CBR Bingo: Elephant
I am an Agatha Christie freak. I love everything she’s ever written and have read almost all of her books. One of her most famous books, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, is known for its ingenious twist. For many years I was excited to read the book. One day I was browsing my mother’s books, when I found a guide to all of Christie’s novels—basically a reading list, in the order they were written and in some cases the order they should be read. I flipped through the book looking up mysteries I had already read; each novel had a brief synopsis that didn’t reveal the ending. Or so I thought. I looked up The Murder of Roger of Ackroyd, and was promptly spoiled as the synopsis gave the ending away. The ending was amazing, so I was livid. I never picked up the book as a result. Why bother if I knew the ending?
Fast forward to the present day. I still remember the ending, rats. But I decided that didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy the book. In fact, I could look for clues to the ending; usually I miss those bits of information (I am not a detail-oriented reader). It was 99 cents on Amazon and it fit a Bingo category. So here we are.
Needless to say, no spoilers.
Hercule Poirot has retired to a small village to grow zucchini. His faithful, if dopey, sidekick Hastings has moved to Argentina. Poirot hilariously laments:
Also, I had a friend—a friend who for many years never left my side. Occasionally of an imbecility to make one afraid, nevertheless he was very dear to me. Figure to yourself that I miss even his stupidity. His naïveté, his honest outlook, the pleasure of delighting and surprising him by my superior gifts—all these I miss more than I can tell you.”
I missed Hastings myself. But Poirot finds another sidekick of sorts, and before you know it, a prominent townsman, Roger Ackroyd, is murdered. Despite his retirement, Poirot is drawn into the investigation. There are a fair number of suspects, and Poirot with no great humility (as always) brings his little grey cells to bear on the case.
Because I am so paranoid about giving anything away, I shall keep this short and vague. As the story unfolds, secrets are revealed and relationships exposed. Knowing who the murderer was in advance, I found there were a fair number of clues and inferences pointing the way. They were not obvious, though; when the ending came I still felt a thrill at the solution. I highly recommend this book for any mystery lover. Christie’s cleverness is on full display
Elephant: There is a parable of different blind men feeling parts of an elephant. They only encounter their particular piece—the nose, the tail, the ears, the tusk, etc.—so their understanding of the creature is made in isolation; each man understands what an elephant is based on their own limited experience. This is like a mystery: everyone has their own bits of information, but they cannot describe the whole because they are limited in what they see, and may disagree what the mystery is really about. But Poirot sees the whole elephant. To this point, in the book it states: “Everyone had a hand in the elucidation of the mystery. It was rather like a jig-saw puzzle to which everyone contributed their own little piece of knowledge or discovery. But their task ended there. To Poirot alone belongs the renown of fitting those pieces into their correct place.” Poirot himself says at one point, “Of facts, I keep nothing to myself. But to everyone his own interpretation of them.”
Note: I know this could have easily fit under the “Cozy” category, but I went for the more unusual interpretation, in honor of this year’s Bingo’s exhortation to creativity!