The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Opening sentence: “Mrs Ferrars died on the night of the 16th-17th September – a Thursday.”
I recently decided to read more Agatha Christie this year and after finishing The ABC Murders, I asked the wonderful folk of Bookstagram which Christie they would recommend as my next read and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was a clear winner. I was also told by a fellow Bookstagrammer that this was the book that made Christie famous, which made me even more intrigued to read it.
Now, when reviewing a detective novel, it’s always tricky to recount the plot without giving anything away, so here goes… Hercule Poirot has retired from the detective game and is trying to live a quiet life in a small English village – King’s Abbot. However, his reputation is known and it is not long before he is asked to assist on finding out who has murdered local resident Roger Ackroyd. As Poirot’s long-time side-kick, Hastings, is now living in South America, the local Dr and Poirot’s neighbour, Dr Sheppard, takes on narrating and side-kick duties.
This is a wonderfully multi-layered story and Christie expertly weaves together lots of little plot threads, planting seeds here and there and making important things seem irrelevant until Poirot employs his ‘little grey cells’ to show us the exact chain of events that lead to Roger Ackroyd’s death.
Nope, I can’t do it, I’m going to have to announce one of my first SPOILER ALERTS, as I need to write about this but don’t want to ruin it for anyone, so please go no further if you haven’t read this book…
The reveal is brilliant: so clever, so subtle and yet so obvious when you go back and look at all the clues. The novel has been narrated by the murderer the whole time, Dr. Sheppard, who had the perfect alibi by being Poirot’s right-hand man. By casting him in the role of Hastings, it never crosses your mind to think he might be the suspect and in his narrative, Dr. Sheppard never once alludes even slightly to his actual status until Poirot accuses him at the end, which made my jaw drop a little reading those lines and also made me fully understand Christie’s iconic status. I just loved the closing line too, “I wish Hercule Poirot had never retired from work and come here to grow vegetable marrows.” The perfect way to end a perfect book. END OF SPOILER.
I can see why this has such a high ranking in Christie’s catalogue, a superb outing for Monsieur Poirot.