Since I’m a sucker for 1920s and 30s detective fiction, I went out in search for a good mystery novel, preferably by Agatha Christie. Fortunately, my frequented bookstore had all the latest publications of Christie novels involving Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple. I rummaged through the bookshelves with a particular title in mind and fortunately, got hold of the only remaining copy of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.
I was very specific of the title in my search because, though I haven’t read it before, I was immediately drawn into it after reading its synopsis on Wikipedia. It’s very unfortunate (and outright shameful that I consulted Wikipedia) that I read the novel’s summary first, before getting to read the full text. The only reason why I did so was because this particular novel was labeled as Christie’s most controversial novel. As I couldn’t wait to get a copy, and because I thought I wouldn’t be able to secure one in my lifetime, I got ahead and went through the summary. After reading it, I felt rotten. I wasted a good surprise and significantly reduced my excitement level for the story. Another lesson learned the hard way.
For the benefit of those who haven’t read this novel yet, I won’t give out the ending.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd starts out with Dr. Sheppard’s account of everyday life in the village of King’s Abbot. He narrates that Mrs Ferrars, a widow, has been reported to have committed suicide on account that she was guilty of the death of her husband a few years back—although she was not actually convicted.
Afterward, Dr. Sheppard receives an invitation to Fernly House, the residence of Roger Ackroyd, who is one of his friends. Now, Ackroyd has had a secret engagement with Mrs. Ferrars, and that the engagement would be made public one year after the death of latter’s husband. But with the suicide, everything has changed dramatically for Ackroyd.
The following events of the evening are as follows: Dr. Sheppard and Ackroyd converse in the latter’s private den, during which, Ackroyd confesses that Mrs. Ferrars confided in him that she was, indeed, responsible for her husband’s death. Moreover, someone else knows that she killed her husband and that this person is blackmailing her for large sums of money. Afterward, they receive a letter from Mrs. Ferrars—believed to have been mailed a few hours before her suicide attempt; Ackroyd reads through the letter but doesn’t finish it. Apparently, the letter has been said to contain the identity of the blackmailer. After the conversation, at 10 minutes to 9:00PM, Sheppard leaves Fernly House and walks back home.
On his way, Sheppard encounters a stranger whom he describes as “rough and uneducated” and “that his voice reminded him of someone’s voice that he knew, but whose it was he could not think.” This stranger asks Sheppard for the way to Fernly Park.
At 10:00PM, Sheppard receives a call from Fernly Park saying that Ackroyd has been found murdered.
What follows is a surprising twist and turn of investigations by retired private detective, Hercule Poirot, who happens to be just around the neighborhood.
Spoilers End Here.
I must say that Christie never fails to amaze me. Despite knowing the ending of the novel, I still felt tense all throughout my reading. She is able to build a creepy and psychologically thrilling atmosphere. Although I know who was to be convicted, goosebumps still awakened within me as I read the depiction of Poirot’s deductions that eventually lead to the murderer. Sure, the shock value was lessened, but it still was intense, knowing that all along, the reader had been fooled.
If you’ve just discovered Agatha Christie, don’t read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd yet. Read other earlier or later Christie novels (The Mysterious Affair at Styles, The A.B.C. Murders, Peril at End House) before Ackroyd. This novel is best enjoyed when you have established a clear understanding of Agatha Christie and her style of writing.