on 8 November 2008
Agatha Christie's job, as a writer of Detective Novels, was, paradoxically, to hide the criminal - much like a spiv with the card game, Hide the Lady. Even though the punter aims to find the card - and makes wild guesses (based, of course, on superior talents) the side-show spiv will win every time - maybe it's just a trick, a slight of hand, but we come back again and again in the vain hope of putting one over on the expert.
Not much hope, I'm afraid!
`The Murder of Roger Ackroyd' has to be Ms Christie's ultimate deception - it certainly had me fooled right `til the end. No matter where I looked, the Lady was hidden.
Up pop all the usual suspects - and with a Christie you know if someone is accused, it isn't them. One by one she knocks out everyone - and I do mean everyone! Surely she hasn't had a total stranger do the murder?
No, the wrist works it's magic: Poirot, shows you the superiority of his little gray cells and you loose again.
And I can't tell you the secret - I won't spoil the thrill.
What I will say is it is beautifully done.
Agatha Christie manages here to exploit the genre `Detective Novel' in a way which relies on the reader's knowledge of all the usual tricks, of lulling them into a false sense of security and then flipping them onto their backs. It is a book to be read rather than a story to be told - and despite the amazing craftsmanship of Granada television's version with David SuchetPoirot - Agatha Christie's Poirot - The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd , it fails precisely because this is not only a story but an exploration of the relationship between reader and writer.
Poirot has gone into retirement - Hastings is away in Argentina, Scotland Yard is not involved. A local rich man is the victim of murder (the only one, incidentally in the story - the TV version needed to double the number, bring Inspector Japp in where he wasn't wanted and simplify the plot by removing a couple of key characters). There is blackmail and love, lost wedding rings and phone calls in the night.
Poirot, after throwing marrows around, one of which lands in his neighbour's garden and smashes open at the feet of the doctor, is brought in on the sidelines - he hardly features in fact. There is a chair out of place, a man arrested in Liverpool, and the delicate feelings of the local constabulary all to be taken into consideration.
And a lot of consideration is being done by a local tribe of Miss Marples. Nosey old women pop up in profusion - and references to the greatest detective of all times can't be avoided: The story is retold by the Doctor whose shoes were splattered - a Watson to Poirot's Holmes.
As you would expect, it is the twist and turns of the plot that matter rather than deep characterisation, but to suggest the book is shallow as a result would be to deny the profound insight Ms Christie shows into the psychology of her readership.
The term masterpiece has been justifiably applied to the book - and I fully concur.
Just make sure you read the book before you see the film!
This is definitely amongst the best Agatha Christie novels I've read, and it feels even better in this lovely 'new' facsimile edition. The novel caused a stir (relatively speaking) at the time because it's written in the first person... and particularly for another reason! Read it to find out. The first person narrative feels odd at first, but the narrator is very believable. This is a well structured and complex plot. A semi-retired Poirot is looked at from a different angle, but he is just as effective and there are some nice set pieces - in particular the beautifully written 'mah jong' scene that's a joy to read. The denoument is satisfying. Highly recommended.
on 10 December 2000
Agatha Christie really exercises her ability to write ingenious crime fiction in this story. Featuring the well-known and lovable Hercule Poirot, we follow his attempts to retire peacefully in a country village setting, and see them blown away when a murderer strikes. As usual, Christie deceives the reader in a most satisfactory way, which is perhaps the most I should say about it. Immensely enjoyable, and the reader should find him or herself reading it over and over again to spot the clues that were missed the first time around.
This was my second Agatha Christie book and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
It starts with you wondering what is going on as it is told in the first person. That person lives with his sister, Caroline, a terrible gossip who is always fishing for information and sticking her nose into other people’s affairs. If you dislike gossips, this book is worth reading for the description of her character alone e.g.:
'...The motto of the mongoose family, so Mr Kipling tells us, is: “Go and find out.” If Caroline ever adopts a crest, I should certainly suggest a mongoose rampant. One might omit the first part of the motto. Caroline can do any amount of finding out by sitting placidly at home…'.
Christie doesn’t let up – Caroline appears throughout the book and the descriptions of her are pithy.
In this book, Poirot is semi-retired. A murder unfolds and there are two oddities – two things that don’t make any sense. One of them is that the murder scene has been slightly changed. “Surely it isn’t important?” says one of the characters to Poirot. Poirot replies: “It is completely unimportant. That is why it is so interesting”. For the rest of the book, you are left trying to figure out why it might be important, before Christie’s hallmark ‘grand reveal’ at the end of the book.
I found the mystery intriguing. I also smile at how things have changed since the book was written e.g. ‘It was Friday night, and on Friday night I wind the clocks…’; the arrival of the ‘evening post’; and a number of references to ‘the electric light’ - I find it interesting that back in 1926 when this book was written, they called a ‘light’ an ‘electric light’.
This was listed in the Guardian as one of Christie’s Top 10 books. However I would not read the synopsis on that web page as it hints at something which you don’t want to know (i.e. what the Guardian says is a bit of a spoiler).
I found the book a bit slow at the start but it gets better. Very much recommended.
on 18 August 2000
'The Murder of Roger Ackroyd' is the brightest jewel amongst Agatha Chrisite's crime novels. The plot of the murder is so intricate and complex, yet so logical, that only the brilliant grey cells of Hercule Poirot at their full 'methodical' capacity can allow the reader to comprehend its degree of ingenuity. The suspects are numerous; the entire staff employed at Ackroyd's mansion, his own son as well as his sister in law and her daughter. All possess the equal potential of being the murderer. With Dr.Sheppard substituting the role of Poirot's faithful companion Hastings, the road towards the truth is long but entirely bearable, as Agatha Christie demonstrates why she is the queen of crime, once and for all.
This book is often regarded as Agatha Christie's masterpiece. It was published in 1926 fairly early in her career, and was highly influential at the time because of its innovative twist ending and because it is narrated by one of the characters, Dr James Sheppard.
In the village of King's Abbott, Mrs Ferrars has died. She is a wealthy widow whom, according to rumour, murdered her husband. Roger Ackroyd, a widower engaged Mrs. Ferrars, says that she admitted that she did kill her husband and then committed suicide. A little later, he is found murdered. Hypochondriacal Mrs. Cecil Ackroyd is Roger's sister-in-law; she is in debt through extravagant spending. Her daughter Flora, Major Blunt, a big-game hunter, Ackroyd's personal secretary Geoffrey Raymond, are all possible suspects. So are Ralph Paton, Ackroyd's stepson, who is also deeply in debt, the nosy butler, Parker, and the parlourmaid, Ursula Bourne, who resigned from her job on the very afternoon of the murder. Dr Sheppard's spinster sister, Caroline, is a well-drawn character who seems to have been the precursor of Miss Marple. Ralph is engaged to Flora and will now inherit Ackroyd's fortune. At first, the evidence seems to point to him as the murderer. Poirot investigates and eventually makes an astonishing revelation which invites us to ask whether anyone at all can be trusted.
In this novel, two methods of investigation are contrasted - gossip and rationality - and the former is shown to be intuitive but flawed.
All Agatha Christie's usual strengths are displayed in this novel - ingenious and original plotting, shrewd insight into human nature and interesting characters. She is always at her best writing about her own class in the claustrophobic atmosphere of a village or large house, her plots far more convincing than when she attempts international espionage and politics. Although she is not a great writer, style-wise, this is an excellent book.
on 10 July 2014
Having watched the Tv adaptations of Poirot starring the brilliant David Suchet I thought it was about time I picked up one of the original novels. I have never read anything by Agatha Christie before and if I am perfectly honest have never really fancied the Whodoneit type of novel. So when I came across The Murder of Roger Ackroyd in a second hand bookstore for the sum of 25p I snatched it up and settled down for a read.
Firstly, despite the age of the novel (written in 1926) the language used doesn't seem to have aged at all. This surprised me as many other Authors I have read from the era such as Nevil Shute the words sometimes seem slightly archaic. The reader immediately becomes enveloped in the world of small village gossip in the early part of the 20th century with the entire book being narrated by Dr James Sheppard. I assume that he is some sort of stand in for the more regular Captain Hastings.
The novel is written so that we, the reader, only know as much as Poirot is willing to divulge to Dr Sheppard, this accompanied by the Doctors own thoughts and feelings keep us guessing all the way. The clues are brilliantly laid out throughout the pages and at the end you cannot help but wonder how you did not come to the same conclusions as the great detective (in fact I may well revisit it one day just to see where I missed all the vital information). As always the entire novel leads up to a final meeting of all suspects and a very unexpected and dramatic conclusion.
A really well written book and I am glad I chose this as my introduction to Christie. I am sure that if I come across another Poirot mystery I will pick it up.
on 8 May 2010
In my opinion the detective novel "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd" by Agatha Christie is one of the best detective novels ever written. The first time, I read this book when I was 13 years old, and I was already fascinated by it. I have always refrained from reading it a second time for a long time, but now, 33 years later, I could not refrain from doing so.
And I must confess I did not regret it. To the contrary, when you already know the end of the story you read it from a different point of view. You are not concentrated on the "who done it" question and, hence, you may come to following interesting conclusions:
(1) The story fits perfectly. You do not discover errors, even after the second reading. The reader is not misguided by mysterious events, which lead him into wrong paths and which are lost at the end of the story.
(2) The story is thoroughly designed. There are many side events which play a significant role in the whole plot, which contribute to the whole confusion during the investigation of the crime and which unravel themselves one by one with the help of Poirot's perfect analytic mind.
(3) The I narrator tells the story with much wit and humour which is due to the position in which he finds himself during the developement of the whole story.
(4) There are many hints which might lead you, the reader, directly to the murderer if you only concentrated on your subconcious common sense and read the text carefully.
With my knowledge of at least 20 Agatha Christie novels I must say that she has never written a second book like this. But of course, you only write a masterpiece once in your life.
on 21 August 2013
I decided it was time for me to open up one of my all-time favourite Agatha Christie books for a re-read. I've now lost count of the number of times I have read this book but I still enjoy it enormously.
This is a Hercule Poirot murder mystery and in the story he of the "little grey cells" is in retirement (as if!) attempting to tend to veg marrows when the death of a neighbour, a wealthy widow, occurs. Of course Poirot investigates. The narrator of the story is another neighbour, Dr James Sheppard; he steps into the role of sidekick to Poirot in the absence of Captain Hastings. The murder of Roger Ackroyd follows hard on the heels of the first death. The Ackroyd home is stuffed full of suspects including family, friends and staff. Nicely paced and cleverly plotted, the story contains classic Christie touches such as more than one character having something to hide and wrong doers relying on split second timings. The book is famed for the wonderful twist at the end, which still divides readers, and even though I know what is coming I still marvel at the ingenuity and can cast my mind back to the out-and-out surprise of the first time I read it.
An inspired and standout 5* mystery.
on 12 December 2013
This book was slightly a victim of it's own success for me. I only read about two reviews but it was described as ground breaking with a plot twist etc. I haven't read much crime and I've never read a crime novel written in a first person narrative before so I must admit I did think there was a chance we had an unreliable narrator, and after that I just looked for signs that linked him to the case. From that perspective he is an obvious suspect. Basically, it was my own fault for reading the reviews. That said, it didn't spoil the novel for me at all. It was intricate and suspenseful. The clues were revealed in a way that was not at all tedious as it has been with other crime novels I have read. The characters were interesting. It was surprising but not unbelievable. It's everything I feel a crime novel should be and I am not surprised that it was voted the best crime novel ever by the CWA. I just wish I could turn back time and not have read the reviews first!
I very much like the hypothesis mentioned at the end that we may still be being deceived further and that Caroline may be the murderer. It is left open in this sense.