The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

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Asked to investigate the murder of Roger Ackroyd, Poirot realises he must delve deeper into the circumstances surrounding an earlier suspicious death ... One of the 100 best crime novels.

"The tale may be recommended as one of the cleverest and most original of its kind."

The Scotsman, 1926


About this story

First released

July 1925 (serialised in The Evening News, UK)

Genre

  • Murder Mystery

Formats

  • Novel, 
  • Play, 
  • Radio Play, 
  • Graphic Novel, 
  • Film, 
  • TV

Recurring characters

  • Poirot

Murder methods

Setting

  • House

Known for its startling reveal, this is the book that changed Agatha Christie's career. The first of her novels to be published by William Collins, its release in June 1926 was unwittingly enflamed by the eleven-day manhunt for her whereabouts in December of that year, but that aside it is more than worthy of a spotlight for its own merits.

As Laura Thompson writes in her biography, "This twist is not merely a function of plot: it puts the whole concept of detective fiction on an armature and sculpts it into a dazzling new shape. It was not an ...

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Known for its startling reveal, this is the book that changed Agatha Christie's career. The first of her novels to be published by William Collins, its release in June 1926 was unwittingly enflamed by the eleven-day manhunt for her whereabouts in December of that year, but that aside it is more than worthy of a spotlight for its own merits.

As Laura Thompson writes in her biography, "This twist is not merely a function of plot: it puts the whole concept of detective fiction on an armature and sculpts it into a dazzling new shape. It was not an entirely new idea ... nor was it entirely her own idea ... but here, she realised, was an idea worth having. And only she could have pulled it off so completely. Only she had the requisite control, the willingness to absent herself from the authorial scene and let her plot shine clear."

Agatha Christie revealed in her autobiography that the basic idea was first given to her by her brother-in-law, James Watts of Abney Hall. In March 1924, Christie also received a letter from Lord Mountbatten, who was impressed by her previous works and wrote to her with an idea and notes for a story. Mountbatten’s basic premise echoed Watt’s suggestion – Christie acknowledged the letter and began writing the book to her own plotline.

In 1944-1946, the noted American literary critic Edmund Wilson attacked the entire mystery genre in a set of three columns in The New Yorker. The second, in the January 20, 1945 issue, was titled "Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?" Pierre Bayard, literature professor and author, in Qui a tué Roger Ackroyd? (Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?), re-investigates Agatha Christie's Ackroyd, proposing an alternative solution. He argues in favour of a different murderer and says Christie subconsciously knew who the real culprit was.

The book formed the basis of the earliest adaptation of any work of Christie's when the play, Alibi, adapted by Michael Morton, opened at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London on May 15, 1928. It ran for 250 performances with Charles Laughton in the role of Poirot. Laughton also starred in the Broadway run of the play which was retitled The Fatal Alibi and opened at the Booth Theatre on February 8, 1932. The American production was not as successful as the British had been and closed after just 24 performances.

Alibi is especially notable as it inspired Christie to write her first original stage play. She had attended, along with her dog Peter, the rehearsals of Alibi and found its "novelty" enjoyable, however, the many changes irritated her. And so Black Coffee was written. Alibi was turned into the first sound film to be based on an Agatha Christie work in 1931. Austin Trevor played Poirot and was the first movie actor to do so.

Orson Welles adapted the novel as a one-hour radio play for the November 12, 1939, episode of the Campbell Playhouse. Welles himself played both Dr Sheppard and Hercule Poirot. And in 1987 John Moffat debuted as Poirot in the 90 minute radio dramatisation of the novel for BBC Radio 4, a role he would continue to play throughout his career.

It was filmed for television with David Suchet as Poirot in 2000. In 2002, the story was made into a Russian film titled Неудача Пуаро ("Neudacha Puaro"/"Poirot's Failure"). This film version was overall quite faithful to the original story. The graphic novel adaptation was published in France in 2004 and later translated into English and released in the UK and Canada.

"The Murder of Roger Ackroyd makes breathless reading from first to the unexpected last"

The Observer, 1926



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