Poirot agrees to help a friend investigate the 12-year-old case of Lord and Lady Ravenscroft, whose deaths were ruled a double suicide. All Poirot has to go on are the dim memories of an old woman, a doctor, and a teacher. This may turn out to be a mystery that even the great sleuth cannot unravel.
Did General Ravenscroft kill Lady Ravenscroft or was she the one holding the gun Many years later their daughter would like to know, so her godmother, Ariadne Oliver, asks Hercule Poirot to investigate. Working in tandem, Mrs. Oliver and Poirot identify and interview an ever-increasing list of witnesses (the elephants of the title). Poirot painstakingly reconstructs long-vanished relationships, and his deductions eventually lead him to one final witness. Even the great Christie recycled concepts from time to time; this mystery is one of several "remembered death" titles, characterized by long, descriptive conversations that can be tedious. In this case the contrast between Poirot's severe, analytical style and that of the charming but erratic Mrs. Oliver adds life to what would otherwise be a rather dull tale. John Moffatt delivers the competent if unexciting reading one expects from this producer. Christie at her worst (which this is not) is still better than most mystery writers. Recommended for all mid- to large-sized libraries.DI. Pour-El, Des Moines Area Community Coll., Boone, IA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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William Morrow Paperbacks
January 06, 2001
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Excerpt from Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie
A Literary Luncheon
Mrs Oliver looked at herself in the glass. She gave a brief, sideways look towards the clock on the mantelpiece, which she had some idea was twenty minutes slow. Then she resumed her study of her coiffure. The trouble with Mrs Oliver was-and she admitted it freely-that her styles of hairdressing were always being changed. She had tried almost everything in turn. A severe pompadour at one time, then a wind-swept style where you brushed back your locks to display an intellectual brow, at least she hoped the brow was intellectual. She had tried tightly arranged curls, she had tried a kind of artistic disarray. She had to admit that it did not matter very much today what her type of hairdressing was, because today she was going to do what she very seldom did, wear a hat.
On the top shelf of Mrs Oliver's wardrobe there reposed four hats. One was definitely allotted to weddings. When you went to a wedding, a hat was a 'must'. But even then Mrs Oliver kept two. One, in a round bandbox, was of feathers. It fitted closely to the head and stood up very well to sudden squalls of rain if they should overtake one unexpectedly as one passed from a car to the interior of the sacred edifice, or as so often nowadays, a registrar's office.
The other, and more elaborate, hat was definitely for attending a wedding held on a Saturday afternoon in summer. It had flowers and chiffon and a covering of yellow net attached with mimosa.
The other two hats on the shelf were of a more all-purpose character. One was what Mrs Oliver called her 'country house hat', made of tan felt suitable for wearing with tweeds of almost any pattern, with a becoming brim that you could turn up or turn down.
Mrs Oliver had a cashmere pullover for warmth and a thin pullover for hot days, either of which was suitable in colour to go with this. However, though the pullovers were frequently worn, the hat was practically never worn. Because, really, why put on a hat just to go to the country and have a meal with your friends?
The fourth hat was the most expensive of the lot and it had extraordinarily durable advantages about it. Possibly, Mrs Oliver sometimes thought, because it was so expensive. It consisted of a kind of turban of various layers of contrasting velvets, all of rather becoming pastel shades which would go with anything.
Mrs Oliver paused in doubt and then called for assistance.
'Maria,' she said, then louder, 'Maria. Come here a minute.'
Maria came. She was used to being asked to give advice on what Mrs Oliver was thinking of wearing.
'Going to wear your lovely smart hat, are you?' said Maria.
'Yes,' said Mrs Oliver. 'I wanted to know whether you think it looks best this way or the other way round.'
Maria stood back and took a look.
'Well, that's back to front you're wearing it now, isn't it?'
'Yes, I know,' said Mrs Oliver. 'I know that quite well. But I thought somehow it looked better that way.'
'Oh, why should it?' said Maria.
'Well, it's meant, I suppose. But it's got to be meant by me as well as the shop that sold it,' said Mrs Oliver.
'Why do you think it's better the wrong way round?'