When Agatha Christie’s Murder of Roger Ackroyd came out in 1926, it created a sensation for its surprise ending. Hercule Poirot, the little egg-headed Belgian detective is dragged out of retirement as he unsuccessfully tries to grow vegetable marrows to find out who killed the rich country gentleman. In a recent poll, the Crime Writers’ Association voted the novel as the best whodunit ever — incidentally another Christie novel, The Murder on the Orient Express, was also on the shortlist. MINI ANTHIKAD-CHHIBBER talks to authors who have written crime fiction for their opinion
Zac O Yeah
Once Upon a time in Scandanavistan, Mr. Majestic
I think The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is certainly among the most gimmicky whodunits, but out of Christie's books I personally find And Then There Were None a much more intriguing whodunit considering that in the latter everybody seems to die - including any possible doer or perp! Besides, I'd like to point out that the Roger Ackroyd gimmick was already used more than 30 years before Christie did it, by Israel Zangwill in his The Big Bow Mystery, which at least in my eyes rates as a far more important whodunit and howdunit rolled into one. The whodunit is actually a very artifical construct. I'd also like to highlight The Hollow Man by John Dickson Carr which, in the tradition of The Big Bow Mystery, actually combines the whodunit with the locked-room mystery to great effect. The somewhat old-fashioned whodunit has interestingly got new life these days through the modern horror movies, such as Wes Craven's Scream series, and I think I kind of like that.
Yes, Roger Ackroyd is a great book. As always, with Agatha Christie, it is not the plot but the telling of it. The character of the narrator is brilliantly developed. I don't grade books I like, though! Christie wrote another whodunit just as expertly, it’s a very dark edgy book for her — Endless Night.
What's my favourite whodunit? I don't know, really, but my first love was the Sherlock Holmes story The Blue Carbuncle, and I think I'll stay faithful to that.
C. K. Meena
Dreams for the Dying
I don't know if it is the best whodunit ever because I have read many that I consider more superior. But it is a milestone in my career as a reader because the ending simply took my breath away and it was the first mystery I'd read which did that — given me such a totally unexpected, impossible-to-guess ending.
A Long Quiet Holiday
I definitely don’t consider Roger Ackroyd the best crime novel. Roger Ackroyd stands out because it is the sort of apotheosis of the Agatha Christie style crime novel, which is really a sort of game between the reader and the writer, where the key is to surprise the reader, and Roger Ackroyd has an exceptionally surprising end- surprising even to experienced players of this game. Maybe so surprising that it exposes the limitations of the genre- because afterwards, you realize how much the author was trying to hide the book's secret- and that makes you realize that this was more a game than a book.
So perhaps it's the most striking of this genre of detective novels as games, but that's a limited genre. There are many much better books which are also crime fiction. I can name two favourites, The Name of the Rose, and The Brothers Karamazov. Because they are both great books, with great, complex characters, and important things to say, and apart from the surprises they spring on the reader, that's what's most memorable about them.
Cut Like Wound
I haven’t read Murder of Roger Ackroyd. In fact the last book I read was 4.50 from Paddington. So I really don’t know if I could comment on the book. Do I have a favourite whodunit? Not really. With each new crime novel I read I just find that what I really like about a murder mystery is the writing rather than the plotting.