Constant suspense, high tension, frustrating clues, a well-developed plot, and believability: these are all elements of a great murder mystery. Agatha Christie, considered by many to be one of the greatest mystery writers ever, brought all of these together in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Published in 1926, this story kicks off after Roger, the wealthiest man in the village, is found murdered. Christie puts her own brilliant spin on a classic whodunit, including just the right amount of suspense and plot twists to make readers want to tear their hair out and keep turning the pages.
Before the death of Roger Ackroyd, the widow Mrs. Ferrars, Roger’s soon-to-be wife, committed suicide with an overdose of sleeping medication. She was rumored to have murdered her first husband and consequently killed herself over her guilt.
Roger confides in his good friend Dr. James Sheppard, who is also the narrator, about a suicide note that Mrs. Ferrars wrote in which she confesses killing her husband and reveals she was being blackmailed. Dr. Sheppard’s retired detective neighbor, Hercule Poirot, offers to help. Together, the team hunts evidence, traces clues, and stumbles on shocking, almost unbelievable discoveries to crack the mystery.
The plot is a roller coaster of half-bitten nail beds and sweaty palms, leaving readers telling themselves, “Just one more page before bed.” Christie pulls readers into the mystery, having them work alongside Poirot to solve the crime.
Hercule Poirot is one of Christie’s most well-known and likable characters. Through Dr. Sheppard’s eyes, Poirot is eccentric and always able to turn a simple statement into an amusingly odd philosophical lecture. However, Poirot’s incredible observational skills and reputation for solving crimes balances out these eccentricities. When asked about his talent, Poirot replies with his signature catchphrase: you just have to use your “little grey cells,” meaning that using common sense and the clues around you is all there is to solving mysteries.
Poirot is a character with so many dimensions that readers may feel like he’s a real person. The narrator, Dr. Sheppard, is also the village doctor, as well as a kind gentlemen. He works alongside Poirot, to the great enjoyment of his sister, Caroline, the town-gossip. Caroline’s goal is to know anything and everything before everyone else, and murder is definitely an interesting topic. Her constant pestering of Dr. Sheppard is comical yet endearing. Whether it’s Poirot’s thought-provoking ways, or Caroline’s enthusiastic personality, the development and uniqueness of each character lightens the mood of the tension-filled mystery, making an entertaining read.
Although The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is everything a mystery novel should be, Christie sometimes tests her readers’ patience. However, as frustrating as these constant plot twists may be, they only add to the suspense, thrill, and mystery. Frustrating? Yes. Make or break? No!
Agatha Christie isn’t one of the bestselling authors of all time for no reason. Her books have sold over 2 billion copies in 100 languages. Commonly referred to as the Queen of Crime, she will leave you dazed by her writing. For the most thrilling and downright shocking story you will ever read, pick up one of Christie’s most talked about novels to find out … who killed Roger Ackroyd?
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.