22 January 2012

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

I may have read an Agatha Christie novel once before but it was a long time ago – it would’ve been in 1973, on a beach in Tunisia (honeymoon, if you must know). The book was was quickly read, quickly forgotten, and then discarded. This week I read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – so I can now confidently state that I am no longer an Agatha Christie virgin.

Of course I have watched TV and film adaptations of her Poirott (David Suchet is good in this role) and Miss Marples stories. I enjoy them to an extent, especially when I play the game: trying to work out who did the dastardly deed. But after a few episodes, they are all too familiar, all too similar.

It's important to remember that this novel first appeared in 1926, part of the country house tradition of crime stories. Nevertheless, reading The Murder of Roger Ackroyd I felt exactly the same. I found everything was too predictable even if the clues leading to the dénouement were tenuous. But in book form, it took longer than an hour or two, as in the TV versions, to reach the final answer. I read the first half of the book very rapidly; and then a sense of ennui crept in and I had to find excuses to sit and finish the novel. I got to a state when I just didn’t care who did it.

In case you don’t know, Roger Ackroyd was discovered murdered with a dagger thrust into his neck. The suspects included his wife, daughter, secretary, butler, the colonel, the house keeper, step son, etc, etc. All have alibis of course – a couple somewhat slight – and all have motives or at least appear downright suspicious. And naturally all suspects have secrets they try so hard to retain. There is, of course, the not-too-bright police inspector (but not Inspector Japp!).

Typically, the only person able to solve the crime is the little Belgium detective (as he’s so often described). I didn’t deduce – or guess – who was the villain. The story ends with a twist and thus in retrospect the culprit was blooming obvious. I am informed that the Agatha Christie novels are mostly all the same. If so, I can’t see me reading further AC novels.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd has been re-released recently as the first volume in a new part-works series. The next book is The Murder on the Orient Express. Oh, all right, I may read that – after all, it is one of her most famous titles.

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