on 11 February 2002
This is a truly brilliant book; Bayard applies a rapier intelligence to deduce whether "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd" is what it seems, and whether Poirot - and even Agatha Christie herself - may have been mistaken about who committed the murder...
Bayard's meticulous analysis deals with every detail of the work, and brings in examples from across the whole of Christie's murder mystery canon to support his arguments. As I read the book, I found myself raising objections to the arguments ("But surely...") only to find that Bayard comprehensively dealt with each of my questions as it arose! Part 3, "Delusion", is quite a challenging read, as it examines the Freudian psychology of delusion and how this relates to literary criticism. However, it's thoroughly stimulating, and in Part 4 Bayard picks up the pace again to race to a superbly dramatic denoument.
A few minor criticisms. While the academic references are fully cited in the chapter notes, it would have been useful to have separate bibliography. A list of the Agatha Christie novels quoted, along with their UK titles, would have been even more useful, because the use of US titles occasionally makes it difficult for UK readers to work out which book is being referred to. In addition, Bayard (or his editor) sometimes confuses similar titles, eg confusing Ten Little Indians with Five Little Pigs, or The Mirror Crack'd with Murder with Mirrors. However, although these and other minor errors may irritate some hardline Christie buffs, they don't detract from Bayard's argument.
Overall, this book is a tour de force - a brilliant analysis with a denoument worthy of Christie herself. One word of caution: the book gives away the solution of just about every single Christie mystery, so if you are part way through the Christie canon and looking forward to reading more, this book is NOT for you. However, for serious Christie fans, this book is an absolute must-read. I, for one, will never look at "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd" in the same way.