DISCLAIMER: SPOILERS, SORRY!
Last year, on my inter-war year module at university, I was introduced to Agatha Christie. Since then, I’ve found myself more and more interested in her novels. Today, I thought I’d discuss two of her novels that I’ve recently read.
The first, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, I was asked to read for university. We were discussing the rise of crime fiction (otherwise known as the golden age of detective work) just after the First World War. In hindsight, I’m really glad I started off with this one. It was a fun read; the murder, the setting (the big, old English country house), and the characters were all truly riveting. After this, I read Christie’s most celebrated novel, Murder on the Orient Express. I wanted to read it before watching the new movie adaptation. Despite not enjoying it as much as the first, it was still a good read.
Let’s get into the mini reviews…
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd | 4 out of 5 stars:
As I had only seen a play adaptation of a Christie novel (it was And Then There Were None and it wonderful), this was my first introduction to her writing. It’s a murder mystery, centring on Roger Ackroyd, a man who knew too much. The woman he loved poisoned her first husband and somebody was blackmailing her about it, which ultimately led to her suicide. One evening, Ackroyd received a telegram detailing who the mystery blackmailer was, but he was dead before finishing it. The story then follows Hercule Poirot and his quest to solve the mystery.
This was such a surprise. I’m extremely picky when it comes to crime fiction, but this was definitely the best I’ve found so far. My only criticism would be the length. It was a little two long, meaning the story started to lose suspense around half way through. With this type of fiction, I need to be keep on the edge of my seat at all times, and the length often made this difficult. Despite this, it was a very intricate story, and the length allowed Christie more room to cast suspicion on various characters at different points of the novel.
The novel’s length did not hinder my enjoyment or surprise of the story’s outcome. It never occurred to me that our narrator, the only person we confided in, could have been the murderer. The way he spoke to the readers was intimate and trustworthy; I didn’t think for one second it could have been him. In hindsight, this was very calculated move on Christie’s behalf. As our narrator, Doctor Sheppard could have omitted certain information that made him seem suspicious. He was our unreliable narrator. I mean, he was working alongside Poirot, why would I ever doubt him? Taking this into consideration, I think Christie excels at writing crime fiction. For 368 pages, she keep me guessing who the murderer was.
This was my first introduction to Poirot. He was utterly brilliant, and I can’t wait to read more of his adventures. In my opinion, he is everything that Sherlock Holmes isn’t. He’s sarcastic, slightly arrogant, mysterious, flippant, and just a loveable character. If anyone has watched the recent film adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, you’d agree that Kenneth Branagh captured the very essence of our detective. He was everything I wanted Poirot to be and more. I think a film version of this story would be perfect; it’s suspenseful, shocking and will leave you feeling stumped by the end of it.
Murder on the Orient Express | 3 out of 5 stars:
Murder on the Orient Express is one of Christie’s most celebrated novel. For that reason, combined with the recent movie release, I’d been dying to get to it for ages. It’s a universally known tale; the infamous detective, Hercule Poirot, attempting to solve the murder of a man on a train caught in a snowdrift. But, unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my expectations.
Let’s start off with the positives: I enjoyed the narrative. I was constantly in the dark with who the murderer was. I was working alongside Poirot to solve this mystery (and the great thing about Poirot being our narrator is that he never gives anything away!). In the grand scheme of things, Christie is incredible at writing detective fiction. All of the stories I read or watched so far have had such intricate and complex plotline, with subplots occasionally overlapping. Taking into consideration how many crime novels she has written, her stories never get repetitive or predictable. This was definitely the case with Murder on the Orient Express.
However, this book did fall short for me. Towards the end (I’d say the last 40 pages or so), the narrative became a little boring and just utterly ridiculous. I was extremely disappointed with the big reveal. Reading nearly 300 pages to find out all of the suspects (I think there were 13?) were the murderers was frustrating, to say the least. I wanted to be shocked by the big news, and, for a time, it looked promising. They all sat there whilst Poirot went through them individually suggesting why this or that person could have murdered him. I was so annoyed when he declared them all guilty.
It was so unbelievable. All the suspects were from different countries, were different ages and genders, from different classes, etc. yet they all desired to destroy this one man. They somehow planned to catch this one train, and board in this one carriage, in order to do this. It just seems so beyond belief and totally unconvincing. It was a ridiculous outcome to a story bred on inconveniences. I was highly disappointed. I probably shouldn’t have gone into it with high hopes, but this story is talked about so much, why wouldn’t I? This doesn’t dissuade me from reading more of Christie’s novels, though. I love her writing style and how she constantly keeps me guessing.
After reading a couple of Sherlock Holmes short stories, I was reluctant to read Christie’s novels. I didn’t enjoy Doyle’s stories; the form didn’t allow the story to flourish and so the crime stories were unsatisfying. Despite Christie’s novels being longer, I doubted her ability to write such intricate stories. But I was so wrong. These were so fun to read, and I can’t wait to carry on with her Poirot series before branching out to her others.
I quickly want to mention that I love being able to read these stories in whatever order I want to. The odd story may make a reference to a past tale, although rarely, so you can pretty much read these back-to-front. I like having the freedom to pick which book to read next as, specifically with crime fiction, I am a mood reader. Not only this, but a lot of the books in Poirot’s series are centred around holidays, so I don’t want to be a Halloween-based story in February.
What’s your favourite Christie novel? I’d love to know!
Thanks for reading, Lauren X
2 thoughts on “Agatha Christie Mini Reviews:”
One of my favorite authors! I have not read Murder on the Orient Express, but I have to say I was not happy with myself for buying the movie and finding out everyone was the murderers LOL!