Told from the point of view of a country doctor, James Sheppard, the novel opens when a certain Mrs. Ferrars dies. Not long afterwards, Roger Ackroyd is found murdered in his study. The local inspector immediately suspects the butler, Parker, and Ackroyd’s stepson also becomes a murder suspect, as Hercule Poirot (who’s conveniently retired to a house in the neighborhood) is called in to solve the crime.
Written in the great age of crime novels—the 1920s—The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a murder mystery that threatens to puzzle even the most astute crime solver. It doesn’t come as much surprise—apparently, Agatha Christie would write each of her novels not knowing who the murderer would be, and then decided at the end who it was. Then, she’d go back and change aspects of the novel accordingly. Its very clear that she did that here. There’s some extraneous stuff that could have been left out. But its also clear that Christie is influenced by true crime stories of the past--the Crippen case is mentioned in this novel.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is not by any means one of Christie’s best, and the characters, even M. Poirot, seem a little flat. After all, we’ve seen mysterious strangers, disgruntled family members, and blackmailers before. But this is the book that created the cliché, “the butler did it.” The narrator is not without a modicum of wit; he has no patience for the neighborhood’s gossiping ladies, including his sister. The beauty of this book, however, comes from the mystery itself—how things play out, and the denouement itself, which is quite shocking. In fact, Christie bends all the rules here, and her ability to deceive the reader—and her indomitable detective, Poirot—is unparalled.
I’ve read many of Christie’s other mysteries, so it surprised me when I realized that I hadn’t read this one! I generally like her writing, and Murder on the Orient Express is one of my favorite mysteries, but over all, I prefer Miss Marple over Hercule Poirot. But if you want a murder mystery that revolutionized the world of detective fiction, then read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.
Also reviewed by: Ticket to Anywhere