RogerBW's Blog

Dead Man's Folly 30 December 2021

2007 audio adaptation by Michael Bakewell of Christie's 1956 mystery, in four thirty-minute episodes. Ariadne Oliver has been blandished into organising a murder-mystery clue-hunt at the summer fête held at Nasse House, and she calls in Poirot to give the prize; but the film-obsessed local girl playing the victim is found strangled…

This is quite a patchy 1950s Christie: all the bits are there and shuffled into a new order, but it's not the 1930s any more, and she's running out of new ways to use the same pieces. The solution relies on quite a lot of what the reader's been told turning out to be lies; one could work out who dunnit from a study of times and places, but I defy people to work out why before the dénouement.

As a result, and I suspect because this is Bakewell who does relatively straight adaptations rather than say Joy Wilkinson who feels a bit freer to adapt the story for its new medium, there's an awful lot of going round and round without any real sense of narrative progress – especially in part three, when Lady Stubbs has already vanished, but clues are still being dribbled out with parsimony because all the resolution is going to be kept for the final part.

This isn't helped by a very female-heavy cast, who don't go to any great trouble to sound different from each other; in particular Mrs Folliat and Miss Brewis (Rosalind Knight, Liza Sadovy) rather blend together, which can be inconvenient in early episodes. Julia McKenzie as Ariadne Oliver plays up the silliness, while John Moffatt as Poirot does a decent but uninspiring job.

What changes there are – like including the actual sound of a final gunshot, and the clichéd startled crows to follow it – don't seem to improve matters, though I suppose Bakewell may have felt that a modern audience wouldn't understand the implication of an honourable suicide without that cue. (And at least he gets rid, among other material from the book, of Poirot's tedious comments on what a shame it is that female hikers don't dress to attract men.)

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