Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie: a Book Review

Collingwood Arms books

My posts may be a bit  hit and miss for a while as we have recently sold our house and are busy searching for somewhere to live in Northumberland/Scottish Borders. Whilst we were away over the last few days I did take some of my current books with me to read but as the hotel had two bookcases of books to choose from I picked up Elephants Can Remember to read instead.

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.

ElephantsThe mystery is unravelled 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. I can see I’ll have to read Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks and her autobiography.

AC autobiog


7 thoughts on “Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie: a Book Review

  1. I haven’t read this one yet but I liked your honest review. (You didn’t give away anything.) Good luck on finding a new home. I’m sure this is a lot of stress right now. Don’t worry about us, your blog readers. We’ll still be here whenever you are available.


  2. I don’t remember ever reading this one Margaret. I think Ariadne Oliver is an interesting character though. I won’t read her in my “challenge” reading for a while yet.
    Have you seen any potential houses?
    Have you got time to be part of the Agatha Christie challenge Blog Tour? Dates 21 & 22 September are free, and perhaps you could prepare the post ahead of time.


  3. You always know you’ve found a good holiday cottage when you walk in and there are more books on their shelves that you want to read than you have holiday in which to do it!


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