90 years of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

TuppenceTuppence City of London, United Kingdom admin

This month marks 90 years since The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was first published as a full novel. It was often described as the book that changed Christie's career. What do you think it is about The Murder of Roger Ackroyd that makes it still widely read 90 years after its first publication?

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  • ChristieFanForLife ChristieFanForLife ✭✭✭✭
    edited May 2016
    What makes The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd so widely read and one of Agatha Christie's most known books is the surprise ending that she pulled and it became so controversial that critics considered the book blasphemous in the rule of mystery fiction and that Agatha Christie didn't play fair with the readers. This book has aged well and it is still as fresh and original as it was the day it was published. I think Ackroyd will always controversial, surprising and shocking its readers.



    Were there any other mystery writers before Agatha Christie came onto the scene that made the narrator the murderer? Or was A.C. the first mystery writer to pull this trick


    “People in the dark are quite different, aren’t they?”  ― A Murder Is Announced 
  • tudestudes Rio de Janeiro, Brazil ✭✭✭✭
    First, it's a masterpiece and not only as a mystery novel.
    I agree with @ChristieFanForLife . The surprising ending, the wll built characters, the ingenious narrative  make The Murder of Roger Ackroyd a classic novel!
  • Luke Luke Investigator
    Read it recently, not knowing the significance of the year but am glad I have. It's been sitting on shelf for a while, a great book and I can see why it deserves its fame!
  • GriseldaGriselda ✭✭✭✭
    I think the ending is a surprise, but, also, it is amazing to look back again at what you've read and see the way that tiny clues are allowed to show through like pin pricks as the narrative progresses. There is the fact that the narrator says that there is a turning point in his story: after this point, Poirot is more cagey and secretive. There is the fact that Poirot obviously thinks it could be the butler or one other person. We readers are a bit stupid not to see that it is to do with who will first enter the room again after the murder. The clues are well planted and developed: the references to  legacies. We are almost told the solution, SPOILER, when Caroline goes off on one about her brother and his weakness. There is a SPOILER link, I bet nobody gets, when Poirot himself then describes a type of character who has a mild nature but a hidden weakness. Agatha distracts us with someone coming in with a piece of news. I think it is great that for so long we are puzzled by why the chair was moved, and wy the phone call was put through. I love the fact that Poirot sees the significance of these facts, and bases his solution on what he deduces. The best Christie mysteries, for me, are when the characters actually interact a great deal on the pages of the novel, and clues and telling statements are made in general gatherings. In some of the novels, the structure is rather too linear. The plot is expounded through a series of interviews in the main. Policeman/suspect/intervention from M. Poirot. The feel of the novel is more satisfying and natural when the reader eavesdrops on the family and feels included in the scenes of every day life. Of course, the characters are carefully drawn, and plenty of time is spent on developing them and adding touches of both humour and romance. Flora is very good - the fact that she feels honour bound to support Ralph - but doesn't love him. The parallel world of the the Sheppard's and their friends is an interesting one to supplement the murder-household, so just a s a book it is fun to read and imagine the old-fashioned scenes.. There is a real friendship, at the start, SPOILER between Poirot and Sheppard, and this isn't the only sensitive touch. The writing is very good, and the way it creates the voice of each character. The settings are well-described. I feel that Three Act Tragedy could be such a full and satisfyingly involved story had Agatha Christie gone back over it and worked it up and improved it. Three Act.... screens almost better than it reads. In TMoRA t is very odd that Ralph Paton is hardly there throughout the novel. He is the suspect for so long. He is the typical Christie villain - handsome, unscrupulous, slightly Irish, self-indulgent - so I expected AC to want to show him. The rest of the writing is so good that there is no problem with his ommission. I think, lastly, that Poirot is shown at his best, here. I think he is also, in a similar way, well-presented in Peril at End House: we really see his thought processes. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is about Poirot solving his crime, and the climax is a triumph of his deduction. He is terrifying and relentless.
  • tudestudes Rio de Janeiro, Brazil ✭✭✭✭
    You're right, @Griselda. When I read it for the first time, I looked back and realized that all the clues were there, but I was so envolved by the narrative (and the narrator) that I just wasn't able to pick them and to think about them.
    Everything is perfect. I love Caroline. she's amazing! A true detective!
    And it's one of the best Poirot's case. It's challenging, but he solves it in a brilliant way. Again, you're righ@Griselda, "Poirot is shown at his best".

  • GriseldaGriselda ✭✭✭✭
    I wonder if she had known such a household, and such people, because they all seem true to life, especially the way in which they speak. I think too, it is very clever to have the tiny clues in what the narrator says....e.g. words to the effect of,  "I did what I wanted to do" about the time following the visit to Roger Ackroyd.

     I agree that Caroline is very good, and her words give an alternative detective outlook: she has the feminine intuition.

    I think my favourite not-seen-at-the-time clue, SPOILER, is when Poirot tells Sheppard that he hadn't seemed surprised to learn that Flora had never gone into the study at all. The way language is used, you can almost feel Poirot having an intense, interrogating-yet-restrained moment as he looks to find out what the response of the doctor will be. I think what is good about the characterisation is that one gets a sense of a person with dreams and ambitions beyond the role which they play in the novel. I'm thinking of Flora and the dream to go sailing and stuff with Ralph, and, also the sense of freedom when she learns she will gain the £20,000. The housekeeper has quite a fascinating back story which one can mull over and think about not in the context of the action of the novel. 

    I think that Christie is certainly very good at creating character from a few brief but well-chosen words - hence with the housekeepers son.

    By the way, Tuppence, regarding the website, I have noticed that when I click post, the formatting often removes my paragraph breaks. I don't bother to use paragraphs every time, anymore, as I know they will be erased. Can this technical issue be fixed?
  • tudestudes Rio de Janeiro, Brazil ✭✭✭✭
    I think, @Griselda, she had known such household. At that time (in 20's), I think it was  a bit common. I think her best stories are about characters, settings that she was used to.
    By the way, it's very funny  Poirot's first impression on Dr Sheppard. He thought Poirot was a retired hairdresser! "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",     
  • GriseldaGriselda ✭✭✭✭
    Yes, I agree with everything you say! Do you know, Tudes, what the truth is about how this unusual and interesting narrative structure came to be written? I thought I remembered that she had a different character in mind for murderer, but that a member of royalty suggested to her that she should make the narrator the villain. But another poster suggested that all along SPOILER Dr Sheppard was intended to be the murderer. He is so likeable, in many ways,  just as is the narrator in Murder at the Vicarage, that I wonder if Agatha Christie wanted the reader to understand that murderers can be ordinary people who are tempted. If it were that this was the case, the story would have similarities with another highly-rated one of her novels,  A Murder is Announced - a story in which, as we know, the murderer is a nice, quite kind person. I suppose none of the other characters would  make interesting murderers, and their motives would be boring. This view would make it likely that Dr Sheppard was, from the start, the murderer whom Agatha Christie had in mind.
  • Griselda said:
    Yes, I agree with everything you say! Do you know, Tudes, what the truth is about how this unusual and interesting narrative structure came to be written? I thought I remembered that she had a different character in mind for murderer, but that a member of royalty suggested to her that she should make the narrator the villain. But another poster suggested that all along SPOILER Dr Sheppard was intended to be the murderer. He is so likeable, in many ways,  just as is the narrator in Murder at the Vicarage, that I wonder if Agatha Christie wanted the reader to understand that murderers can be ordinary people who are tempted. If it were that this was the case, the story would have similarities with another highly-rated one of her novels,  A Murder is Announced - a story in which, as we know, the murderer is a nice, quite kind person. I suppose none of the other characters would  make interesting murderers, and their motives would be boring. This view would make it likely that Dr Sheppard was, from the start, the murderer whom Agatha Christie had in mind.
    You know, many critics thought that Agatha Christie cheated in TMORA but interesting how you pointed out how murderers can be ordinary people who are tempted. And if anyone reads Agatha Christie's books regularly and know how she writes her characters, then they would know that ANYONE can be the murderer --that even the most kind, gentle person on the outside, can have their hearts darkened on the inside and lean towards evil--and no one is immune to that....that was what Agatha Christie's message was concerning human nature in her books. For example in Death on the Nile, Poirot warns Jacqueline De Bellefort who wants to get rid of Linnet Ridgeway for taking her fiance, "do not allow evil into your heart." Anyone is capable of evil in their hearts. But since Agatha Christie only had a few books to her name at that time, fans and critics who said that she cheated probably just didn't have enough Christie books to read that were enough to know how she wrote and what her motive operandi was. So I think regardless of what others say about her cheating, no, she didn't cheat because (1) it's true in any mystery that anyone can be the murderer-- you should suspect everyone! and (2) Agatha Christie's books were always focused on human nature and throughout many of her books it's the least likely unsuspected person that is the murderer. So maybe back when the book was first written you could cry "FOUL" but today, I don't think you can considering what we know about Agatha Christie's books and since we have whole body of her work now. 


    “People in the dark are quite different, aren’t they?”  ― A Murder Is Announced 
  • GriseldaGriselda ✭✭✭✭
    That is so true, ChristieFanForLife. The more books we read, the more we see the pattern of Christie's thought. If there is a slight foul, to me, it is that Ralph Paton doesn't appear as the mystery is being solved, only before and after all the main detective work, and so the reader can't judge what they make of him as a suspect, and fairly cancel him out, or still suspect him. Really, in view of the fact that Flora and her mother are short of funds, and the voice which telephoned to call the doctor sounded male and deep, the only truly indicated person to have made that call - from the list of suspects - and to be a successful, and therefore well-off for money blackmailer,  is Ralph. Its frustrating not to get a better look at him, as the reader/crime solver.  It could have been the secretary( or maybe not if he were known to be at the house) but, again, he is provably short of money. For a discerning puzzle-solver ( and this wasn't me, I didn't work it out) it is pretty obvious that a doctor SPOILER would have better chance to find out a blackmailing fact than a secretary in a neighbouring house, or another casual acquaintance - or else Ralph who was on more friendly terms with Mrs Ferrers. So again Ralph is indicated.  I'm not surprised that Poirot suspects Sheppard in the end, because if a weird sounding incident is reported, eg a mystery and puzzling phone call, you would look suspiciously at the person who had said it had happened.

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