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'The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd' Summary of the book
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was Christie’s sixth novel and was published in 1926. It was the third novel that featured the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. Like many of her other novels, the book is set in a small town and focuses on the interactions between characters who are well known to one another.
When the novel was first published, critical reactions were mixed because of the unusual narrative structure. Christie chose to have the murderer tell the story from his point of view. This device caused some consternation because some believed that Christie was not “playing fair” with her readers. They reasoned that, in crime fiction, if the novel is to be fair, the reader should be able to follow the same path the detective does in order to solve the crime. Some believed that by having the narrator as the murderer, the reader would not be able to follow the path of the clues, since the murderer would, in order to protect his identity, conceal certain key pieces of information.
Christie circumvents this problem in several ways. First, Dr. Sheppard is an extremely believable character. Because of the remorseful tone he assumes at the beginning of the novel, the reader immediately trusts him and his observations. In addition, Poirot appears to trust Sheppard, including him in discussions with the police and, as Poirot admits, using Sheppard as a substitute for Captain Hastings, who had played Dr. Watson to Poirot’s Sherlock Holmes in previous novels. Thus, the reader is led to trust Sheppard because Poirot trusts him.
Sheppard also establishes an intimate rapport with the reader through the use of first-person narrative. The reader is privy to what are assumed to be the doctor’s private thoughts about Ackroyd’s murder. Poirot also confides in Sheppard and often asks his opinion of people within the town. Again, this action on the part of Christie serves to inspire confidence in the narrator; the reader does not suspect him because Poirot does not, and because Christie has, as in previous novels, established Poirot as a reliable source and a good judge of human nature.
Another aspect to the novel in regard to the narration is the comparatively small role that Poirot plays. The reader is accustomed to seeing him as the main character—almost as a master puppeteer who guides the movements of all around him. In fact, the readers expect Poirot to manipulate them, for this is the nature of crime fiction in general: The reader is manipulated by the detective to see things his or her way. Christie, however, chooses to radically depart from this formula. Instead of Poirot manipulating the reader, Sheppard manipulates both the reader and Poirot. The reader is unaware of this subterfuge, however, until the end of the novel, when all the other probable suspects have been eliminated and only Sheppard remains. The reader is then privy to Sheppard’s confession, and all the pieces to this very complex puzzle fall into place. (enotes.com)
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