Book Review: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

book review February 7, 2011

The plague descended upon my house.

I have two sprogs (kids, for those of you not accustomed to my varied ways of referring to them). Usually when one gets sick, the other has the decency to get sick right away, so they’re both sick at the same time.

Not this time.

Sprog the Younger fell ill on 1/25 and stayed that way until 1/29. He missed four days of school thanks to a fever that wouldn’t quit. The doctors saw him and deemed it a virus, therefore nothing could be done. It just had to run its course.

Since Sprog the Elder didn’t get sick, I (erroneously) assumed this particular plague would only get the one. Ha. Elder Sprog told us on the evening of the 29th that his throat felt scratchy. I sent him off to the urgent care clinic with Darling Husband and prayed for a case of strep. Luck did not favor me, and he came home with the same accursed virus that Younger Sprog just managed to defeat. Elder was out of school for three days. He went back on Thursday of last week, and had Friday off for parent-teacher conferences anyway.

One of my teacher conferences was canceled because the teacher was too sick to come in.

Begone plague!

So here’s this week’s book review, reading material compliments of Ms. Christie

Twists, twists, beautiful twists!

[SPOILER ALERT- IT’S ONLY FAIR FOR ME TO WARN YOU I DISCUSS THE ENDING IN THIS REVIEW]

Should I be embarrassed to admit that I haven’t read much Christie? I read Black Coffee a few terms ago as a genre read and hated it. I immediately despised the little Hercule Poirot. Unfortunately, the Christie I chose as my introduction to Poirot was a play recrafted as a novel. It was adapted by Charles Osborne, who just strung the bits of dialogue together to be read rather than heard. It was not a good choice.
I picked up The Murder of Roger Ackroyd with trepidation, fully expecting to dislike it as much as I disliked Black Coffee. What a wonderful surprise to find that not only was Poirot not the narrator, he was almost an afterthought. I rather enjoyed Dr. Sheppard’s narration and the distance that we maintained from Poirot up until close to the end, when the mystery was chugging along with enough steam that even I could overlook Poirot’s annoying idiosyncracies.
I feel strange reviewing Christie’s work. Obviously a master of our craft, she strings the reader along with clues and red herrings adequate to keep anyone’s interest. The golden wedding band in the pond, the obvious relationship between Major Blunt and Flora, the questions from Miss Russell about poisons, the mysterious nature of Ralph Paton all combine to create suspense and a sense of “hmmm” in the reader.
The characterization in this book was lovely– from the uber-nebby Caroline to the more standoffish Major Blunt, I had a clear sense of who the characters were, and most importantly, what might drive each and every one of them to commit murder. This was my favorite aspect of the book, and one I will try to incorporate more into my own characters. Christie gave every character (except for the actual murderer, more on that later) a clear motive for murder. With each mounting clue I felt certain I’d figured out who did it, except that each clue led me to a different character. I bow to Ms. Christie.
Perhaps the most impressive accomplishment in this book is that I didn’t suspect Dr. Sheppard. I’m sure that some readers would, but I picked up this novel expecting to dislike it, and I was so surprised at my pleasure in reading it that I didn’t second guess the narrator. Dr. Sheppard’s voice is ideal for telling the story. He’s calm, not prone to gossip, a bit wry and the trusted town doctor. In less able hands, these traits may have made him more suspicious than others, but Christie never let on that I should look at the doctor with anything less than a trusting eye.
The last chapter, Apologia, ended the story on the perfect note. The tone of Dr. Sheppard’s voice changed, from something akin to friendliness to a more detached attitude. We see this a lot in today’s media, the case of the criminal changing personalities once he or she is discovered. After I read the final chapter I wondered if Christie was one of the first to use this tool, to show the reader the coldness of the criminal only after the story is concluded.
No story is perfect, and I did find the middle to drag on a bit. Christie could have had the big reveal much sooner than she did and spared the reader the tedium of the all the “little reunions.” Many clues were repeated several times, as with the last conversation that Sheppard had with Ackroyd, seemingly for the benefit of the characters present in the scene. This is something we’ve been taught to avoid.
Mediocre middle or not, I thoroughly reading The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. The characterization and suspicion of every character are fantastic and something I aspire to.

by

Tattooed writer with an attitude seeks like minded people who appreciate snark and ink. Or snarky ink.

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