Thursday, 30 May 2013

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: Is not one of the best Mystery Novels

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie; Is not one of the best Mystery Novels

Few mystery lovers have formally and informally asked me why the “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd “ has not been mentioned among the other best mystery novels of all time on this blog and I think I owe them a explanation. So here it goes.

Although “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” is considered one of the masterpieces of Agatha Christie and hailed by many critics as a path breaking mystery novel that set new rules and standard for mystery genre, I do not believe in this mass delusion that it is one of the best mystery novels of all time because of the following reasons.

First of all there is only one murder in the novel. Then there are too many red herrings; too much speculation by different characters instead of solid detective work by the protagonist Hercule Poirot who is supposed to be a good detective. However, few more murders are revealed by the end of the novel but by that time novel runs out of the entertainment juice.

Secondly, I don’t like the character of Caroline Sheppard at all. Anyone with a little bit of sense can spot that this character is totally fictitious. The way she is able to gather information from the social vine about crimes and hidden affairs of different people is completely unnatural and outright childish.

If gathering information about crimes or hidden secrets of people is so much easy as depicted in this novel then perhaps government must disband the intelligence agencies like FBI or CIA and recruit hawkers, milkmen, grocery store owners etc to combat crime and terrorism.

It is the good complex believable characters that make a novel worth reading, not some meddling snoopy spinster who spins too much yarn than she should.

Third, the plot is marred by too many unrelated incidents; the story drags on needlessly and at times is boring. The plot of a good mystery novel is supposed to be captivating; it keeps the reader ensnared and compels him to keep on turning the pages. Unfortunately, this is not the case with this novel. This would have been a better novel if the unnecessary matter was chiseled out and the length was reduced by at least thirty percent. 
And last, the bizarre twist at the end when the real killer is revealed and the absurd choice that Poirot gave to the killer. Since I do not want to ruin anybody’s experience with the novel I am refraining from giving any details but what Poirot did never made sense and what antagonist did, did not make sense either.

Poirot sardonically says to the killer, “It would be most unwise on your part to attempt to silence me as you silenced M. Ackroyd. That kind of business does not succeed against Hercule Poirot, you understand.” Why that kind of business will not work with Poirot? Is he a god? The above cocky line made me so angry that I wanted to jump into the novel and choke life out of Poirot with my bare hands for wasting so much of my time.

The antagonist had already killed other people, what was stopping him from trying to kill Poirot? Especially when they were alone. If the antagonist had attacked Poirot and died during the confrontation or even better had killed Poirot to elude law forever; then my views of the novel could have been a little different but sadly, it is not so.

Therefore, the murder of Roger Ackryod by Agatha Christie is just another mystery novel and it should not be counted among the best mystery novels of all time.  

Monday, 29 April 2013

The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

If you are looking for a good detective mystery novel that ensnares your senses and leave you wanting for more at the end, then this novel may be the answer of your quest.

The protagonist Sam Spade and his partner Miles Archer are private detectives cum muscle for hire who are always eager for any job until it is legit and pays well. So when the beautiful mysterious woman, Miss Wonderly shows up at their office and offers to pay hefty money for the simple assignment of keeping an eye on  a man, Floyd Thursby who allegedly eloped with her younger sister, Sam and Miles are more than happy to oblige Miss Wonderly, although Sam sense something troubling about this whole business.

Sam’s foreboding proves right. Soon Miles is found murdered and sooner than later Floyd also turns up dead. To make matters worse, Sam makes it to the top of the suspect list with the police for these murders and a little inquiry into the background of Miss Wonderly reveals that she is none that she claims to be. In fact, she could be more resourceful and dangerous than Sam ever imagined.

Moreover, other enigmatic, ruthless and dangerous men start visiting Sam, looking for a lost artifact called “The Maltese falcon”. Their offer is very simple, handsome payment in return of the artifact or deadly consequences of permanent nature if the artifact is not returned, but since Sam does not even know about the existence of this artifact then how possibly he can have it.

Now Sam must use all of his wit, skill and cunning to save his skin and solve the complicated puzzle of “The Maltese Falcon”.

This novel has an adrenalin-pumping story that delivers pure entertainment in no nonsense, to the point way. The plot is gritty, has plenty of twists and turns, and keeps you guessing until the end.

The one thing that I liked in particular about the character of Sam Spade is that he is a mean selfish kind of the detective unlike the white hat detectives found in most of the mystery novels. Sam is the kind of guy who loves money, can do anything for his survival and given an opportunity he can take advantage of anyone. He gets by each day knowing that at the end of the day he does more good than harm. This grey morality of Sam works very well for the plot and events depicted in the novel.

At the end, I can only say that from the depths of imagination and pulp fiction, Mr. Hammett has conjured up a novel, which is one of the best novels ever produced in detective mystery genre, and no doubt, it is a compulsive read.

My rating is five out of five stars.