16-Jun-2011

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie



Rating - Read

Whenever I go home and spend a couple of days with the parents, I automatically regress by roughly twenty years. I act immature, eat lots of food, and spend the whole day reading and sleeping. This also means that I usually promptly put down the book I am reading and switch to ‘easy to read’ stuff and there is no better ‘easy to read’ stuff than Agatha Christie. The prolific author represented a growing up milestone where you shifted from books about kids solving mysteries to books about adults solving mysteries.

While I have graduated to darker and more insightful mystery novels, Christie never fails to thrill. This time at home, I read a whole bunch of short stories, some of them featuring the famous ‘Mr Harley Quinn’ (a character that still makes me feel uneasy with its ethereal presence). Back in Bombay, I googled for her most famous novel and a lot of sites threw up the above name. Surprisingly, in all these years, I had never read the book.

The novel is vintage Christie and vintage Poirot. The plot revolves around a rich man, Roger Ackroyd, being murdered in his own house. Just before he is murdered, he finds out that the wealthy widow he had been pursuing has committed suicide. He also finds out that the widow has killed herself out of remorse from poisoning her husband and having to live with the consequence. The house is full of relatives, friends, domestic servants and so on. Poirot, who has retired in this village, steps in to assist the local police force to solve the mystery.

Christie works on her usual device, planting clues in a manner designed to mislead you. She does this masterfully till the murderer is finally revealed.

I will not write much more about the story itself since that would risk revealing more than necessary.

However, I must say that I noticed something in the book that I had not noticed in my naïve youth. When Poirot takes on the case, he is careful to suggest to the Inspector-in-charge that the latter shall get all the glory that will come from solving the case. I have always remembered Poirot as rather proud of his abilities. I never quite realized that even he had to deal with the politics of his circumstances. Ah, I am older and wiser and read between the lines.

The other interesting point was how much Poirot sounds like a Belgian created by a non-Belgian. Having interacted closely with the French, I have started noticing their penchant for saying things in a French way. This usually includes awkward grammar and the French pronunciation of an English word (eg ‘Idee’ for ‘idea’). Poirot, (though admittedly not French) has perfect sentence construction and the only French he uses come in full sentences. Not that it takes away the charm of his character but again, I am older and wiser I guess.

On the book itself, I am not sure if this is her best book since over the years, at different ages I have been impressed by different books of her. It is definitely one good read and a perfect book for a rainy day when you have decided to stay indoors.

1 comment:

Sonal said...

i can read and re-read (after a considerable time gap)agatha christie anytime ...she never fails to thrill. though her books seem so simple, they always have that suspense element which makes the read enjoyable.i also love the characterisation of poirot and miss marple. my other mystery favourite is rex stout and his characters nero wolfe and archie goodwin. sadly not much in print so have nt read them all.