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.