Modèle:Infobox Book The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a work of detective fiction by Agatha Christie, first published in the UK by William Collins & Sons in June 1926[1] and in the United States by Dodd, Mead and Company on the 19th of the same month.[2] It features Hercule Poirot as the lead detective. The UK edition retailed at seven shillings and sixpence (7/6)[1] and the US edition at $2.00.[2]

It is one of Christie's best known and most controversial novels, its innovative twist ending having a significant impact on the genre. The short biography of Christie which is included in the present UK printings of all of her books states that this novel is her masterpiece. Howard Haycraft, in his seminal 1941 work, Murder for Pleasure, included the novel in his "cornerstones" list of the most influential crime novels ever written.[3] The character of Caroline Sheppard was later acknowledged by Christie as a possible precursor to her famous detective Miss Marple.[4]

Plot summaryModifier

The book is set in the fictional village of King's Abbott in England. It is narrated by Dr. James Sheppard, who becomes Poirot's assistant (a role filled by Captain Hastings in several other Poirot novels). The story begins with the death of Mrs. Ferrars, a wealthy widow who is rumoured to have murdered her husband. Her death is initially believed to be an accident until Roger Ackroyd, a widower who had been expected to marry Mrs. Ferrars, reveals that she admitted to killing her husband and then committed suicide. Shortly after this he is found murdered. The suspects include Mrs. Cecil Ackroyd, Roger's neurotic hypochondriac sister-in-law who has accumulated personal debts through extravagant spending; her daughter Flora; Major Blunt, a big-game hunter; Geoffrey Raymond, Ackroyd's personal secretary; Ralph Paton, Ackroyd's stepson and another person with heavy debts; Parker, a snooping butler; and Ursula Bourne, a parlourmaid with an uncertain history who resigned her post the afternoon of the murder.

The initial suspect is Ralph, who is engaged to Flora and stands to inherit his stepfather's fortune. Several critical pieces of evidence seem to point to Ralph. Poirot, who has just moved to the town, begins to investigate at Flora's behest.

Characters in The Murder of Roger AckroydModifier

  • Hercule Poirot — retired detective who investigates the central murder
  • Roger Ackroyd — country gentleman, distressed about the recent death of his paramour, Mrs. Ferrars
  • Mrs. Cecil Ackroyd — Mr. Ackroyd's widowed sister-in-law
  • Flora Ackroyd — Mr. Ackroyd's niece and Mrs. Cecil Ackroyd's daughter
  • Ralph Paton — Mr. Ackroyd's stepson, often referred to as his "adopted" son
  • Ursula Bourne — Mr. Ackroyd's parlourmaid, recently quit
  • Major Hector Blunt — big game hunter, Roger Ackroyd's friend and houseguest
  • Geoffrey Raymond — Mr. Ackroyd's secretary
  • John Parker — Mr. Ackroyd's butler
  • Elizabeth Russell — Mr. Ackroyd's housekeeper
  • Charles Kent — Elizabeth Russell's son and drug addict
  • Dr. James Sheppard — the doctor (and the story's narrator)
  • Caroline Sheppard — Dr. Sheppard's spinster sister
  • Mrs. Ferrars — who poisons herself at the very beginning of the book
  • Ashley Ferrars - Late husband of Mrs. Ferrars, who was poisoned by his wife
  • Inspector Reglan

Literary significance and receptionModifier

"This is a well-written detective story of which the only criticism might perhaps be that there are too many curious incidents not really connected with the crime which have to be elucidated before the true criminal can be discovered". The review then gave a brief synopsis before concluding with "It is all very puzzling, but the great Hercule Poirot, a retired Belgian detective, solves the mystery. It may safely be asserted that very few readers will do so."[5]

There are doubtless many detective stories more exciting and blood-curdling than The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, but this reviewer has recently read very few which provide greater analytical stimulation. This story, though it is inferior to them at their best, is in the tradition of Poe's analytical tales and the Sherlock Holmes stories. The author does not devote her talents to the creation of thrills and shocks, but to the orderly solution of a single murder, conventional at that, instead.[6]
Miss Christie is not only an expert technician and a remarkably good story-teller, but she knows, as well, just the right number of hints to offer as to the real murderer. In the present case his identity is made all the more baffling through the author's technical cleverness in selecting the part he is to play in the story; and yet her non-committal characterization of him makes it a perfectly fair procedure. The experienced reader will probably spot him, but it is safe to say that he will often have his doubts as the story unfolds itself.[6]

  • Robert Barnard, in A Talent to Deceive: An appreciation of Agatha Christie, writes:

Apart — and it is an enormous "apart" — from the sensational solution, this is a fairly conventional Christie. ... A classic, but there are some better Christies.[7]

Film, TV or theatrical adaptationsModifier

Alibi (Play)Modifier

Modèle:Main 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 stage play, Black Coffee. Christie, along with her dog Peter, attended the rehearsals of Alibi and found its "novelty" enjoyable.[8] However, "she was sufficiently irritated by the changes to the original to want to write a play of her own."[8]

Alibi (1931 film)Modifier

Modèle:Main The play was turned into the first sound film to be based on a Christie work. Running 75 minutes, it was released on April 28, 1931, by Twickenham Film Studios and produced by Julius S. Hagan. Austin Trevor played Poirot, a role he reprised later that year in the film adaptation of Christie's 1930 play, Black Coffee.

Adapter: H. Fowler Mear
Director: Leslie Hiscott

Austin Trevor as Hercule Poirot
Franklin Dyall as Sir Roger Ackroyd
Elizabeth Allan as Ursula Browne
J.H. Roberts as Dr. Sheppard
John Deverell as Lord Halliford
Ronald Ward as Ralph Ackroyd
Mary Jerrold as Mrs. Ackroyd
Mercia Swinburne as Caryll Sheppard
Harvey Braban as Inspector Davis
With Clare Greet, Diana Beaumont and Earl Grey

"Campbell Playhouse" radio adaptationModifier

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.

Adapter: Howard Koch and Wyllis Cooper
Producer: John Houseman
Director: Orson Welles

Orson Welles as Hercule Poirot and Dr. Sheppard
Edna May Oliver as Caroline Sheppard
Alan Napier as Roger Ackroyd
Brenda Forbes as Mrs. Ackroyd
Mary Taylor as Flora
George Coulouris as Inspector Hamstead
Ray Collins as Mr. Raymond
Everett Sloane as Parker

BBC Radio 4 adaptationModifier

The novel was adapted as a 1½-hour radio play for BBC Radio 4 first broadcast on December 24, 1987. John Moffatt made the first of his many performances as Poirot. The adaptation was broadcast at 7.45pm and was recorded on November 2 of the same year.

Adapator: Michael Bakewell
Producer: Enyd Williams

John Moffatt as Hercule Poirot
John Woodvine as Doctor Sheppard
Laurence Payne as Roger Ackroyd
Diana Olsson as Caroline Sheppard
Eva Stuart as Miss Russell
Peter Gilmore as Raymond
Zelah Clarke as Flora
Simon Cuff as Inspector Davis
Deryck Guyler as Parker
With Richard Tate, Alan Dudley, Joan Matheson, David Goodland, Peter Craze, Karen Archer and Paul Sirr

Agatha Christie's PoirotModifier

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was adapted as a 103-minute drama transmitted in the U.K. on ITV Sunday January 2, 2000, as a special episode in their series, Agatha Christie's Poirot. In this adaptation Japp — not Sheppard — is Poirot's assistant, leaving Sheppard as just another suspect. However, the device of Dr. Sheppard's journal is retained as the supposed source of Poirot's voice-over narration and forms an integral part of the dénouement. The plot strayed from the book while Ackroyd was changed to a more elderly, stingy man who owns a factory, disliked by many. Mrs Ackroyd is also not as zany as in the book version

Adapator: Clive Exton
Director: Andrew Grieve

David Suchet as Hercule Poirot
Philip Jackson as Chief Inspector Japp
Oliver Ford Davies as Dr. Sheppard
Selina Cadell as Caroline Sheppard
Roger Frost as Parker
Malcolm Terris as Roger Ackroyd
Nigel Cooke as Geoffrey Raymond
Daisy Beaumont as Ursula Bourne
Flora Montgomery as Flora Ackroyd
Vivien Heilbron as Mrs. Ackroyd
Gregor Truter as Inspector Davis
Jamie Bamber as Ralph Paton
Charles Early as Constable Jones
Rosalind Bailey as Mrs. Ferrars
Charles Simon as Hammond
Graham Chinn as Landlord
Clive Brunt as Naval petty officer
Alice Hart as Mary
Philip Wrigley as Postman
Phil Atkinson as Ted
Elizabeth Kettle as Mrs. Folliott

Graphic novel adaptationModifier

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was released by HarperCollins as a graphic novel adaptation on August 20, 2007, adapted and illustrated by Bruno Lachard (ISBN 0-00-725061-4). This was translated from the edition first published in France by Emmanuel Proust éditions in 2004 under the title, Le Meurtre de Roger Ackroyd.

Publication historyModifier

Background Modifier

In March 1924, Christie received an unsolicited letter from Lord Mountbatten. He had been impressed with her previous works and had written to her, courtesy of The Sketch magazine (publishers of many of her short stories at that time) with an idea and notes for a story whose basic premise mirrored the Watts' suggestion.[9] Christie acknowledged the letter and after some thought and planning began to write the book but kept firmly to a plotline of her invention.

In December 1969, Mountbatten wrote to Christie for a second time after having seen a performance of The Mousetrap. He mentioned his letter of the 1920s, and Christie replied, acknowledging the part he played in the conception of the book.[10]

Publication Modifier

  • 1926, William Collins and Sons (London), June 1926, Hardback, 312 pp
  • 1926, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), June 19, 1926, Hardback, 306 pp
  • 1927, William Collins and Sons (Popular Edition), March 1927, Hardback (Three Shillings and sixpence)
  • 1928, William Collins and Sons (Cheap Edition), February 1928 (One shilling)
  • 1932, William Collins and Sons, February 1932 (in the Agatha Christie Omnibus of Crime along with The Mystery of the Blue Train, The Seven Dials Mystery, and The Sittaford Mystery), Hardback (Seven shillings and sixpence)
  • 1939, Canterbury Classics (William Collins and Sons), Illustrated hardback, 336 pp
  • 1939, Pocket Books (New York), Paperback (Pocket number 5), 212 pp
  • 1948, Penguin Books, Paperback (Penguin 684), 250 pp
  • 1957, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 254 pp
  • 1964, Modern Author series (William Collins and Sons), Hardback, 254 pp
  • 1967, Greenway edition of collected works (William Collins and Sons/Dodd Mead), Hardback, 288 pp
  • 1972, Ulvercroft Large-print Edition, Hardback, 414pp ISBN 0-85-456144-7
  • 2006, Poirot Facsimile Edition (Facsimile of 1926 UK First Edition), HarperCollins, September 4, 2006, Hardback ISBN 0-00-723437-6

The novel received its first true publication as a fifty-four part serialisation in the London Evening News from Thursday, July 16, to Wednesday, September 16, 1925, under the title, Who Killed Ackroyd? Like that paper's serialisation of The Man in the Brown Suit, there were minor amendments to the text, mostly to make sense of the openings of an installment (i.e., changing "He then..." to "Poirot then..."). The main change was in the chapter division: the published book has twenty-seven chapters whereas the serialisation has only twenty-four. Chapter Seven of the serialisation is named The Secrets of the Study whereas in the book it is Chapter Eight and named Inspector Raglan is Confident.

In the U.S., the novel was serialised in four parts in Flynn's Detective Weekly from June 19 (Volume 16, Number 2) to July 10, 1926 (Volume 16, Number 5). The text was heavily abridged and each installment carried an uncredited illustration.

The Collins first edition of 1926 was Christie's first work placed with that publisher. "The first book that Agatha wrote for Collins was the one that changed her reputation forever; no doubt she knew, as through 1925 she turned the idea over in her mind, that here she had a winner."[11]</blockquote> To this day, HarperCollins, the modern successor firm to W. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., remains the UK publishers of Christie's œuvre.

As stated in The Times of January 27, 1936, Ackroyd became one of the very first talking books for the blind. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was listed as one of eight books available through the Royal National Institute for the Blind.Modèle:Verify source

Book dedicationModifier

Christie's dedication in the book reads:


"Punkie" was the family nickname of Christie's sister and eldest sibling, Margaret ("Madge") Frary Watts (1879–1950). There was an eleven-year age gap between the two sisters but they remained close throughout their lives. Christie's mother first suggested to her that she should alleviate the boredom of an illness by writing a story. But soon after, when the sisters had been discussing the recently-published classic detective story by Gaston Leroux, The Mystery of the Yellow Room (1908), Christie said she would like to try writing such a story. Margaret challenged her, saying that she wouldn't be able to.[12] In 1916, eight years later, Christie remembered this conversation and was inspired to write her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles.[13]

Margaret Watts herself attempted a career as a writer. She wrote a play, The Claimant, based on the Tichborne Case. The Claimant enjoyed a short run in the West End at the Queen's Theatre from September 11 to October 18 of 1924, two years before the book publication of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.[14]

Dustjacket blurbModifier

The dustjacket blurb read as follows:

M. Poirot, the hero of The Mysterious Affair at Stiles Modèle:Sic and other brilliant pieces of detective deduction, comes out of his temporary retirement like a giant refreshed, to undertake the investigation of a peculiarly brutal and mysterious murder. Geniuses like Sherlock Holmes often find a use for faithful mediocrities like Dr. Watson, and by a coincidence it is the local doctor who follows Poirot round, and himself tells the story. Furthermore, as seldom happens in these cases, he is instrumental in giving Poirot one of the most valuable clues to the mystery.[15]

The dustjacket blurb is repeated inside the book on the page immediately preceding, and facing, the title page.[15]

Cultural references Modifier

  • 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 favor of a different murderer and says Christie subconsciously knew who the real culprit is.[16]
  • 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?



  1. 1,0 et 1,1 The English Catalogue of Books: 316
  2. 2,0 et 2,1 Marcum
  3. Collins
  4. Christie 1977: 433
  5. The Times Literary Supplement: 397
  6. 6,0 et 6,1 The New York Times Book Review: 18
  7. Barnard 1990: 199
  8. 8,0 et 8,1 Thompson 2007: 277
  9. Thompson 2007: 500
  10. Morgan 1984: 120-121
  11. Thompson 2007: 155
  12. Thompson 2007: 102
  13. Morgan 1984: 77
  14. Morgan 1984: 113-115
  15. 15,0 et 15,1 Christie 1926
  16. Bayard, Pierre. Qui a tué Roger Ackroyd?. Minuit, 1998. Republished, Reprise, 20002. Published in English as, Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?, Fourth Estate, 2000.


External linksModifier

Modèle:Agatha Christie

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