Title and Author: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Print Length: 304 Pages
Publication Date: June 1926
A small village where everyone knows everyone and then there is a death of one Mrs Ferrars. Although attributed to an overdose of veronal, people suspect that she committed suicide because of guilt. According to rumors and widespread suspicions, Mrs Ferrars had supposedly poisoned her husband, who died just over a year ago. But there was never any proof to prove any of this.
While people are digesting these shady circumstances, Roger Ackroyd, a very close friend of Mrs Ferrars is found dead in his study with the door locked from inside and a letter missing which was speculated to have been sent by Mrs Ferrars before her death and contained the name of the person blackmailing her. This blackmailer claimed to know all about her act of killing her husband and could prove it.
Suddenly the complete household of Roger Ackroyd comprising of his sister-in-law, Mrs Ackroyd; his niece, Miss Flora Ackroyd; his stepson, Captain Ralph Paton; his best friend, Major Hector Blunt; his secretary, Geoffrey Raymond; butler, Parker and housekeeper, Miss Russell are all under suspicion. Hercule Poirot, who has retired and now lives in the same village, is urged by Flora to take up this case. Poirot suspects that everyone is hiding something or the other.
Why was Roger Ackroyd killed?
Did he finally know who was blackmailing Mrs Ferrars and so was killed before he could reveal the blackmailer?
What is the mystery of the pulled out and illogically placed chair in the study where Mr. Ackroyd was killed?
'An opened window,' he said.
'A locked door. A chair that apparently moved itself. To all three I say "Why?" and I find no answer.'
Who was the mysterious man Dr. Sheppard saw coming towards the house?
Who was Roger Ackroyd talking to at nine thirty when no one seemed to have entered the study?
Who called Dr. Sheppard and informed him of Mr. Ackroyd's murder when no one in his house knew that he had been killed?
Can Poirot solve this baffling case where suspects are too many and each has a reason to commit the murder?
With conflicting statements and unreliable alibis, will this case prove a first time failure for the great Hercule Poirot?
A case unlike any other, The Murder of Roger Ackroydis a mystery in the class of mysteries where the concept is so novel that it will shock you and surprise you, leaving you with your mouth hanging open even though decades have passed since its publication! Howsoever, I tried I could not come up with one clear suspect. Agatha Christie expertly shifts her focus of suspicions from one character to another leaving the reader with no clue as to the real murderer. I tried all my "little grey cells" but could not pin point the murderer and when the killer was finally introduced I felt as if I had been punched so hard that no air was left in my lungs!
The characterization and story development is exquisite. The interactions between the narrator, Dr. Sheppard and his gossipy and always "scandal mongering" sister, Caroline were just too good and highly entertaining. The wit, humor and outright funny descriptions of Caroline by Dr. Sheppard left me chuckling and looking forward to their playful bantering and Caroline's efforts at accumulating information from everyone.
1) 'Caroline can do any amount of finding out by sitting placidly at home. I don't know how she manages it, but there it is. I suspect that servants and the tradesman constitute her Intelligent Corps. When she goes out, it is not to gather information, but to spread it. At that too, she is amazingly expert.'
2) 'My sister's nose, which is long and thin, quivered a little at the tip, as it always does when she is interested or excited over anything.'
The narration of the incidents by Dr Sheppard was interesting and engaging. I loved his humor and his confusion regarding Poirot's actions. His description of the hobbies of the villagers was outright hilarious.
Our hobbies and recreations can be summed up in the one word, 'gossip.'
Like many of Agatha Christie's other books, The Murder of Roger Ackroydalso has a village setting with gossipy villagers who are more interested in other people's affairs and take great pride in knowing things about others that are not public knowledge. Caroline is the same. She is always nosing for information and so when a new man moves into the neighboring cottage she wants to know everything about him but is unable to do so. The results of her speculation about the mysterious man who happens to be Hercule Poirot are hilarious and very entertaining. The only thing she knows is that he is a foreigner and interested in the growing of vegetable marrows!
'To Caroline's extreme annoyance, she has not been able to find out anything about him, except that he is a foreigner. The Intelligence Corps has proved a broken reed.'
'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.'
Poirot is the constant source of discussion between the brother and sister and they come up with extremely funny suggestions as to his profession.
'My dear Caroline,' I said. 'There is 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.
The character sketch of Poirot is like a caricature with 'An egg-shaped head, partially covered with suspiciously black hair, two immense moustaches, and a pair of watchful eyes.'
'Clearly a retired hairdresser. Who knows the secrets of human nature better than a hairdresser?'
This book is clearly one of the superior works of Christie and recently also voted "Best Crime Novel Ever" is a book with the right mix of light and funny moments coupled with serious, dark and mysterious moments. The dialogues between characters are legendary and remain in our memory long after we have finished reading the book.
1) 'The good dog, he does not leave the scent, remember!'
2) 'Method, order, and the little grey cells.'
3) 'Everyone has something to hide.'
4) 'Only one kind- the fool in love.'
5) 'it is not easy to hide things from Hercule Poirot. He has a knack of finding out.'
The description of the killer is chilling and leaves the reader shuddering at the thought of such a person in reality. A man so normal and friendly that no one suspects him and he often finds himself playing the role of a confidante to many secrets which people, thinking him harmless, kind and understanding, share with him unaware of his "strain of weakness" and "blunted moral fibre".
'Let us take a man - a very ordinary man. A man with no idea of murder in his heart. There is in him somewhere a strain of weakness- deep down...He may stumble by accident on a secret - a secret involving life or death of somebody...Here is a chance to make money..He becomes greedy. And in his greed he overreaches himself...Exposure faced the man of whom we are speaking. And he is not the same man he was -say a year ago. His moral fibre is blunted. He is desperate, He is fighting a losing battle, and he is prepared to take any means that come to his hand, for exposure means ruin to him. And so -the dagger strikes!'
'Afterwards.' he went on softly,
'the dagger removed he will be himself again, normal, kindly.
But if need again arises, then once more he will strike.'
This is one book that can be reread any number of times and it will entertain and shock us each time. An ageless and a gem from a legendary author, I give The Murder of Roger Ackroyda full shining 5 stars out of 5 and very highly recommend that you read this amazing mystery. A must read for everyone and a deserving "must have" for every avid reader.