The bodies of General Alistair Ravenscroft and his wife were found near their manor house in Overcliffe. Both had bullet wounds, and a revolver with only their fingerprints left between them. In the original investigation no one was able to prove whether the case was a double suicide or murder/suicide and, if the latter, who killed whom. Left behind are the couple’s two children, including daughter Celia.
Ten years later, Mrs. Ariadne Oliver, a school friend of the late Margaret Ravenscroft and godmother to her daughter, is approached at a literary luncheon by Mrs. Burton-Cox, to whose son Celia Ravenscroft is engaged. Mrs. Burton-Cox asks Mrs. Oliver what she appears to believe is a very important question: which of Celia’s parents was the murderer, and which was murdered? Initially put off by the woman’s attitude, after consulting with Celia herself, Mrs. Oliver agrees to try to resolve the issue. She invites her friend Hercule Poirot to solve the disquieting puzzle. Together they conduct interviews with several elderly witnesses whom they term “elephants”, based on the assumption that, like the proverbial elephants, they may have long memories . Each “elephant” remembers (or mis-remembers) a very different set of circumstances, but Poirot notes some facts that may have particular significance: Margaret Ravenscroft owned four wigs at the time of her death, and a few days before her death, she was seriously bitten by the otherwise-devoted family dog.