitely good for those days when you are feeling your age!
  • I can't find why people didn't like it. It had some weak points but the aggregate plot was excellent. Weren't the four wigs a great mystery? I cannot say its my favorite but it is in my top ten. I love mysteries with Ariadne Oliver. Her temperament is absolutely artistic. I love past mysteries. Searching for information about past events thrills me. Listening rumors about dead and alive people, working out the mysteries and trying to find out the truth makes me feel like I'm traveling in the time. 
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