Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was one of the first mystery novels I read, almost 20 years ago, and it’s ending got me hooked on the adventures of the detective Hercule Poirot until I had exhausted them. I know it has the same effect on other people –it seems to be one of the most recognizable novels in the genre.
Well, it turns out Poirot might have been wrong all along. In Who Killed Roger Ackroyd, Pierre Bayard blasts Poirot’s shocking solution by pointing to all its glaring weaknesses, gives us a tour through the techniques by which Agatha Christie and other writers hide the truth in plain sight in their novels, discusses delusions and classical detective stories as far back as Oedipus Rex, and, in the tradition of the genre, presents his surprising solution near the end.
Though Bayard’s solution doesn’t have the shock factor of the original novel, it’s more logical, elegant, and poetic than Poirot’s –an excellent read if you enjoyed the original. Just two warnings: Bayard gives away the ending to a huge number of Christie’s plots, and the discussions on psychoanalysis and text interpretation get a bit heady at times. Whether you like that depends on your taste.