Dead Man’s Folly vs. Greenshore Folly, and the mystery they solve together

As many Poirot fans know, Christie’s novel Dead Man’s Folly began its life in a different format: a novella called Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly. This 1954 story was intended as a fundraiser for Christie’s church, but it was never originally published as such, and the similarly-titled Miss Marple story “Greenshaw’s Folly” was used for the fundraiser instead. Christie fleshed out her Poirot novella and it became Dead Man’s Folly, published in 1956.

Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly was finally published in 2014, in a cute little hardcover edition with lovely artwork from Tom Adams. I was eager to read it and see how it compared with Dead Man’s Folly. (Spoilers to follow!)

The overall plot and much of the content were identical. The first chapter of GF reads almost verbatim as Chapter I, Part I of DMF. After that, the “missing content” became much more evident, and those familiar with the novel DMF will notice that most of the interesting, character-probing dialog between Poirot and the various suspects is nowhere to be found. The sub-plot with the Legges’ personal and political difficulties is gone, as is the majority of the police investigation, including their run-ins with Hattie’s visiting cousin. The murder of Marlene doesn’t actually take place until about two-thirds of the way through the novella.

There are also several name and character changes. “Nasse House, Nassecombe” was originally “Greenshore House, Lapton.” Etienne de Sousa was “Paul Lopez,” red-headed Sally Legge had been a blonde “Peggy Legge” (an incredibly fortunate change, one feels), Captain Warburton was “Warborough,” and Merdell was “Merdle.” The rest of the Tucker family, including Marlene’s sister, disappear entirely. Mrs Legge takes the name of Esmerelda instead of Zuleika for her fortune-telling persona, after all. 🙂

There are a few more interesting alterations. In the short novella, the girl hiker persona adopted by the false Hattie had not only the chestnut curls and the peasant scarf, but also spectacles. (Nerdy side-note: Poirot speaks both French and Italian, so if he had wanted to share a few words with the Italian signorina who was hitching a ride in his car, he could have done so. DMF makes it sound like there’s an insuperable language barrier there. But anyway…)

In the novella and unlike the final novel, Poirot actually recommends Mrs Oliver to the police as a suspect, in order to be properly thorough! 😀

There is a bit of shifted dialog between GF and DMF when Poirot and Hattie are discussing Devonshire. In the original novella, Hattie asks Poirot if he likes Devonshire; he replies that it is nice in the daytime, but that there aren’t any nightclubs! This dialog is swapped for the characters in the final novel, which seems rather more in keeping with the characteristics of Poirot and Hattie.

But of all the differences, there was one really fascinating detail that stood out to me, and helped me to make sense of a bit of Dead Man’s Folly that I’d never really understood. In the novel, there is a part of Poirot’s denouement where, speaking with Mrs Folliat, he says: “…When you talked of ‘Hattie,’ you were talking of *two different people*– one a woman you disliked who would be ‘better dead,’ and against whom you warned me ‘not to believe a word she said’– the other a girl of whom you spoke in the past tense, and whom you defended with a warm affection.” I had never understood where Poirot was getting the “better dead” comment, because Mrs Folliat never tells him anything like that in DMF. BUT! In Greenshore Folly, Mrs Folliat says the following: “Oh! How I hope that she will never come back” and “It would be better if she were dead– so much better.”

Mystery solved! Mrs Folliat’s words somehow didn’t make the edit into Dead Man’s Folly (not my edition, anyway), so we only have vestiges of that original bit of GF hinted at in the novel. (Interestingly, in Greenshore Folly, Poirot never does point out to Mrs Folliat that she herself gave him the clue to Hattie by seeming to describe her as two different people.)

Greenshore Folly is an interesting read for the Poirot completist– but Dead Man’s Folly certainly comes across as the properly-edited and expanded form of the story, especially when it comes to points of crucial character development. The artwork and the added notes appended to the novella are as much worth the price of admission as the rest of it. 🙂

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