Actually it was more like a double what, because not only was it a really daring ending, especially for being published in 1926, but I actually guessed the murderer! That has never happened to me before. I am THE WORST at guessing mystery endings. I am gullible and trusting and passive as a reader. Authors: take advantage of me shamelessly, and I will enjoy it. Make no mistake, it was entirely a guess. No deductions involved whatsoever. I merely thought of the thing I thought least likely and picked it. That it turned out to be true, and worked beautifully, is entirely accidental (on my part, not Agatha Christie’s–her part was brilliant).
I’m going to split the rest of this review up into spoiler and non-spoiler sections, because I just have to talk about the ending.
Spoiler Free Zone: Knowing the ending for me is coloring everything I have to say about the rest of the book, but there are some things I am free to say without spoiling you. Firstly, the premise. The titular Roger Ackroyd, fresh off the suicide of his fiance, is murdered mysteriously in a country estate. Hercule Poirot is living next door in retirement, and is brought in on the case by Mr. Ackroyd’s niece. The narrator, and Poirot’s assistant for the case, is Dr. James Sheppard. He lives with his spinster sister Caroline, whom I adore. She plays daft but is actually very sharp. And of course, there are an assortment of relatives and friends who all behave mysteriously enough to warrant suspicion, and Poirot does his Poirot thing of being small and cute and condescending all at the same time.
As a sidenote, I would highly recommend the audiobook for this one. Hugh Fraser does a wonderful job. His voice is like butter.
Spoilers Ahoy: Seriously don’t keep reading if you don’t want to know. At the end of the book, Poirot warns all the major suspects that he is going to tell them everything, and that it would be in their best interest to give up all their secrets before he does it for them. This includes our narrator, Dr. Sheppard, who turns out to have been helping conceal the main suspect in the investigation, and having given no evidence of it in his account even to us the readers. And there’s a reason for this, which is that the book we are reading is actually a document Sheppard constructed for the sole purpose of being read after the fact. He was convinced Poirot would be unable to solve the case, and like Poirot’s past assistants, he could publish the document to acclaim. Only Poirot does solve the case and Dr. Sheppard is found out. Dr. Sheppard is the murderer. There were subtle clues all throughout the book, more in what he as narrator doesn’t say than what he does. It was one of these instances that caused me to wonder, Hey, what if he was the murderer? And then I giggled a bunch, I’m sure. The book then becomes an artifact of the mystery itself. To get even more spoilery, Poirot allows Sheppard to finish up the book as a sort of confession, before Sheppard kills himself to save face. It was all very British.
The ending retroactively made the rest of the book rise up several levels in my eyes, and I’d love an eventual re-read to see if I can pick up on all the clues.