Thursday, June 11, 2009

81. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – Agatha Christie

Listened to in September 2007
History: published in the UK in 1926 The most notable aspect of the book, which led to considerable controversy on its publication, is its use of an unreliable narrator, who confesses at the end to being the murderer. In the end, Dr. Sheppard attempts to exculpate himself from having been at all untruthful as a narrator. Dr. Sheppard's (and Christie's) contention was that everything he had written had been the truth; he simply had not written the whole truth. In particular, he did not mention what happened between twenty and ten minutes to nine, during which he was in fact murdering Roger Ackroyd.
Plot: The book is set in the fictional village of King's Abbott in England. It is narrated by Dr. James Sheppard, who becomes Poirot's assistant (a role filled by Captain Hastings in several other Poirot novels). The story begins with the death of Mrs. Ferrars, a wealthy widow who is rumored to have murdered her husband. Her death is initially believed to be suicide until Roger Ackroyd, a widower who had been expected to marry Mrs. Ferrars, is found murdered. The suspects include Mrs. Cecil Ackroyd, Roger's neurotic hypochondriac sister-in-law who has accumulated personal debts through extravagant spending; her daughter Flora; Major Blunt, a big-game hunter; Geoffrey Raymond, Ackroyd's personal secretary; Ralph Paton, Ackroyd's adopted son and another person with heavy debts; Parker, a snooping butler; and Ursula Bourne, a parlourmaid with an uncertain history who resigned her post the afternoon of the murder.
The initial suspect is Ralph, who is engaged to Flora and stands to inherit his stepfather's fortune. Several critical pieces of evidence seem to point to Ralph. Poirot, who has just moved to the town, begins to investigate at Flora's behest.
The book ends with a then-unprecedented plot twist: Poirot, having exonerated all of the original suspects, lays out a completely reasoned case that the murderer is in fact Dr. Sheppard, who has not only been Poirot's assistant but the story's narrator. The story is then shown to be an attempt by Dr. Sheppard to write about the "failure" to catch the criminal by Poirot, but he appends a confession and suicide note written after Poirot's exposition.
Review: I have to say that I guessed it was the narrator. Why else would this be the only Agatha Christy book on the list? I listened to this book, and aside from the narrator being the killer, it is a fairly common type of mystery.
Opening Line: “Mrs. Ferrars died on the night of the 16 – 17 of September – a Thursday.”
Closing Line: “But I wish Hercule Poirot had never retired from work and come here to grow vegetable marrows.”
Quotes: “I suppose I hadn’t meant to murder him all along!”
Rating: Okay

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