"The Murder of Roger Ackroyd" is a brilliantly written mystery where it is almost impossible to guess the murderer. Its twist ending has been praised by critics and is said to have influenced the development of the mystery genre in general.
At the beginning of the story, Poirot, who has solved a great deal of cases and made quite a name for himself, decides to retire at the height of his powers. He settles quietly in a small village called King's Abbott and devotes himself to quieter pursuits like growing vegetable marrows (a type of summer squash). However, retirement does not agree with him and in one very funny scene, he gets so irritated with gardening that he pulls out a vegetable marrow and throws it in the direction of his neighbor, Dr. Sheppard's house, almost injuring the good doctor.
After making Dr. Sheppard's acquaintance in this unconventional way, Poirot takes him on as a sidekick, a role previously filled by Captain Hastings who has now moved to South America. There are many similarities between Dr. Sheppard and Captain Hastings, both being straightforward, intelligent men with no street smarts. Dr. Sheppard's sister, Caroline, is also an amusing and likable character; she is an inveterate gossip who knows everything that's going on in the village. She has a vast network including friends, servants, delivery boys, etc. When anything happens in the village, one person tells another and Caroline soon hears about it.
Roger Ackroyd is actually someone that Poirot knew before coming to King's Abbott, when he was not yet retired. So when he is killed, Poirot immediately takes an interest in discovering the identity of the killer. The suspects include Ackroyd's stepson, Ralph Paton; Ackroyd's sister-in-law and her daughter Flora, both of whom live with him; his secretary, Geoffrey Raymond; and Major Blunt, a big-game hunter. There's also something suspicious about the butler who seems to listen at doors more than doing his job and the maid, Ursula Bourne, who gives notice right around the time of the murder.
Given that this is Christie, the murder investigation is also peppered with a couple of romances. At the beginning, Flora is engaged to Ralph Paton but later realizes that it's really Major Blunt whom she cares for. As for Paton, his affections are also secretly engaged elsewhere but he has bigger problems because he is the main suspect. Poirot looks into various little things that we don't entirely understand, such as the color of Ralph Paton's boots, an interesting detail that is explained in the end when the murderer is revealed.
Overall, this is definitely one of Christie's most engaging mysteries, with striking characters and an ingenious plot. It's just intriguing enough to bring Poirot out of retirement so that he can amaze us once again with his brilliant powers of deduction.
Agatha Christie was born in 1890 to an American father and an English mother. She was homeschooled at first and later sent to finishing schools in France. She was quite precocious as a young girl and taught herself to read by the age of five. She was married twice, first to Archibald Christie who ended up leaving her for another woman. Her second marriage, to archaeologist Max Mallowan was more successful and lasted until her death. Both Mallowan and Christie were knighted for their contributions to their fields. Currently, her works have grossed 4 billion dollars and rank third in the world, after the works of Shakespeare and the Bible. Her play, The Mousetrap, is the longest-running play in history.
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