Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie.


Part of the noir reading list I put together for my thesis with the help of Robert Polito and Jeffery Allen. As such, it was "required reading."

This was actually the first mystery I read for the project, and having read it last November, my memory gets a little hazy. While it's certainly not as dark as either the Cain or Hammett, it has a chilling conclusion that is much more frightening, by contrast to the tone throughout. This won't be of much use in Rats, where there is nothing atmospherically subtle, and the book almost fooled me, but I did get a lot out of the way it systematically deployed clues for interpretation.

Of all the books I've read, this is the closest to a traditional whodunnit.

I'm really in a bind as whether or not to say much more, because even for a mystery the element of surprise, the choreographed deployment of information, is essential to an enjoyable read. It is certainly best suited to a reading that is itself, asmospheric... so old Viennese coffee shop with a fire, maybe, or a late night with hot chocolate. I know I'm bordering on the clich♪8 here, but I always want to respond that only affectation is clichè. Or, how can a "thing" be clichè? It wasn't the first time it was used.

Anyway, that's a digression. The characters are strikingly rendered, albeit with an almost Dickensian whimsicality. It contrasts with the other books I've been reading in that most of the characters are ultimately likeable. I don't think that's a virtue in-and-of itself, but it is refreshing in the midst of bleakness. Also, the paradox that solving the mystery requires a careful and methodical read, whereas encourages fast and reckless page-turning, is pronounced here. It is probably the best crafted of the thesis readings I've done so far.

Which is probably part of the reason Agatha Christie was so famous.



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