The Agatha Christie Challenge:
Book Number 7

The year is 1926. A milestone in the life of Agatha Christie. Her masterpiece The Murder of Roger Ackroyd has just been published, and she’s at the height of her literary powers. Yet, personal difficulties belie her success. Archie Christie, her husband of 12 years, has asked for a divorce, and her perplexing disappearance of 11 days has made headlines around the world. 

Nevertheless, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is Christie’s defining work, if not her most controversial. It’s considered by many to be one of the finest detective stories ever written. Of course, she employs some of her favorite themes such as blackmail, suicide, and poison, but its frank discussion of drug addiction and its use of “modern” technological gadgetry gives Roger Ackroyd a contemporary feel. It never seems dated. 

Christie’s conventional and deceptively simple writing style (almost cliche) can seem like a work of pulp fiction, but her careful pacing, effective use of humor, and keen psychological insights makes the book more than just a standard mystery.

Roger Ackroyd is foremost a Poirot mystery. Here, Christie shows us an unusually introspective Poirot. We understand some of Poirot’s pathos as he mournfully reflects on his retirement,

The chains of habit. We work to attain an object and the object gained, we find that what we miss is the daily toll.

Even her minor characters come alive. For example, Caroline Sheppard, the narrator’s nosy sister, is drawn as a believable and easily recognizable person, a person we’ve all known.  And unlike the Sherlock Holmes stories, which are almost unsolvable, Christie gives us all the clues needed to solve the mystery. Once the murderer is uncovered, we understand the book’s originality. 

Critics of the book have accused Christie of cheating, and to some extent, she did. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd violates many of the unwritten rules of the mystery-writing genre; yet, we don’t care. Christie has created such an original book that its ending still surprises eighty-seven years after its publication.

Rating: A+