The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

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The Murder of Roger Ackroyd Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie was born into a wealthy English family. Her mother, Clara, claimed to be a psychic, and Christie grew up believing in her abilities. Christie was home schooled for most of her childhood, and she wrote many stories as a teenager, many of them centered around the supernatural. She married her first husband, Archibald Christie, and later served as a nurse during World War One. In 1919 she published her first detective novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, featuring the Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot. She went on to write more than eighty novels, mostly mysteries, starring Poirot and well as certain other recurring characters, including Mrs. Marple and Tommy and Tuppence. Christie lived a long, productive life, and by the 1950s she was the most famous mystery novelist in the world. In 1971, shortly before her death, she was made a Dame of the British Empire, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
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Historical Context of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Like many mystery novels, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is set in a claustrophobic environment that seems curiously cut off from the rest of the world—as a result, the novel doesn’t allude to very many notable historical events. However, Major Hector Blunt mentions “the Great War” at one point. At the time when the novel was written, there had only been one World War, and it was usually referred to as “the Great War.”

Other Books Related to The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Perhaps the most influential work in the detective genre is A Study in Scarlet (1886) by Arthur Conan Doyle, which introduced Sherlock Holmes to the world, while Edgar Allen Poe arguably invented the genre with his stories about the detective Auguste Dupin, starting with “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Readers who are interested in the theory and literary structure of detective novels should consult “Knox’s Ten Commandment of Detective Fiction,” a short, somewhat tongue-in-cheek list of rules for detective fiction that was considered the gospel for early 20th-century mystery writers. Christie infamously violated the first of Knox’s commandments—that the murderer shouldn’t be the narrator of the book. However, this kind of “twist ending” is now fairly common in literature, even mystery novels. Good examples of suspenseful novels in which the narrator is revealed to be the “bad guy” include London Fields (1989) by Martin Amis and Gone Girl (2012) by Gillian Flynn, an avowed Agatha Christie fan!
Key Facts about The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
  • Full Title: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
  • When Written: Early 1926
  • Where Written: London and Oxfordshire
  • When Published: June 1926
  • Literary Period: “Golden Age” detective fiction
  • Genre: Mystery Novel
  • Setting: King’s Abbot (a small village in rural England)
  • Climax: Hercule Poirot reveals that Dr. Sheppard is the killer
  • Antagonist: Dr. Sheppard
  • Point of View: First person (Dr. Sheppard)

Extra Credit for The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Popular. Agatha Christie is one of the most popular, widely-read novelists in history: for most of the 20th century, it was estimated that only the Bible and the works of William Shakespeare were more commonly read. To date, her books have sold some two billion copies, and she’s probably the most translated novelist of all time (103 languages to date). In addition, Christie’s play The Mousetrap holds the world record for longest initial theatrical run—it premiered in 1952 and is still running as of 2017, 25,000 performances later.

Breaking the rules. As every regular reader of detective novels knows, there are certain “rules” of the genre that no good detective novelist breaks. For example, in most detective novels, the fictional detective isn’t revealed to be the killer—it would be an unfair breach of readers’ “trust.” Over the years, Christie broke her contract with the reader on several occasions—and in her final novel about Hercule Poirot, Poirot is revealed to be the killer! Readers and critics have both praised and attacked Christie for challenging the formulas of detective fiction.