(I realize I’m crossing fictional detective streams here with my review title, but it felt appropriate.) The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is often considered one of Agatha Christie’s best novels, and I’ve been excited to get to it as I work my way through all the Poirot novels in order. However, when I started reading it, I realized I was already familiar with the story.
While the first two Poirot novels and short story collection are narrated by Poirot’s friend, Captain Hastings, the captain doesn’t appear in this book. Instead, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is narrated by a Dr. Sheppard, the doctor in a small village where one Roger Ackroyd has been murdered. As it happens, Poirot has recently retired to this very village and is soon working to solve the case alongside the local police. Dr. Sheppard fills the Captain Hastings role in the investigation, as well, serving as Poirot’s companion as he investigates the many suspects.
This book is famous for its surprising ending, but like I said, as I started reading it I realized that somewhere along the way I had already read or seen what the ending was. So for me, the question was, did knowing the ending ruin the pleasure of reading this clever book?
Luckily, the answer to that question is no. If anything, knowing from the start what had happened increased my enjoyment. I found it easier to read thoughtfully and notice the subtle ways that Christie inserted hints for the reader. Even though I really enjoy a good mystery, I sometimes struggle with the suspense of it all, and start reading at top speed just to figure out what happened. With The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, there was no reason to speed through it, so I took my time and just enjoyed the story.
I once read an article about a study that looked at whether knowing spoilers reduced people’s enjoyment of a TV show or movie. I think it depends on the person. While I love a good twist, suspense makes me antsy and a little frantic. Count me in the camp of those who like a good spoiler.