Monday, November 2, 2009

Crime Fiction Alphabet: Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie

Title: Elephants Can Remember
Author: Agatha Christie
ISBN: 000712080X
Publisher: Harper Collins/2002
First Published:1972
Genre: Mystery

I picked up an Agatha Christie after a very long time. I have read most of her works but not this one. 'Elephants Can Remember' is
one of the last works of Agatha Christie. She wrote it at the age of eighty-two years and was in failing health.

It is not one of those typical Hercule Poirot mysteries. It starts with the introduction of mystery writer Ariadne Oliver who contacts Poirot to help solve a case, which was closed for further investigation due to lack of clues. The case is about what was seemingly the double suicide of a loving husband and wife and the impact of that upon their children.

At a literary lunch, crime novelist Ariadne Oliver is approached by a stranger and asked about the double deaths in the past concerning Ariadne's goddaughter Celia Ravenscroft, who is to marry this woman's son. Mrs. Burton-Cox is concerned that there might be some sort of hereditary insanity involved that could affect Celia. Mrs. Oliver hates to be confronted like this but is intrigued enough to pursue it further. She thinks although human memories are not as permanent as proverbial elephant ones are, but most people do retain bits and pieces. She and Poirot wish to sort out the truth from the embellishment, oversights and speculations.

The story switches between the findings of Ariadne Oliver and Hercule Poirot as they each go about their own way of investigations searching 'elephants' who might remember what happened around the time of the accident. Most are ready to talk about it too as it was not solved. Many did not believe in the double suicide theory either.

The mystery is easy by Christie standards. Its central mystery has a unique, although a little predictable twist. The prose is heavy-handed at times and the dialogues too get a bit boring with too much allusion about 'elephants'. The characters are two-dimensional which does not hold interest for the reader even though one is interested in the mystery at hand. Still Agatha Christie Mysteries are worth reading at least once!


ds said...

No, Agatha Christie was not as good at characterizations as other mystery writers. Plot was her forte, and even though this book is not among her best, it is special to me because it was a gift from a very special relative for my birthday when I was young. So I have a sentimental fondness for the "elephants."
Spot on review, Gautami!

Kerrie said...

Thanks for contributing to the alphabet meme Gautami. I'll add this to the Agatha Christie Blog Cranival too.

bermudaonion said...

I'm kind of embarrassed to say that I've never read any of Agatha Christie's work. I really need to.

Anonymous said...

I've read all of Agatha Christie's novels since I became hooked on them at nine, and this one I particularly remember for the title and my fondness of elephants! And what a coincidence because I was just thinking about this title...spooky.

There's been a lot of debate regarding Christie's formulaic plots and character stereotypes, but as you said, there's something special about her books that keep her readers coming back. I haven't read any Christie for a while and I think it's time I dipped my toe in again.

Bernadette said...

i don't imagine I'll be doing my best work at 82 either but I agree the Grand Dame is always worth reading at least once

Hazra said...

I've read most of Agatha Christie's books at some time or the other, but I don't remember reading this. Maybe I should.

Dorte H said...

Fine choice!

Generally, I prefer her Miss Marple stories, but this one is one of the Poirot stories I remember and like!

Anonymous said...

Whenever I read a review of a Christie book, it makes me want to go pick one up. I'm not sure if I've read this one.