Review: The Act of Roger Ackroyd by Gilbert Adair (Faber)

theactofrogermurgatroydThis should be a poor parody. I have a feeling that the title at least is a play on The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, which I didn’t know anything about. I got as far as the bit of Wikipedia which said, ‘It is one of Christie’s best known and most controversial novels, its innovative twist ending having a significant impact on the genre’ and stopped reading. I don’t like spoilers at the best of times.

Despite this gap in my reading this novel definitely has a gentle poke at the Agatha Christie and her take on the genre. If you were to personify Christie as a detective/writer you she would probably come out like Evadne Mount.

On Boxing Day circa 1935 there is a Christmas party at a snowed-in manor on the edge of Dartmoor. In the attic lies the body of Raymond Gentry, gossip columnist and blackmailer, who has seemingly been murdered in a locked and empty attic.

Adair turns the standard formula of investigation and revelation on its head. Through the questioning of retired Chief-Inspector Trubshawe and the several asides and retellings of her own work by Evadne we find out more about not only about Raymond Gentry but all the other guests and their motives for murder.

Adair has a wonderful sense of humour and he plays with conventions and expectations of the genre. You can tells he’s having a lot of fun and brings the reader with him.

As I was saying this should be a poor parody but it’s not. Adair creates a cast of emotive and responsive characters whose lives are touching if a little dated by modern standards. He gives them all a sense of individuality even the servants like Addie and hers ‘squashed little features’.

The who-dunnit element is well played and the range of motives is well portrayed giving several options for the real murder. Though in the end Adair still manages a surprise or two.

I’m looking forward to getting onto the next adventure of Evadne Mout in A Mysterious Affair of Style.

Highly Recommended for lovers of the genre or those that require a little light reading.

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