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Better than Marrows

17 Aug

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

One of Agatha Christie’s earlier works, yet consistently rated one of her best, and I can see why. Everything fits together neatly, as usual, giving the reader the standard “I never would have worked all that out, but now I can see it’s the only possible explanation” feeling upon completion; the complications of the villain attempting to cover their tracks, but also numerous other characters having secrets to hide makes for a confusing time for all concerned.

Except Poirot (temporarily unretired from his quiet life growing marrows), of course; maddening as ever, he smugly hints at details only he knows the significance of. The most annoying thing is, he’s right.

That said, I did guess (and I use the term intentionally) the identity of the murderer. But it was purely through having ruled out most everyone else, and a vague feeling that they weren’t being entirely truthful rather than any understanding of how it all played out. I was as surprised as anyone else by the details.

I do remember feeling at some points, however, that whodunnits can tend to age badly. Technologically, socially, culturally, the setting comes across as quite alien. Not so strange as to be unrelateable—humans will be humans, then and now—but strange enough that you either don’t realise the meaning behind certain details, or don’t notice them at all.

*** SPOILERS ABOUND FROM HERE ON OUT ***

I realise it’s a little silly to claim spoilers for a book that was published nearly 90 years ago, but the puzzle and the reveal is the whole raison d’être of the whodunnit genre.

What I like about the book is the masterful use of the “unreliable narrator”. It has the required “last person you would expect” that any good whodunnit should, along with “the one person with an unquestioned alibi”. Any genre-savvy detective should realise that anyone who doesn’t have an alibi is obviously innocent, and arrest the person who has arranged matters to make it obvious they couldn’t possibly be the murderer. 🙂

As I said, I guessed Dr. Sheppard was probably the culprit, having decided the phone call was to provide him with an alibi (establishing him as being at home at whatever-time-it-was). I had no clue it was to ensure he was first on the scene and could “clean up”. I also hadn’t the foggiest about the boots, the ring, the quill, the scrap, the chair, or the footprints, but was impressed that it all made sense in the end.

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2 Comments

Posted by on August 17, 2015 in Other, Review

 

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2 responses to “Better than Marrows

  1. Christine Bezar

    August 19, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    Hi [name redacted], [name redacted] has the Poirot DVD if ever you wanted to watch how they filmed this! Chris

    PS I am currently re-reading Thomas Hardy. I am enjoying his descriptions. How do these strike you?

    “…a singular framework of clothes with nothing of any consequence inside them, which advanced with the toes in no definite direction forwards, but turned in or out as they chanced to swing.”

    Or “This lady called herself 25, looked 30, passed as 35, and was 40.”

    And “She moved between them as a chaise between carts”

    And even an example of an author’s contempt for one of his characters: “The throw was the idea of a man conjoined with the execution of a woman. No man….could possibly have thrown with such utter imbecility as was shown here.”   !!!!

     
    • knightowl

      August 19, 2015 at 9:02 pm

      Hi there—please keep things anonymous, this is posted openly.

      I’ve heard the filmed version is noticeably inferior, which doesn’t surprise me as so much of the story hinges on literary techniques.

      Those descriptions are interesting, but seem overly complicated (though they may work better in context). I quite like short, nuanced statements, like a house having been “pulled down and a garage perpetrated upon its site” from Cold Comfort Farm.

       

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