The Tuesday Night Bloggers are a group of crime fiction fans who choose a different topic each month, then write a weekly post on it. Our current theme is 'A is for April, A is for Anything'. We can take the A any way we want to, so there have been some very varied blogposts….
Please join in if you would like to – one-offs and casuals always welcome.
This month I am collecting the links, so just let me know (in the comments below or on Facebook) if you have anything to add.
Brad at the Ah Sweet Mystery blog did a post on Alfred Hitchcock
Kate at Cross-Examing Crime looked at Aristocratic Sleuths
The Puzzle Doctor at In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel is wondering about favourite Agatha Christie novels, and looking for audience participation
As ever, Bev at My Reader’s Block did the splendid logo.
In previous weeks I have done posts on Agatha Christie, Catherine Aird, and Patricia Wentworth’s seminal Anna Where Are You
And this week I am back to Agatha Christie, and one of her most famous works:
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christiepublished 1926
'England is very beautiful,' said Poirot, his eyes straying over the prospect. Then he smiled. 'And so are English girls,' he said in a lower voice. 'Hush, my friend, and look at the pretty picture below us.'
It was then that I saw Flora. She was moving along the path we had just left and she was humming a little snatch of song. Her step was more dancing than walking, and, in spite of her black dress, there was nothing but joy in her whole attitude. She gave a sudden pirouette on her toes, and her black draperies swung out. At the same time she flung her head back and laughed outright.
As she did so a man stepped out from the trees. It was Hector Blunt.
The girl started. Her expression changed a little.
'How you startled me - I didn't see you.' Blunt said nothing, but stood looking at her for a minute or two in silence.
[Earlier, when the body was discovered, Flora was in bed] Flora descended the staircase. She was wrapped in a pale pink silk kimono. She looked anxious and excited.
commentary: As I am forever saying, a middling murder story is much the best one to re-read: you may well not remember the solution, or important details, and such a book can be full of surprises. But no-one who has read it will have forgotten the solution of Roger Ackroyd (and that’s true for at least a dozen other Christies too) – so is there any interest in re-reading?
Yes, definitely, is my experience. First of all you can admire the writing – there must be 20 different points, tiny unnoticed turns of phrase, that mean something new when you know the secret. And secondly, it is full of fascinating details of the time and the place and the kind of village they all live in. And thirdly it is a very entertaining and very funny book.
It’s more than 90 years old (astonishingly) and that adds interesting points – someone has made a fortune in wagon wheels (no, not the chocolate snack beloved of 1970s youth), dictaphones and lie detectors are new and mysterious, and one character has made his own wireless. The attitudes are old-fashioned too: is the maid too well-educated? – but at least she is still prepared to wear a cap and apron. A proper flapper young lady has ‘boyish shoulders and slight hips’. And a goose quill, intriguingly, brings a suggestion of drug-taking. Poirot has a mysterious housekeeper – an old lady in a Breton cap. Whatever became of her? (Buried under the vegetable marrows perhaps.)
The relationship between Dr Sheppard and his sister Caroline is hilarious. At one point she is longing to tell her brother the latest gossip, but then in mid-story he mentions in passing that he has met their new and unknown neighbor (who is going to turn out to be Poirot):
Caroline visibly wavered for a second or two, much as if a roulette ball might coyly hover between two numbers. Then she declined the tempting red herring.So she continues with her story of a male character meeting up secretly with an unknown female. Her brother then says:
‘I suppose you hurried on to the Three Boars, felt faint, and went into the bar for a glass of brandy, and so were able to see if both the barmaids were on duty?’It’s been suggested that Caroline contains the seeds of Miss Marple, and you can totally see Miss M counting the barmaids in the pub in an attempt to identify an unknown girl.
There is a Mah Jong party at which information, gossip, rumour and speculation are exchanged, and it is a tour de force of village life and jokes –
‘The Chinese put down the tiles so quickly it sounds like little birds pattering.’It is as funny as anything from EF Benson’s Mapp and Lucia.
For some minutes we played like the Chinese.
As a detective story – Christie plays fair, but there is information which is not given to the reader. It is so hard now to imagine someone reading it for the first time, and not being ultra-aware, looking out for a surprise twist: but I think a blank reader would be unlikely to guess the solution. Two secret meetings in, and a separate visit from the murderer to, the summer-house: sounds a bit much, but Christie never really minded that. I loved the silver table – such an Agatha Christie item in books and in real life; she was an avid, manic, magpie-like collector of bits and pieces, and you can see shed-loads of them at her house in Devon, Greenway. But I still don’t know why Miss Russell closed the silver table… And I don’t know why neither Sheppard or Parker thought of going round to the window when they were worried that Ackroyd wasn’t responding.
The ending is sad and creepy, as much so as the first time I read the book, which must be 40 years ago.
Truly this is one of the great detective stories of all time, and will be read forever.
Flora in black is a 1929 photo from Kristine’s photostream.
Pink silk kimono is by Frederick Carl Frieseke, from the Athenaeum.