09 April 2011

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Summary: In the village of King's Abbot, a widow's sudden suicide sparks rumors that she murdered her first husband, was being blackmailed, and was carrying on a secret affair with the wealthy Roger Ackroyd. The following evening, Ackroyd is murdered in his locked study, but not before receiving a letter identifying the widow's blackmailer. King's Abbot is crawling with suspects, including a nervous butler, Ackroyd's wayward stepson, and his sister-in-law, Mrs. Cecil Ackroyd, who has taken up residence in the victim's home. It's now up to the famous detective Hercule Poirot, who has retied to King's Abbot to garden, to solve the case of who killed Roger Ackroyd - a task in which he is aided by the village doctor and narrator, James Sheppard and by Sheppard's ingenious sister, Caroline. (source: book jacket)

Comments: My saga of reading Agatha Christie's mysteries in order continues with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I have to admit, I have read this before, it has been some years, and I still remember who was the murderer because it was such a shock the first time. That said, I did not remember any of the circumstances surrounding the murder or the plots twists. This gave me a very good opportunity to look at the clues against the murderer while reading the story. How were they inserted into the plot and what would I remember once Poirot put it all together in the end. Ms. Christie is subtle when it comes to adding clues and really nothing is as it seems often times. If the book jacket is to be believed, this book is the mystery that made Ms. Christie a household name. I can believe that considering how shocked I was by the murderer.
Ms. Christie created, to my mind, two of the most annoying women in this story; Caroline Sheppard, the nosy, insinuating, gossip and Mrs. Cecil Ackroyd, the money grubbing, constantly complaining sister-in-law of the deceased. While both are annoying, reminding me somewhat of Mrs. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, at least Caroline was useful to Poirot and in her own way rather intuitive about the other characters in the story. 

Some of Caroline's running commentary directed at her maligned brother James regarding their new neighbor M. Poirot:
"I can't make it out at all," she said in an aggrieved voice. "I borrowed some garden tools the other day, and he was most polite, but I couldn't get anything out of him. I asked him point blank at last whether he was a Frenchman, and he said he wasn't - and somehow I didn't like to ask him anymore." 
I began to be more interested in our mysterious neighbor. A man who is capable of shutting up Caroline and sending her, like the Queen of Sheba, away empty must be something of a personality.
Here's a typical example of Mrs. Ackroyd when she is talking about one of the servants, "No more I do. She's - odd. There's something different about her from the other. Too well educated, that's my opinion. You can't tell who are ladies and who aren't anymore."* 
Sheppard himself was a country physician with a level of tact and diplomacy that his sister greatly lacks. He was, as he stated himself, "I played Watson to his Sherlock,"* but more correctly he played the role of Captain Hastings in this mystery. 
David Suchet as Hercule Poirot

Hercule Poirot is one of my favorite characters in literature. I really enjoy his persnickety character and his little grey cells. He's always dapper and charming. I do wonder what made Ms. Christie create a Belgian detective because one of my favorite parts of this book is the beginning when his name is mispronounced as Porrott. And someone always thinking him French (see above) and his disgusted reaction to it - funny. It does seem odd to me that Poirot has "retired" and lives at King's Abbot to tend his vegetable garden this early in the series of books (the book was published in 1926) , but we'll see how this progresses. I'm greatly looking forward to my next Christie Mystery - another Poirot story - The Big Four.

*p. 170
**p. 163

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