The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.
Genre: Mystery, Murder Mystery, Fiction
Published: June 1926 by William Collins, Sons
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is singularly spectacular.
After recently enjoying some mystery fiction, I decided to explore the genre a bit more and my research concluded that there was hardly a better option than an Agatha Christie novel. I did not plan on reading any specific one until I perused an article on some of the best murder mysteries and saw an Agatha Christie book listed. First published back in 1926, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was voted the best crime novel ever in 2013 by the British Crime Writers’ Association. I had found my next read.
“Everything is simple, if you arrange the facts methodically”
The story begins as the quiet little village of King’s Abbot (modern-day Castle Combe) wakes up to the shocking news of the death of the widow Ferrars… and less than a day later her distressed fiancé widower Roger Ackroyd is found murdered under completely baffling circumstances. I don’t want to say any more about this, apart from that one of the new retiree’s recently moved to the village is Hercule Poirot, the world-famous, brilliant Belgian detective.
“It is completely unimportant,” said Poirot. “That is why it is so interesting,” he added softly.”
I may have seen but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Poirot, but there is a treasure trove of novels featuring this quirky detective in which to learn more about him and I will assuredly do so in the future. A small, funny-looking but dignified man with an air of grandiosity about him, Poirot is a sometimes arrogant, always fastidious, brilliant detective with quite a flair for the dramatic. He is also extremely methodical, thorough and relentless in pursuing his quarry, and regularly displays flamboyance and eccentricity. From this encounter alone though, I can already confidently say I love this unusual character and cannot wait to read more of his stories.
“Understand this, I mean to arrive at the truth. The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to the seeker after it.”
As for the supporting characters, there’s quite a colourful, distinctive cast in the village and they all very well written, but the standout from this bunch is Caroline Sheppard, the highly inquisitive and insatiable queen of village gossip (I later learned she was the inspiration of or a sort of first draft of Miss Marple). Despite hardly ever leaving her home, this spinster always seems to know everything that goes on in town, having built up a network of informants, such as maids, deliverymen, servants, the postman etc who keep her supplied with every little tidbit of information. Her hunger for more information was often quite funny as she guessed wildly at possibilities and at times, even tried to wring information out of her brother, the village doctor. And while she is wrong on more than one occasion, her astute observations and guesses often lead her to the correct conclusion.
“Women observe subconsciously a thousand little details, without knowing that they are doing so. Their subconscious mind adds these little things together—and they call the result intuition.”
This pervasive gossip is of course also a product of the setting in my opinion. While gossip is prevalent everywhere, I think that small towns or villages are the perfect breeding ground for it and the village of King’s Abbot seems no different, with the story describing it as “rich in unmarried ladies and retired military officers, with the sole hobby of the villagers being gossip.” The setting with its byproducts is an excellent choice by Christie, as the gossip plays an important part in the proceedings.
“It is completely unimportant. That is why it is so interesting.”
I adored Agatha Christie’s writing. Simple to read and highly enjoyable, it’s a core part of why this book is such a quick read. Dialogue is delightful and pacing sublime. The story is not long by any measurement, but the pages flew by in a whiff and would have done so even had it been a tome. Patience be damned. And as for the mystery element… It is exquisitely plotted and elegantly executed. I may have exclaimed out loud more than once, believing myself to have pinpointed the murderer, only to be proven wrong time and again. Christie, it seems, has a knack for keeping you guessing to the end. When the big reveal is eventually presented, it’s the knock your socks off kind of mic-drop that has you staring open-mouthed at the pages, and then grinning at the ingenuity of it all.
Agatha Christie has just earned the mystery genre a new fan.