The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Look over there…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Hercule Poirot has retired to the village of King’s Abbott to grow vegetable marrows but, as we all know, wherever that man goes, murder is sure to follow. Roger Ackroyd is a wealthy man and a leading light in the community, but he’s not always generous to his many dependants. So when he is found dead in his study there are plenty of suspects. Dr James Sheppard is first on the scene of the crime and once Poirot becomes involved in the investigation the doctor finds himself acting as his unofficial assistant. It is through Dr Sheppard’s eyes that the reader follows the case.

This is one of the most famous of the Poirot books and many people consider it to be the best. I always have a hard time deciding on “best” Christies because so many of them are so good, but this would undoubtedly make my top 5. However, it’s one of those ones that’s got such an amazingly brilliant solution, like Murder on the Orient Express and a couple of others, that once read never forgotten, so I tend to re-read it less often. I found on this re-read after many years, though, that although I remembered the solution very clearly, I’d actually forgotten most of the plot, so it still made for an enjoyable revisit.

Mr Ackroyd had been upset earlier on the day of his death by the news that wealthy widow Mrs Ferrars, with whom rumour suggested he was romantically involved, had died apparently by her own hand. At dinner that evening, he told Dr Sheppard that he’d received a letter from her which he hadn’t yet read. When his body is discovered later, no trace of the letter is to be found. Also missing is young Ralph Paton, Mr Ackroyd’s stepson, and when he fails to show up the next day suspicion quickly falls on him. Ralph’s fiancée, Mr Ackroyd’s niece Flora, begs Poirot to come out of retirement to prove Ralph is innocent. Poirot gently points out to Flora that if he takes the case he will find the truth, and if the truth turns out to be that Ralph is guilty, she may regret her request. Flora is sure of Ralph, though, so Poirot agrees. The local police know of his reputation and are happy to have him work with them.

Agatha Christie

“My dear Caroline,” I said. “There’s no doubt at all about what the man’s profession has been. He’s a retired hairdresser. Look at that moustache of his.” Caroline dissented. She said that if the man was a hairdresser, he would have wavy hair – not straight. All hairdressers did.

Part of the fun is seeing Poirot and his methods through Dr Sheppard’s eyes. Though he’s amused by the detective’s appearance and mannerisms, Sheppard soon begins to appreciate that Poirot’s unusual methods often get people to reveal things that the more direct questioning of the police officers fails to elicit. Poirot is of a social standing to mix as a guest in the homes of the village elite and, since gossip is the favourite pastime of many of them, including Sheppard’s delightfully nosy spinster sister, Caroline, they make him very welcome in the hopes of pumping him for information. Sheppard also has inside knowledge of all the village characters and their histories, useful to Poirot and entertainingly presented to the reader. The gossip session over the mah-jong game, for example, is beautifully humorous – so much so that it’s easy to overlook any clues that might be concealed amid the exchange of titbits of information Caroline and her cronies have managed to gather.

But that is certainly not the sort of information that Caroline is after. She wants to know where he comes from, what he does, whether he is married, what his wife was, or is, like, whether he has children, what his mother’s maiden name was—and so on. Somebody very like Caroline must have invented the questions on passports, I think.

Hugh Fraser

Christie is always brilliant at misdirection, and this book may be her best example of that. Is it fair-play? Yes, I think so – I think there are enough clues to allow the reader to work it out, but they’re so beautifully hidden I bet very few readers will. However, unlike a lot of clever plotters, Christie always remembers that to be truly satisfying a mystery novel needs more than that. In this one, the Sheppards are really what make it so enjoyable – the doctor’s often satirical observations of Poirot and his fellow villagers, and Caroline’s good-natured love of gossip. Combined with Poirot’s little grey cells and eccentricities, they make this not only a triumph of plotting but a highly entertaining read too. And, as always, Hugh Fraser is the perfect narrator. Great stuff!

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36 thoughts on “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

  1. This and Murder on the Orient Expressare the only Agatha Christie books that I can ever remember who the murderer was, because of what you’ve described as the amazingly brilliant solution of each. I’m going to try to find a narration by Hugh Fraser, you always comment on how terrific his reading is.

    • They’re the stand-out ones for me too, which kind of works against them as re-reads. But I did enjoy this – all the gossiping was a lot of fun! Oh, yes, do! He’s given a whole new lease of life to the books for me – I love that he kinda does a David Suchet impersonation of Poirot, and of course he’s very good at being Hastings… 😀

  2. Usually I never remember the plot of crime novels, which is fine because it makes re-reads more enjoyable! This is one of the few I remember the conclusion to, because it’s so clever. Great review FF, and spoilers skill fully avoided 🙂

    • I’m the same which is why I can read the Christies over and over again. The ones with the most memorable solutions maybe do themselves no favours in the re-read stakes, although I still get a lot out of seeing how cleverly she hides the clues. Thank you! 😀

  3. I have this one in my Audible library. It’s so long since I read it, hopefully the ending will still be a surprise. Hugh Fraser is the absolutely perfect choice for narrating these books.

    • Hugh Fraser is brilliant! He’s given the books a whole new lease of life for me – even the ones I remember best. And happily I still have several in my Audible library, having used up all my spare credits on them… 😀

  4. I came to this one quite late on in my reading of Christie, so I actually guessed the sollution, but I still really enjoyed it. The doctor and his sister were great characters, and I liked some of the finer details of the plot.

    • She does use the main clue in at least one other novel I can think of, so I can see how that could make it easier to spot. I think this was one of my first Christies back in the day, and the solution blew me away! I always love her secondary characters – it’s easy to forget how much humour there is in the stories. The Queen, undoubtedly!

  5. This is definitely on my list of Christie’s best, FictionFan. She was brilliant at misdirection, and this is a prime example. And I really like the inside look at James and Caroline Sheppard. They’re great characters, and Christie uses them so effectively to make her points, I think. And then, of course, there’s the look at village life. And the famous plot and solution. Definitely Christie at the top of her form. And with Hugh Fraser narrating, well, that just adds to it all.

    • Her misdirection in this is wonderful and the fun of re-reading it knowing the solution is that you can spot how cleverly she does it. I’d forgotten how much fun Caroline and her gossiping friends were, though – she always does her secondary characters so well. Hurrah for Hugh Fraser – he’s given the books a whole new lease of life for me! 😀

  6. I read this one a few years ago and I think it might be one of my favorite Christie’s although I still have more to read. There was another Poirot one I really liked too but can’t think of the name right now. I will plan to read this again after I read the others I have waiting on the shelf 🙈

    • I have so many favourites – I make myself laugh when I say in nearly every review ‘this is one of my favourites’! I’m jealous that you still have some to read – I think I’ve read them all more than once. But they’re great fun to re-read too… 😀

  7. Yikes, another Christie I’ve missed!! Well, lucky me, now I have something delightful to look forward to! Thank you, FF, for pointing it out — sounds like you enjoyed it immensely, and I’m sure that means I will, too.

  8. I’m reading this one at the moment and am loving it! I don’t recall reading it before but I think I know whodunnit so maybe I have (I did read a lot of Agatha Christie in my early teens). It’s reminded me how much I loved her writing though so I’ll definitely be (re)reading more next year.

    • Isn’t it an entertaining one? I think they’ve all been adapted so often we all tend to know them even if we haven’t read them, and this is certainly one of her most famous. I’ve been re-reading loads of them recently and loving them just as much as ever – she’s the undoubted Queen of Crime. 😀

  9. I’ve read this a couple of times – I was expecting it to be much less impressive the second time around, as I remembered what the solution was – but as you say, I think that her character development and tone are really great in this book and make it more rereadable than you might expect.

    • I always find her books hugely enjoyable even if I remember the solution. All the secondary characters are so well done, and if I do know whodunit I find it fun spotting how cleverly she hides the clues. She’s one of the few writers I can read again and again and still find them just as entertaining. 😀

  10. Yes, this is a good one! Unfortunately, I had already read a modern book which had the same twist, so I guessed the solution almost immediately and that did spoil it for me a little bit. It was still fun looking for clues to confirm whether I was going to be right, though!

    • I find that quite often with older crime books, that I recognise plot twists from later books. But I do find the clue hunt is always fun even if I know whodunit – she hides them so cleverly in plain sight. I can’t think of anyone who really matches her for “fair play”. 😀

    • Oh, I’m sure you’ll love this one! It’s not just that it’s so well plotted – it’s also very entertaining, especially Caroline and her gossiping friends. And it’s not too long – I’m sure you’ll be able to squeeze it in… 😉

  11. If I had the time to read this one, i just KNOW I would love it. I did make time for Murder on the Orient Express two years ago when the book came out so maybe I can make an exception for this one too…

    • The good thing is that they’re never very long, in comparison to today’s monsters anyway! Just send the kids off for a long walk through a forest for a couple of days… 😈

    • That’s the problem with the ones with outstanding solutions but I still enjoy re-reading them, spotting all the clues I missed first time round. She’s such a clever plotter… 😀

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