The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

by Agatha Christie

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Discuss "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd" as a detective story.

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This 1926 Christie mystery is considered a classic in the murder mystery genre. It is a breakthrough story in being told in the first-person voice of the murderer himself, leading to a surprise ending. It was voted the best crime story of all time in 2013 by the British Crime Writers' Association.

Christie achieves the extraordinary feat of having the story told by the murderer, Dr. James Sheppard, without Sheppard revealing outright that he committed the crime. She has him give us enough clues to suspect he is the perpetrator but also uses the literary device of elision, in which he elides or leaves out clues, while at the same time he provides enough information that if we were not primed by literary convention to believe the narrator of the tale could not also be the murderer, we might suspect him of the crime. In simpler language, we simply don't expect the person telling the story of a murder to be the murderer unless he tells us so outright, which Sheppard does not do.

For an example of elision, Sheppard discusses looking at curios in a curio case at Roger Ackroyd's before eating dinner with him and other guests at his home. Sheppard even mentions lifting the glass lid of the case, but doesn't mention seeing or removing what turns out to be the murder weapon: that crucial fact is elided or left out, leaving it to the reader to do the infill.

For writing a paper on this novel, I would focus on the way that Christie uses readers' expectations of narrative convention against us. We don't, for example, expect first-person narrators to be murderers, and we don't expect Sheppard to leave out important facts about a murder case that is the central subject of his story. Christie is able to mislead us as readers by defying our expectations.

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