Friday, July 17, 2009

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926)

Have you read any Agatha Christie yet? Because she is extremely awesome and not boring and conventional like you might think. In fact, her 1926 novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was so controversial when it came out (due to a twist ending that I'm not going to reveal) that critics were divided and other mystery writers aghast.

In this mystery a widow has apparently committed suicide one year after her husband's mysterious death. The town doctor confirms the death and later dines with a friend (and the wealthiest man in town), who was also close with the widow. After the doctor leaves the man's house for the evening, he is called back only to find his friend has been stabbed in the neck. And there we have the murder of Roger Ackroyd.

Lucky for (almost) everyone, a strange foreigner has recently moved to the town for his retirement. He is none other than the famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, and after a little coaxing from Ackroyd's niece, he takes on the case and begins investigating the murder with the good doctor as his sidekick.

There are a whole household of intriguing suspects, each of which would benefit from Ackroyd's death and every one of them seems to be hiding something. In this book, as in the other Agatha Christie novels I've read, the strength lies in the balance between a great mystery (lots of clues, red herrings, and teasing hints) and a masterful sense of character and psychology. Truly a perfect mystery.

This is the first Hercule Poirot book that I've read, and although I've seen some TV adaptations of Poirot stories and had a general familiarity with his character I've been told by a friend that I would get even more out of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd if I had a little more Poirot under my belt. Which is great because I can't wait to read some more...

[And sadly I just have a boring old 1990s copy of this book and not the awesome 1920s cover pictured above. I would gladly trade for a cooler cover any day of the week.]


St. Murse said...

I'm the friend referenced above and while I love this book, DO NOT read it until you read at least three previous Poirot books. This one plays wonderfully on past Christie tropes and builds on the reader's familiarity with the detective and his methods. Without that prior knowledge, the impact would be blunted.

So yeah, Christie is bit old-fashioned in the genre, but almost all her Poirot mysteries are great (I'm not a fan of Miss Marple) and I recommend reading them. Just save Roger Ackroyd til you've read a few others.

Corie said...

Agatha Christie is still the queen of mystery.

Although, I did steal a book called "Murder, She Meowed" from a hotel once, and I'm hoping it will prove intriguing.

Dan said...

I keep going to Half Price Books and buying 5 or 6 Agatha Christie books at a time. I think I have read about 25. I haven't read this one yet, though. Once I get my books unpacked in the new place, feel free to borrow some from me.

Spacebeer said...

I would like to borrow some, Dan -- and if you want to borrow this one (or one of the other two I own), then you can help yourself as well!