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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?: The Mystery Behind the Agatha Christie Mystery » User review

Bayard doesn't have a clue

  • Jan 7, 2002
  • by
The idea of a story entering the public domain and giving rise to a variety of interpretations and even, in the case of a mystery novel, to a new ending, is an interesting one. What a pity that Bayard lacks the analytical and writing skills to make a go of it. There is much wrong with this book, but I would like just to point out one glaring error. Bayard's 'solution' depends on Roger Ackroyd admitting the murderer through the french windows in his study. Unfortunately, there were no french windows in the study; they were in the drawing room. The study had sash windows. Although this invalidates Bayard's entire thesis, it is among the least of the problems with this book. The real mystery (more puzzling than anything Ms Christie could have dreamed up) is how this book got published in the first place.

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Penzler Pick,August 2000:Edmund Wilson, the famous literary critic, once inquired disdainfully (in an essay explaining his inability to develop the mystery-reading habit), "Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?" In a single sentence, with its reference to the notorious plot of Agatha Christie's sixth novel,The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, he struck deep at the collective spirit of a community of like-minded souls: the detective fiction readers of the world. Ever since 1926, when the novel in question was first published, helping to insure its author's reputation as the ruling queen of crafty crime, mystery fans have indeed cared. Passionately.

But until the arrival of this provocative rereading of the case, written by a psychoanalyst and translated from the French, it is likely that not one of them ever doubted the validity of the solution as worked out by the redoubtable Hercule Poirot. After all, if the author's own detective had incorrectly followed the clues laid down for him, what kind of unsteady ground was the reader left standing on?

Although Bayard makes it clear that those picking up his book don't necessarily have to return to the original text--he does give a very concise summary of the principal characters and actions of Christie's story--it is an exercise, really a pleasure, that I urge you toward. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is such a landmark of the genre that it is not just a bit of nostalgia, a form of genial time travel, but also a reminder of what the Golden Age...

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