Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Author: Agatha Christie
Originally Published: 1926
Length: 288 pages
Source: Library
Challenge(s): R.I.P. VI

Personal Enjoyment Factor: 4.5/5

Poirot's gaze took on an admiring quality.  "You have been of a marvelous promptness," he observed.  "How exactly did you go to work, if I may ask?"

"Certainly," said the inspector.  "To begin with--method.  That's what I always say--method!"

"Ah!" cried the other.  "That, too is my watchword.  Method, order, and the little gray cells."

"The cells?" said the inspector, staring.

"The little gray cells of the brain," explained the Belgian.

"Oh, of course; well, we all use them, I suppose."

"In a greater or a lesser degree," murmured Poirot.  "And there are, too, differences in quality.  Then there is the psychology of a crime.  One must study that."

I spent some time on Agatha Christie's birthday, September 15, getting to know Hercule Poirot.  My first introduction to this quirky little Belgian was in Murder on the Orient Express a few weeks ago, which only briefly acquainted me with his character. In The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, however, I got to know him well enough that I think I could, say, friend him on Facebook. I think he's got time for social networking--in this book he is retired from detective work and growing squash.  Need I say more?

Luckily, he gets a reprieve from watching his garden grow, and becomes involved in solving the murder of a local gentlemen, Roger Ackroyd, in the village of King's Abbot.  Ackroyd's love interest, the widow Mrs. Ferrars, has just died, and reveals in a letter to him that she poisoned her husband and is being blackmailed by someone.  He is killed before it is revealed who the blackmailer is.  There is a host of possible suspects, from the rakish yet handsome stepson to the nosy, nervous butler (but seriously, how likely is it that "the butler did it?"  That has to have only worked maybe once).  No worries though. There's nothing that the right method, the highest quality gray brain cells, and a keen grasp of human nature can't manage.  Poirot proudly claims possession of all three, and a nifty little mustache to boot.

The story of the crime and those who may be involved is told by Dr. Sheppard, a sort of a Watson wanna-be, joining Poirot as a sidekick to find out who killed Ackroyd.  When he's not drily criticizing his sister Caroline's inclination to gossip, he manages to make some rather interesting suppositions about others.  After accidentally getting pelted by one of Poirot's beloved squash, the doctor tries to find out what his new neighbor Poirot did for a living before retiring.  Poirot says:
"And mark you, monsieur, my work was interesting work.  The most interesting work there is in the world." 
"Yes?"  I said encouragingly.  For the moment the spirit of Caroline was strong within me.
"The study of human nature, monsieur!"
"Just so," I said kindly.  Clearly a retired hairdresser.  Who knows the secrets of human nature better than a hairdresser?"
That gave me a laugh!  Other observations are made through Sheppard, some of a more offensive nature.  In my modern mind, I couldn't help but ponder--was Christie embracing stereotypes or making fun of those who embrace them?  I know it was probably the former, considering the time the book was written, but for entertainment's sake, I will pretend to the latter.  It made me smile instead of cringe.  I'm not sure such self-delusion is possible in her other works, which have a reputation for such stereotyping.  It just happened to work with this one.

This being a mystery, there's always the question--did I figure out whodunit?  Well, sometimes the answer to that question can give too much away.  So I won't say.  One mystery I still need to solve is how to say Poirot's name.  When I attempt it, my lips make sort of a dorky kissing shape and I feel like I'm going to drool.  Still, I'd like to get to know Hercule even better, by reading more, watching adaptations (then I might get the pronunciation of his name right), and maybe creating a connection with him by planting some zucchini.  No mustache for me, though.  At least not until I hit menopause anyway.


  1. I love reading Agatha Christie's book and really enjoyed this one. Have you read And Then There Were None by her??? I highly recommend it if you haven't as it is one of my favorites :)

  2. I've always said it pwaROH, but now I'm nervous that I'm doing it wrong! :p

  3. I have never read an Agatha Christie novel. This sounds really great and I need to pick one up. I do happen to love Murder, She Wrote, so I know I would love her books.

  4. I can't believe I have never read Agatha Christie before... I must remedy that one of these days.

  5. It's been such a long time since I read a Hercule Poirot mystery and I used to love those (I never liked Sherlock Holmes and Poirot always seemed to me like a realistic version of Holmes!) For a long time I just avoided pronouncing 'Poirot', even in my head, till finally someone told me it was French and went kind of like 'pwa-ro'; but I'm not sure if that's correct (I still sort of avoid saying it!)
    Nice review!

  6. People are always surprised that I've only read 2 Agatha Christies - but I did see all the movies/series around! This is a classic and since I've moved to Belgium it became even more imperative that I read it, but somehow, it's still on the TBR...

  7. What a fantastic review! I so enjoyed reading it. This book is the only one of Agatha's (so far, at least) that I simply could not finish. Maybe because I had heard too often who the killer was. Pwarow is how I say it. But I actually have more fun with the first name, not pronouncing the H. :<)

  8. Jenny, I'm sure you probably have it right, but it's still hard for me to say. I have a small mouth, maybe that's the issue, ha ha!

  9. Cela,
    Oh my goodness! I haven't seen Murder, She Wrote in ages! I'll have to see if I can find a way to watch an episode or two.

  10. Samantha,
    Yes I have read And Then There Were None (actually I listened to it) and I loved it.

  11. Kailana,
    One great thing about her books is that they are short, so they are great to sneak in between some heavier or longer books. Like a little snack :)

  12. Priya,
    I wonder if they've ever paired up Holmes and Poirot in some way in a book or a movie? That would be kind of entertaining. In my head I just kept thinking "HP" but then it just made me think of Harry Potter. The first name gives me trouble too.

  13. Alex,
    It sounds like you're doing your part as a resident of Belgium just fine, lol! Now if you hadn't read or seen anything, maybe you'd get kicked out or something. We all have those imperative TBR selections, don't we?

  14. Nan,
    I had no prior knowledge about the book, which was a great way to go into this one. Even with everyone's advice on his name, I'm still drooling a bit when I say it...

  15. I haven't read many of Christie's works, sorry to say, but I'll keep your excellent review in mind when I do get it.
    Thanks for the recommendation!