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Elephants Can Remember

by Agatha Christie
243 pages, Mystery
Reviewed by Jeanne

A wonderful mystery with good development, but with some moral problems.

Plot

The double suicide of General and Lady Ravenscroft happened fifteen years ago, but the length of time that has passed doesn't stop a worried, nosy mother from posing this question to mystery writer Ariadne Oliver: did the wife kill the husband and then kill herself, or did the husband kill the wife and then commit suicide?

Startled and unsure, Miss Oliver enlists the help of the famous Hercule Poirot to find the answer to that question. It's been over a decade since the murder, but as the two friends begin their inquiries, it becomes clear that "elephants - and people - can remember."

Morality

Mrs. Burton-Cox, who put the question to Mrs. Oliver, is a nosy busy-body who is in it for the money. She justifies her actions by saying that she loves her son and wants what is best for him, and she is afraid that his marriage to Celia Ravenscroft is a bad idea. But, in fact, she's more worried about her son's fortune that's slipping out of her grasp.

The book raises ethical/moral issues involving murder, mainly, is it all right to kill someone whom you know is a murderer but whom you can't, for various reasons, hand over to the law? The general response to the question is uncertainty, though leaning on the side of "yes, it's all right."

Spiritual Content

One of the major quotes from the book is "Old sins cast long shadows." The Devil is mentioned a couple times.

Violence

Obviously there's murder/suicide; two characters are shot, another walks off the edge of a cliff and dies, and it is mentioned that one character murders or tries to murder at least two young children. The part where the character walks off the cliff is fairly graphically described and is enough to make one's stomach churn.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Sherry and champagne are popular beverages, but no drunkenness is mentioned.

Sexual Content

None.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

None.

Conclusion

This is one of Christie's more ingenious mysteries, since the actual murder happened long ago and only now, twenty years later, are Miss Oliver and Poirot solving the case. It's also much more melancholy than some of her others, similar to And Then There Were None in that way, and the conclusion was bittersweet. It also, however, presents a moral problem that is absent in most of her cut-and-dry murder mysteries, in which the murderer is discovered and arrested and killing portrayed as wrong. So, despite the great writing and story development, I would only recommend this for older readers who have a good grip on right and wrong and who can consider the conclusion with a clear mind.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 3
Written for Age: 13+

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