Redefining Mystery Fiction
Dame Agatha Christie is undoubtedly one of the most prolific mystery writers of all times. She conjured two of the most memorable characters in the history of the genre – the perpetually observant Miss Marple and the diminutive Belgian detective but equally astute Hercule Poirot. Through over 80 books, she has reached the pinnacle as one of the bestselling authors of all times.
All of these would have not been possible had it not been for one single work that established her sheer genius in the genre: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Most literary pundits agree that it was this work that made Agatha Christie a household name. What makes this deceptively simple work of fiction special that it is continuously patronized a century later after its first publication? To find out is to immerse into the complicated web of a finely written narrative.
“It is odd how, when you have a secret belief of your own which you do not wish to acknowledge, the voicing of it by someone else will rouse you to a fury of denial.” ~ Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
This masterpiece of detective fiction begun in the obscurity of King’s Abbot where Mrs. Ferrars unexpectedly committed suicide. This turn of events caused distress to her fiancé, widower Roger Ackroyd. A couple of days before her suicide, Mrs Ferrars admitted to Roger Ackroyd that she is being blackmailed over the murder of her husband. Roger Ackroyd relayed the same to Dr James Sheppard during a dinner at the former’s home.
When Dr. Sheppard returned home, he received a notification from Ackroyd’s butler that Ackroyd is dead. Rushing to the scene, the butler denied sending Sheppard the note. Upon searching for Ackroyd, they found him stabbed to death in the study. The murder scene looked perfect, too perfect that pointing out the murderer was difficult. It was the perfect murder. But there was thing against the murderer’s favor, Hercule Poirot, Ackroyd’s neighbor agreed to come out of retirement to solve the mindboggling puzzle of Roger Ackroyd’s murder.
As Poirot unpeels one layer after another, bits and pieces to the puzzle are unearthed. Debts, betrayals, blackmails, bribery are just amongst the many possible motives that surround the two harrowing deaths. With all these intricate details, everyone becomes suspect. But who is the perpetrator and how did he or she manage to pull off a near perfect murder?
“The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to seekers after it.” ~ Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Agatha Christie simply possesses that breathtaking knack for producing magnificent detective and mystery fiction. In the world of literature, hers is unmatched. But her brand of success wasn’t instantaneous as she remained in the background for the first half of her literary career. Everything blew over when, inspired by an idea from her brother-in-law, she wrote and published The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. It was, to say the least, a sensational victory for her, and for the world of literature.
Christie takes the reader on a roller coaster ride that is simply scintillating. Through her primary narrator, Dr. Sheppard and Hercule Poirot’s eccentric personality and crime-solving skills, she draws the reader in, hook, line and sinker. She fervently pulsates her readers, keeping them tethering at the edge of their seats with tenterhook from start to finish.
Channeling classic Christie, she unearthed countless layers upon the case. It was all tricky as she keeps her readers guessing from the start. Her writing was simply exhilarating; just when you thought you got the murderer correct, she’ll make you rethink your choice. Like a conductor in a concerto, she masterminded a perfect harmony, conscious of when to perfectly stir the narrative into a crescendo and when to let it lay low to a trough.
What makes The Murder of Roger Ackroyd soar above its contemporaries and above all of Christie’s canon is its seamless assimilation of psychoanalysis into the entire narrative. The astute observation and understanding of a character’s personality is palpable in most of Christie’s works. However, it was in this mystery fiction classic that it was in full display. Christie’s exploration of her character’s psychological state elevated the narrative. When Poirot was wrapped with confusion, he regressed to his understanding of human motivations.
“Women observe subconsciously a thousand little details, without knowing that they are doing so. Their subconscious mind adds these little things together—and they call the result intuition.” ~ Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
The secret to the longevity of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd lies in Christie’s incomparable narrative drive. It is but impossible to put down the book and read it in a leisurely pace. Christie draws you in, makes you breath in the story. The story is riddled with enough clues to make the reader guess and draw their own conclusions. However, Christie kept them hanging as the clues were not enough to confirm any suspicions.
It all comes full circle in the end when all loose threads are tidily stitched, and the real murderer was unmasked with aplomb, leaving readers with a surprised gasp. In a grand ceremony, Christie perpetrated a literary masterstroke rarely read or seen. Poirot knew all along who the murderer is but kept mum the entire time. He just kept the murderer close, slowly reeling him in.
Christie’s writing style isn’t formulaic, yet it is simple and subtle. Her narrative is straightforward yet ripples towards different directions ultimately coming in together at the end. It is the epitome of mystery fiction, yet it is uncannily a step or two ahead of the rest. At her peak, Christie is a master storyteller, as displayed in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Her understanding of her characters and the integration of psychoanalysis redefined her work, lifting it to the zenith of mystery and detective fiction.
Dame Agatha Christie is truly the Queen of Mystery.
Ah. Another Agatha Christie. The author’s name just says it all. I love Agatha Christie and her brand of detective and mystery fiction is just scintillating. I’ve been a fan since reading Murder on the Orient Express, my personal favorite. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a close second. Christie’s knack for reeling her readers into the core of her story is a thing of beauty. I highly recommend both books if you want to plunge into the beauty of Christie’s literary canon.
Author: Agatha Christie
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publishing Date: September 2004
Number of Pages: 358
Genre: Mystery Fiction, Suspense, Detective Fiction
A widow’s suicide has stirred suspicion and dreadful rumors – of blackmail, and of a secret lover named Roger Ackroyd, who was stabbed to death in his study. And there are rumors that his neighbor, Hercule Poirot, doesn’t have a clue who did it.
Setting up the traditional rules of mystery only to shatter them, Christie delivers her most controversial detective novel ever, and it still startles.
About the Author
To learn more about Agatha Christie, click here.