In Defense of Agatha: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

kathleen-kaskaKathleen Kaska is the author of the Classic Triviography Mystery Series, which includes The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book, The Alfred Hitchcock Triviography and Quiz Book, and The Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz Book. All three books have just been reissued by LL-Publications. Kathleen also writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mystery series set in the 1950s. Her first two mysteries, Murder at the Arlington and Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queen Book Group, the largest book group in the country.

The first edition of my trivia book What’s Your Agatha Christie I. Q?, (now titled The Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz Book), was released in 1996. A local bookstore in Austin, Texas hosted my first book signing. Soon after I sat down at the table and uncapped my pen, a rather respectable line began to form, mostly friends and family, attending to give their support and help me celebrate this long awaited moment. The atmosphere was party-like, introducing out-of-town friends to work colleagues and family.  A dear friend from Dallas just left the table with four signed copies when an elderly woman stepped forward. I reached out to take her book and realized that she did not have one. I picked one up off the table and asked if she’d like me to sign it. This was her response.

the-agatha-christie-triviography“I am not here to buy your book. I read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd decades ago and I have never read another Christie book.” I raised an eyebrow. She continued. “Agatha Christie cheated when she wrote that book. In my opinion she had no idea who the killer was and just made up the ending at the last moment.” She stormed off.

I knew what she was referring to. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, written in 1926, has become known as Christie’s most controversial novel. In fact, it is one of the most talked about detective stories ever written. She’s gone on record to say that this Hercule Poirot mystery was her masterpiece. If you’re a Christie fan, you’ve most likely read this ingenious mystery; if not, I will not spoil the ending.

In Christie’s defense, the author knew exactly what she was doing. The idea had been put to her the year before by her brother-in-law, Jimmy Watts. Then a short time later, she received a letter from Lord Louis Mountbatten (uncle of Prince Philip) who had made the same suggestion. The idea intrigued her and she ran with it, using a technique that had never before been used. Nevertheless, colleagues accused her of breaking the mystery-writing rules, but rules are made to be broken murder-at-the-arlington(excuse the cliché), and if done well, prove effective. Eighty-eight years later, the controversy still remains. I’ll say no more. Read the book and decide for yourself.

Had the disgruntled woman at my book signing stayed a few moments longer, my response would have been, “Dame Christie knew what she was doing. In fact, she offered a few brilliant hints on page one and scattered many more clever clues through the book.”

Kathleen Kaska covers every aspect of the Queen of Crime’s life and career in The Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz Book. She has packed an astonishing number of quotes, characters, plots, settings, biographical details, and pure fun into these quizzes. As Poirot might say, your “little grey cells will get the exercise!”

This book, fiendishly clever and remarkably researched, is pure gold for fans of Agatha Christie.

—Kate Stine, editor of Mystery Scene magazine.