Greenshaw's Folly is a short story written by Agatha Christie first published in 1956.
In late 1954, Christie planned to write a story and donate the rights to fund a new stained glass window in her home church of Churston Ferrers. The resulting story featured Hercule Poirot and was called The Greenshore Folly. This novella length story, however, proved difficult to sell because it was too short for a novel and too long for serialisation in a magazine. Christie therefore withdrew the story and wrote another one with a fairly similar title "Greenshaw's Folly" for the church fund instead.
"Greenshaw's Folly" was first published in the UK in the Daily Mail in December 1956. In the US, the story was first published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine in March 1957. The story was gathered and published as part of the short story collections The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding and a Selection of Entrées (UK, 1960) and Double Sin and Other Stories (US, 1961).
Raymond West gets drawn into the most deadly adventure when he visits Greenshaw's Folly. The lady of the house is drawing up a will, but when she is murdered a few days later, all the suspects have alibis. Can West's aunt, Miss Marple solve the case?
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
Raymond West, the writer-nephew of Miss Marple is showing Horace Bindler, a literary critic, round the grounds of a local hall popularly known as 'Greenshaw's Folly'. It was built in the 1860s or 1870s by a man who made an immense fortune but had little idea of architectural style, the house being a strange amalgam of buildings from around the world.
Although strictly trespassing they are nevertheless welcomed by Miss Greenshaw, the elderly granddaughter of the man who built the house, when they come across her gardening. She is a sharp, slightly shrewish woman who keeps her staff of two in order. They are Mrs Cresswell, her companion and Alfred, a young gardener who is constantly in dispute with Mrs Cresswell.
Miss Greenshaw takes advantage of the presence of the two visitors to ask them to witness the will she has just had drawn up. This leaves everything to Mrs Cresswell in lieu of unpaid wages as Miss Greenshaw is determined that nothing will come to her last-living relative, her nephew, and the son of a roguish man called Harry Fletcher who ran away with one of her sisters.
They sign the will in the library where Miss Greenshaw shows them the copious diaries of her grandfather and expresses a wish to get them edited and published but she hasn’t the time to undertake such a task. The two visitors take their leave, slightly puzzled by a comment from Miss Greenshaw to the effect that she thought they were policemen when she saw them in her grounds…
Discussing the visit later on in the company of Miss Marple, Joan West and her niece, Louisa Oxley, the latter offers to undertake the work of editing the diaries while Miss Marple ponders similarity between Miss Greenshaw and a Mr Naysmith who liked to give false impressions for fun, sometimes leading to trouble.
Louise Oxley is employed to work on the diaries and begins work at Miss Greenshaw's house. The next day she is asked to invite the old lady's estranged nephew, Nathaniel Fletcher, to lunch but told not to inform Mrs Cresswell - Raymond suspects a reconciliation and a change in the will.
The day after, on arriving at the house, Louise is struck by the resemblance between Alfred and a portrait of Miss Greenshaw's grandfather. She is working on the diaries at midday when she hears a scream from the garden and Miss Greenshaw herself staggers towards the house with an arrow embedded in her breast. Louise wants to help the woman as she collapses into the room below her but finds that she is locked in her own first floor room.
A few windows along, Miss Cresswell shouts that she is in the same predicament. A police constable arrives a few minutes later and frees the women from their respective rooms, followed by a police sergeant and then Nathaniel Fletcher who arrives for his lunch appointment.
That evening, Inspector Welch interviews Raymond about the will he witnessed. Miss Marple guesses correctly that contrary to what Raymond and Horace Bindler were told, Mrs Cresswell was not the beneficiary to the will – Miss Greenshaw was playing her along, just like Mr Naysmith used to.
The recipient of Miss Greenshaw's money is Alfred, probably a grandson of one of Miss Greenshaw's grandfather's illegitimate children, hence the resemblance in looks. Alfred is a member of an archery club but has a cast-iron alibi for the time of the murder.
Miss Marple has a hypothesis: that the Miss Greenshaw that Louise met over her two days was actually Mrs Cresswell in disguise. Miss Greenshaw was unconscious at the time that she was "shot" and the dying person on the lawn that Louise saw was Mrs Cresswell with a false arrow.
The first policeman who arrived at the house was Nathaniel Fletcher, Mrs Cresswell's accomplice. It was he who claimed the companion was locked in her room whereas in reality she had been free to impersonate her employer and dupe Louise into being a witness for the "crime". The pair aimed to pin the blame on Alfred, not realising he had gone to the pub for his lunch earlier than usual and therefore he had an alibi.
When Miss Marple sees the rockery that 'Miss Greenshaw' was working on has had plants pulled up as well as weeds, something a skilled gardener would never do, she realises her guess was correct. Alfred inherits 'Greenshaw's Folly'.
- Miss Marple
- Raymond West
- Horace Bindler
- Miss Katherine Greenshaw
- Laura Greenshaw
- Nettie Greenshaw
- Mrs Cresswell
- Alfred Pollock - the gardener
- Harry Fletcher
- Louisa Oxley
- Mr Naysmith
- Nat Fletcher
- Inspector Welch
- Sergeant Cayley
- Joan West
- Nathaniel Greenshaw
- Thomas Pollock
- James Barrie
- General Easterly
References or Allusions
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
Agatha Christie's Marple
The short story was adapted as Greenshaw's Folly, episode 2 of series 6 of the ITV series Agatha Christie's Marple, starring Julia McKenzie. The plot of The Thumb Mark of St. Peter was woven into the adaptation.
- 1956, Daily Mail, December 1956.
- 1956, Star Weekly, 9 Nov 1956.
- 1957, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, (Volume 29, Number 3), March 1957
- 1960, Woman's Journal, October 1960
- 1960, The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding and a Selection of Entrées
- 1961, Double Sin and Other Stories
- 1961, Dodd, Mead and Company (New York), Hardcover, 247 pp
- 1962, Pocket Books (New York), Paperback, (Pocket number 6144), 181 pp
- 1964, Dell Books, Paperback, 191 pp
- John Curran, "Agatha Christie and the Greenshore Folly", Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly, 2014, p. 82-84.
- John Curran, Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making (London: HarperCollins, 2011), 448, ebook edition.
- See this listing at Galactic Central