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The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: A Hercule Poirot Mystery (Hercule Poirot Mysteries) Paperback – Print, February 1, 2011
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From Library Journal
This novel, written in 1927, is considered the best and most successful of the early mysteries. It met with no small outrage when it appeared, as it uses a plot device many readers thought "unfair." There is a full complement of characters populating the cozy English village of King's Abbot: Major Blunt, Colonel Carter, Miss Gannett, the butler, the housekeeper, the narrator, Dr. Sheppard, and his know-it-all sister (the precursor of Miss Marple, according to Christie), and, of course, the redoubtable Hercule Poirot and his little grey cells. There are clues with a capital C to mislead us, and the listener gets so involved with these red herrings (or not) that the very simple truth eludes the puzzler. Venerable reader Robin Bailey keeps the light, almost comic tone alive, although his voices are not particularly differentiated, and often he rushes the reading of dialog. A classic of the genre and essential for any fiction collection. Harriet Edwards, East Meadow P.L., NY
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“A classic—the book has worthily earned its fame.” (Irish Independent (Ireland))
“One of the landmarks of detective literature.” (H. R. F. Keating, Crime & Mystery: The 100 Best Books)
“Agatha Christie had a mind like a mousetrap and taught me, in novels like The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, the pleasure of literary surprise.” (William Dietrich, New York Times bestselling author of the Ethan Gage Historical Adventures William Dietrich, New York Times bestselling author of the Ethan Gage Historical Adventures William Dietrich, New York Times bestselling author of the Ethan Gage)
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I can't say much about the plot without giving away the secret, but it's easy to see why this book caused such a stir and why it continues to be so controversial among fans of classic British mysteries. Some of Christie's colleagues at the Detection Club accused her of cheating, but she stoutly maintained that all the clues were there. I think she's right and the book is even more fun to read the second time to see what you missed on the first reading.
In addition to the tricky plot, the book is of historical interest in other ways. It introduces a character that Christie DID care about. The narrator, Dr. Sheppard, has a nosy, bossy older sister who plays a pivotal role in the story. The author claimed that Carolyn Sheppard was based on her own grandmother and great-aunt, both important figures in her childhood. They were women who appeared to be sheltered and ignorant and yet they were shrewd judges of character and (through gossip and their servants) they knew everything that was going on around them. A few years later, this character would emerge as Miss Jane Marple and the books and stories that feature her are my favorites.
This book also appeared at a pivotal point in Christie's life. Her first book (THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES) was published almost by accident and led to the novice author signing a publishing contract which netted her very little money. She lived up to her obligations, but switched publishers as quickly as possible and made damned sure to be well-represented in the negotiations with her new publishing house. Mrs. Christie may have been shy and unassuming, but she knew her own worth and she wanted to profit from her successful books. "Money, it means much to me and always has done" says Hercule Poirot and the character speaks from the author's heart.
This was her first book with her new publisher and (partly because it was more effectively marketed than her earlier ones) was her most successful to that date. It was also the last book she wrote before her beloved mother died, her first marriage fell apart, and she became a public figure in a most unpleasant way. She would never again be the confident, trusting young woman who wrote this book, but she learned from her mistakes and (eventually) went on to even greater success and personal happiness. Good for her.
I am a solid mystery reader, but have never been a true fan of Dame Agatha's. Decades ago and prior to reading this one, I read many of her books with plots I considered a bit too convoluted and often not very realistic I probably would not have read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, but it is our book club selection this month. SO - I tuned in to M. Poirot and his dangling & incomplete sentences that seem like - maybe - he is going to give the reader a clue - but in the end, he doesn't. And of course, I missed Hastings. But he did have a quite skilled stand-in by the introduction of Dr. Sheppard, who followed Hercule around and gave his own first-person account of the little man he had first mistaken to be a hairdresser.
Although not my super favorite kind of mystery (I like dark and a bit crazy), I did read this one through to the very end. Now, that took some doing since this is a long book --or at least, seemed like it to me. And I gave it 5-Stars because I knew exactly what I was getting, and Ms. Christie did not pull any deviations from her own pleasing style and popular form of story telling. So I expected the Hastings-like companion, the stereotypical butler, the town gossips, the lovely young lady, and a few relatives with not-so-ordinary familial links, visitors from a long distance, and the matter of an inheritance. And naturally, a suspicious suicide has to be there, for sure! Plus - the rakish young man -- is he a good guy or the devil-incarnate? There were a few secret meetings at that darkened garden house, and of course, we can count on the police officers getting it ALL wrong ... every bit!
And naturally, Dame Agatha would give us a few clue items that could only be considered weird (a feather, for ex.), and naturally, we have Pierot's heavy and constant concern about time - but the "suspects" were up to his challenge. (It all went something like this: "Yes, I came in at exactly 9:14pm." "And I arrived at bit later, at 9:18pm." "And I was the slow duck on the scene - arriving at 9:22pm - but that was because it took 2-1/2 minutes to find my boots, which had gone missing." A custom in these stories is that an article of clothing MUST disappear!
So I read on, entranced by the charm of tradition that comes along with a story by Agatha Christie. Patiently, I waited as I was certain that Pierot was bound to complete one or two sentences at least before he completely solved that mystery at ... well, the English manor house, of course!
But my light jesting aside: This was a DARN GOOD MSTERY. The story was a solid one and delivered the requisite surprises. Even Christie fans will have a jolt or two at the conclusion of this tale, when M. Poirot finally explains all.
So I am charmed, mes amis, to give this book 5-Stars, and a salute to the pleasant and continuing appeal of Agatha Christie.
I had somehow managed to wait until I'd turned 70 to read my first Agatha Christie mystery. Now I know why her work has been popular with so many readers. Each page contains something that feels like it could be a clue, and I found myself highlighting such passages, perhaps to use in my own re-construction of the plot? Well, it didn't matter because none of those highlighted passages really mattered. The only thing that mattered was how Poirot's mind gathered information that I'd never considered en route to determining the real killer. In the end, I never saw it coming, and that is why do many readers love What he Christie's work!