Despite its general recognition now as the crowning achievement of Agatha Christie’s career (in 2013 the Crime Writers Association of Britain voted it as the greatest mystery novel ever), when The Murder of Roger Ackroyd came out in 1923, it was received positively by only some of its reviewers, many others of whom were upset at the way Christie broke with convention to write this book. In 1923 the mystery novel was still in its infancy, and people tended to expect the books to follow certain formulas. So when Christie went outside the box with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, it proved a shock to the mystery reading world. But to avoid spoiling your own experience reading this book, I am not going to discuss the surprise in any further detail.
The book opens with Dr. Shepherd’s being summoned to the overdose death of a woman in his small village. The wealthiest man in the village, Roger Ackroyd, invites Dr. Shepherd to his house that evening when he tells his doctor friend that he had recently become engaged to this woman, who informed him that she has been blackmailed regularly over the previous year. Soon after returning home that night, Dr. Shepherd gets a phone call from the butler, who frantically announces the murder of his master. But when the doctor gets to Ackroyd’s house, no one is aware of any such call or even murder. Going to check on Ackroyd to be safe, the butler and Shephard find the body of the man, stabbed to death.
The next day, Flora Ackroyd, the murdered man’s niece, comes to Dr. Shepherd for assistance in asking his new neighbour, who has recently retired to the country to cultivate vegetable marrows, to help investigate the crime. Being certain that his neighbor is a retired hairdresser, Dr. Shepherd is amazed to learn that the man is really the greatest detective in the world, Hercules Poirot. In the absence of his dear friend Hastings, gone to the Argentine, Poirot recruits the doctor to be his assistant, to the utter jealousy of Caroline Shepherd, the doctor’s nosy sister who runs the gossip mill in their village.
There are different readers of this book, but I recommend Hugh Fraser’s version. I consider him to be the best British male reader of audio books. This book deserves the five stars that many people much more eminent than I am have given it!
I’d love to hear what you think of this book! And stay tuned next Monday for The Big Four.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is available in many formats. To order from Amazon,
click here. You may also find it in your local library or bookstore.