The search for the world's favourite Agatha Christie novel
Bookseller Jonathan O'Brien makes the case for The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
HarperCollins are looking to find out which, out of all her books, is the World’s Favourite Agatha Christie novel. You can, of course, vote for whichever book you want but, before you do, let me take a moment to argue for the obviously correct choice, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.
If you’ve never read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, it’s difficult to sit down and tell you why to support it. I obviously can’t tell you how it ends as that would defeat the point of reading it. It’s difficult even to hint at why the ending is so special. There's a twist, of course it is, but it’s one that’s layered so expertly throughout the novel that to properly talk about the book would mean discussing how the ending is set up.
It was the first Agatha Christie book I read when I was going through that ‘Golden Age of Detective Fiction’ stage that I’ve convinced myself every teenager has. I had no idea what to expect but was looking for something lighter as a breathing gap between all the ‘proper’ novels that I was reading. ‘Something easy,’ I thought. ‘Something straightforward.’ It's easy to read, I was right about that much, but it is far from straightforward. By the end I had probably learnt more about writing than from almost any other books I’d read.
Agatha Christie’s reputation as a ‘cosy crime’ writer is hugely unfair. She was an absolute master of plot. Everything is revealed meticulously until, almost every single time, you’re left genuinely wrong-footed by who the culprit turns out to be. But then she always takes it a step further. She was an author who knew her genre inside out and could subvert convention like very few authors I’ve read. Unreliable narrators, double-twists, the lot. It takes an incredible amount of skill to write something that appears ‘cosy’ and straightforward when, at the same time, you’re doing something new and interesting. The most post-modern masterpiece does very little new compared to the now ninety years old The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.
Some might make the case for The Murder on the Orient Express, And Then There Were None or the admittedly under-rated The Seven Dials Mystery. They are all, I’m afraid to say, wrong. Wonderful books, all of them, but none have the sheer audacity of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. To try what it does, and to do it without cheating the reader, is nothing short of incredible.
If you agree, then cast your vote on here. If you don’t agree, forget all about that URL. No, that's not fair, this is a democracy, after all. Go! Go vote for your favourite!
As long as that favourite is The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.