It’s quite difficult to write a review about Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) and And Then There Were None (1939) without giving too much of the plot – especially the solution – away. So I will keep it as brief as possible when it comes to the plots as a whole: And Then There Were None (None) is about a group of ten people who are lured to a lonely island and one after one of them gets murdered. The original title of this book was Ten Little Niggers, making the parallels to the nursery rhyme even more obvious (the title was scraped for apparent reasons). The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Roger) has a much less dramatic setting and plays in a small English town. The central event is the murder of said Roger Ackroyd and Hercules Poirot’s investigation of that case. Contrary to the usual third-person narrator of the Poirot or Miss Marple books though, this story is told from the perspective of a first-person narrator. That’s everything I’d dare to give away.
If you consider that Agatha Christie wrote 80 novels, it can be difficult to find the right book for you. Sure, The Murder on the Orient Express and the like are fantastic books and if you want to read a “classic” detective novel it’s hard to find a really bad Christie (whether you prefer Poirot or Marple is a matter of taste anyway), but of all the Christie books Roger and None are those that strike me as the most unusual (=best) ones, as it’s harder than in other books to come close to the solutions of the stories. The reason for this are plot twists that are only revealed before the end of both novels and especially the revelation of Roger makes you want to read the book for a second time, as it is indeed such a clever twist that tops everything that Doyle has ever done with his Sherlock Holmes stories. Usually the author of a detective novel leaves the credit of cleverness only to his/her master detective, this time around the reader is more involved though, as the detective is missing in None and the actions of Poirot are “filtered” through the first-person narrator in Roger (it is very different from the Watson first-person narrator in the Holmes-stories). If you think Christie was “just” a crime novel writer, read None and Roger and think again – both books might totally change the way you appreciate the genre. At least that’s what they did for me.