The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Murder Of Roger AckroydMrs Ferrars was being blackmailed and apparently had had enough. But before choosing to end things, she sent a letter to her paramour Roger Ackroyd, naming her blackmailer. But Ackroyd makes the mistake of keeping the name to himself and, it seems, the blackmailer takes another step on the ladder of crime, switching to murder to protect their secret.

Unfortunately for the murderer, there is a newcomer to the village. He was content to grow vegetable marrows but takes little persuasion in taking up the case. Hercule Poirot apparently cannot resist the lure of a case where someone has moved a chair for no good reason. But a seemingly prosaic case ends up being one of Agatha Christie’s most celebrated books.

And, of course, I can’t say why. How on earth do I review this one without spoiling things for the reader? Forgive me if you’ve read the book – if you haven’t, for goodness sake, why not? – but I’m not going to discuss the thing at all. In fact, I’m going to keep the review very brief.

It’s been feted as Christie’s masterpiece, which is a bit of shame as it was only her sixth novel and only the third Poirot (and the next was the badly received The Big Four). There are a few who pour scorn on the trickery involved here, but, in my humble opinion, they’re in the wrong here. This is a truly great mystery. I took a look at it as I trawl through some Golden Age authors that I’ve haven’t encountered before to remind myself what the competition was like, but I’d completely forgotten just how good it is.

It’s completely fairly played, with every member of the cast contributing something towards the plot, and, unlike some mysteries, benefits from a re-read to appreciate just how fair things are.

But I’ll say no more – just read it. It’s a true classic. Highly Recommended.

Advertisements

23 comments

  1. I agree that Ackroyd is fair, but it breaks one of the “rules”. So much the worse for the rules, as far as I’m concerned.
    By the way, can anyone explain “The Big Four” to me? Was it intended as some kind of satire? If so, I didn’t get it.

    Like

      • It’s definitely supposed to be satire, and humour is never Christie’s strong point. But I seem to remember reading that she was pretty depressed at the time it was written. I have a feeling it was put together with someone’s help (her brother’s?) from a set of short stories.

        Like

      • The Big Four is rubbish. There is no unity of plot whatsoever. It simply moves from one dangerous encounter to another. If a person reads this as the first Agatha Christie, very likely he will not like to read any other Christie !
        In 1926, Agatha Christie’s husband announced his desire for a divorce, which caused her a lot of emotional stress.

        Like

  2. Ackroyd is such a complicated thing (I say “thing” rather than book because I don’t think the book itself is complicated, I mean people’s reactions to it are complicated, including my own.)

    Obviously most people only read it once. When I first read it when I was younger, I thought it was the greatest thing I’d ever read. It’s certainly singlehandedly responsible for my love of mysteries. But it’s a very different experience reading it again. And I just don’t understand what book you read if you think it stands up at all on repeat readings. While it undoubtedly contains some of Christie’s finest writing (it’s Poirot’s best summing up, at least in terms of style; sometimes I just read the Mahjong chapter on its own), the mystery is just completely broken in almost every respect. It’s a shame we can’t discuss it more because of your spoiler policy; as I said, I find Ackroyd and the way people read it completely fascinating. People seem to be reading the book they want to read, rather than the one that’s actually on the page.

    I don’t think I’m one of the “few who pour scorn on the trickery.” I think it’s a brilliant idea. But the idea that Christie had isn’t the one that made it onto the page. And, ultimately, the murderer’s plan doesn’t make any sense at all. I just don’t really see how any book with a solution that makes as little sense as Ackroyd does can be called a great mystery.

    Like

    • I don’t see the problem at all with the mystery. Admittedly the crime relies far too much on potential killers who happen to wander into the house to overcomplicate things, Ackroyd delaying reading the note for no good reason, and the alibi only works by chance but that sort of thing is true of so many mystery novels. Anyone else have an issue with this one?

      Like

      • Well I think my first issue would be that this isn’t just any mystery novel, it’s the novel regularly voted as The Best Mystery Novel of All Time. And I don’t think the Best Mystery Novel of All Time should have any of those problems. But that’s a separate thing – YOU’RE not claiming that! 🙂

        But I think the problem is there’s actually an awful lot for the reader to do to solve this one (fully). Several mechanical things about the murderer’s plan are very underclued (at least until the towards the end) and these are the things that actually make the least sense (i.e., no sense, given that it’s supposed to be a logical plan constructed by a very methodical and clever person) because they rely entirely on coincidence. How is the reader supposed to deduce the existence of [ITEM], when the murderer planning to use [ITEM] doesn’t actually HELP them (except by purest chance)??? I think that certainly pushes fairness to breaking point.

        Obviously mysteries are plagued with coincidence. But here it’s not just that the murderer TAKES ADVANTAGE of a massive coincidence, it’s that the murderer RELIES on a massive coincidence to formulate his plan. That’s a huge difference.

        Like

  3. Christie desrves her position as a great golden Age writer, not least because, at a conceptual level, she created the stories that we do associate with so many ‘once used and never forgotten’ gimmicks – the one where everybody did it, then one where everybody is murdered so nobody could have done it, the one where the the narrator did it, the one where the policeman did it, the one set in ancient Egypt etc etc. But that’s the headline only and there was a lot of ingenuity in other areas of course. Bu they stick in your mind, none the less. By the way, good to see you reading EASTREPPS – look forward to seeing what you think of its own of rule-breaking!

    Like

    • I’d certainly agree with that. I think it’s crucial (with the exception of Orient Express, which I think is a duffer) how rarely her gimmicks completely force out the other elements of story. There’s usually a lot more to the mystery and the characters, even if (as in this case) they don’t always gel in the end.

      It’s especially impressive for And Then There Were None. I’ve not experienced another mystery with that gimmick where the winnowing felt tense and inevitable rather than dull and arbitrary.

      Like

    • “….the one where everybody did it, then one where everybody is murdered so nobody could have done it, the one where the the narrator did it, the one where the policeman did it……”
      And the one where the primary sleuth did it !

      Like

      • It’s just about on the bounds of acceptability at the mo. Although I did try and write this review as if their was nothing “clever” about the solution at all – after all, even knowing there is a twist can be a spoiler sometimes…

        Like

      • But knowledge of the existence of such a thing can be a spoiler in itself. I was lucky enough to see The Sixth Sense v early and was genuinely surprised by it, but knowing there was a twist would have made me watch it in a different and possibly less enjoyable experience.

        Like

      • Very true – I would argue in a Christie this is not a factor, but yes, the ‘big twist’ syndrome clearly became a real albatross for Shyamalan (I saw through the ending of SIXTH SENSE very early on but I am glad to say I still enjoyed it a lot)

        Like

  4. This is a truly great and brilliant mystery.
    There is an interesting book Who Killed Roger Ackroyd ? by Pierre Bayard (original in French and translated to English) where he maintains that Poirot got the solution wrong and accused the wrong person of the murder. He points out flaws in Poirot’s reasoning. He names the true murderer and gives his reasons and also the reasons for the false confession.

    Like

    • I think “interesting” is the perfect description of “Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?”. The premise is fascinating, but Bayard’s reasoning is so backward, flawed and given to unnecessary tangents that it’s a real struggle to get through. It’s one of those books where you’re better off just reading the blurb and mulling over the possibilities it suggests.

      I’m most interested in it because of the challenge implicit in the idea. Is it possible to write a satisfying puzzle mystery where it’s clear who the true murderer is even though the narration fully commits to accusing someone else?

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s