Agatha Christie – The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Usually I put a biography of our choice for the Classic Crime author, but if you don’t know all about Agatha Christie yet from the many televised documentaries and biographies written, then you must have been living on a different planet!!
Christie has long been berated as being a poor writer, but I disagree with this. Ask many a current crime writer and nine times out of ten they will credit Christie as their first foray in the world of crime fiction. She may not have been one for deep characterisation, but her subtlety of character is there. Christie conjures up her players within a few words. She was not one to waste words. In a day where writers are constantly accused of padding out their story, Christie simply gets on with the puzzle – and did she have some great puzzles up her sleeve!
Ask any reader, even one who doesn’t normally read crime fiction, they will know at least one Christie plot whether it be on the Orient Express or a cruise down the Nile or ten strangers stranded on a remote island. Time and again Christie was either praised for changing the face of crime fiction or for not playing fair – thankfully, more the former than the latter. Before Poirot took a ride on that famous train or took a trip to Egypt, he retired to a small village to grow marrows. Thankfully, this obsession did not last long and moved back to London and travelled abroad where he faced his most taxing cases. But before this, Poirot was faced with an earlier cunning and difficult case: who killed Roger Ackroyd.
Coming only six years after Christie’s debut, this was a game-changer. With Roger Ackroyd, Christie was showing the audacity of her writing and how she could keep her cards close to her chest whilst simultaneously showing her reader all the relevant facts of the case. This was a turning point for Christie’s career, although it would be tainted for the rest of her life as soon after its release Christie famously disappeared for eleven days causing a nationwide search for her.
Many loved the twist of Roger Ackroyd whilst others allegedly called foul – with one of her biggest admirers, Dorothy L. Sayers crying that they were upset because Christie had fooled them… end of! Thankfully, Christie is still fooling new readers today as her books are still being sold somewhere in the world every second of the day! And for those of us who have read all her books? There is something soothing about re-reading Christie – the whole of right versus wrong and the way the balance of order is rectified by the final page. After thirty years, with old eyes I have re-read Roger Ackroyd and now have a new respect for Christie who is the unsurpassed mistress of crime fiction with her grasp of the psychology of a criminal – a subject that was in its infancy in those days – and even though she died in 1976, she is still as strong now as back then.
Review: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
It all began when Mrs Ferrers took her own life a year after the death of her violent husband. Gossip had wondered if Mrs Ferrers had despatched her husband early, but that was all it was… gossip. But someone took that rumour and began to blackmail the widow. Now Roger Ackroyd wonders if Mrs Ferrers had sent a letter to him before taking her own life… but someone made sure he never found out. Why was Roger Ackroyd murdered with a dagger in the neck? Was it the blackmailer covering their tracks, or was the murder a coincidence? With a house full of suspects, all with a motive it can only take the grey cells of Hercule Poirot to unravel this mystifying case and come to the only conclusion.
‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ is a difficult one to review. One small slip and I could give the whole thing away. Christie wonderfully mis-directs her reader and like the literary magician she was, unveils her trick to leave her audience stunned and breathless with admiration. Reading this after a gap of thirty-five years, I can read it with adult eyes and with a new admiration for Christie’s plotting. As with any writer, she didn’t get it right all the time, but when she did, it was a stunner.
This review is to coincide with the new publication of the Folio edition of this Christie novel. As with all Folio editions, they are exceptional books produced to a high standard. What also makes this a treat for either yourself or the Christie lover in your life, are the illustrations scattered throughout the book by Andrew Davidson who so wonderfully manages to capture the sense of that time. His illustrations are like looking at a snapshot, they are so clear and defined. He also illustrated the Miss Marple short stories and ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ which are still available from Folio. A truly magnificent homage to a Christie classic.
This Folio Edition can be found by clicking this link: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd Folio Society.
Reviewed by: C.S.