When I picked Elephants Can Remember off the shelf to read next, I was expecting it to be Miss Marple’s Sleeping Murder, which is one of my favourites. The two novels have similar concepts: a young woman with a past mystery about which she needs help discovering answers, so I’m not surprised that I mixed them up. On realising I wasn’t about to read Sleeping Murder, I was initially disappointed, but the first chapter of Elephants Can Remember got me over that hurdle almost immediately.
“I don’t know,” said Mrs Oliver. “I might be going to — well, bother you rather. Ask things. I want to know what you think about something.”Elephants Can Remember, Agatha Christie
“That I am always ready to tell anyone,” said Poirot.
Ariadne Oliver is immediately charming, in much the same way that Tuppence is in By the Pricking of My Thumbs. Agatha Christie has mastered the conveyance of the meandering way one’s mind moves from topic to topic. In some adaptations (and possibly in the original stories they’re based on) Ariadne Oliver can act a little idiotically, but that isn’t the case here. Her relationship with Hercule Poirot, the way she chastises him for merely sitting at home, also helps cut through his character’s superiority.
A tragedy of love may not always belong to Romeo and Juliet, it is not only the young who suffer the pains of love and are ready to die for love.Elephants Can Remember, Agatha Christie
The actual puzzle mystery in Elephants Can Remember isn’t Agatha Christie’s best. The clues are there, but the red herrings are presented in such brief and indirect fashion that it’s readily apparent they’re not going to be important. Hercule Poirot explains how he came to his conclusions, but he doesn’t really give each clue its proper weight and explanation. On top of all that, the final proof of the mystery comes not from deduction but from simply asking someone who knew the truth all along! It doesn’t feel particularly satisfying.
I immensely enjoyed reading Elephants Can Remember, I just know that Agatha Christie can and has done even better.