Inspired by this YouTube video, where a book vlogger named Emmie decided to try solving The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie, I decided to give the project a go myself. Roger Ackroyd is one of Christie’s best-known mysteries, and while it’s not one of my personal favourites, I knew it for its history-making big reveal, and part of the fun was watching Emmie come into it cold and try to puzzle it out.
As a long-time Christie fan, I figured my odds were better than Emmie’s. After all, I already knew that I had to rule out the mysteries with Christie’s most iconic twists: And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express, and Curtain all had shocking reveals, yet were all too memorable for me to try to play detective myself. Personal Christie favourites like A Murder is Announced, Sleeping Murder, Murder on the Links, Death on the Nile, ABC Murders, Crooked House were also out of the question. Surely, I thought, the mysteries that remained for me to try solving should be somewhat easier to tackle?
Enter the Miss Marple mystery The Moving Finger. A series of poison pen letters results in a(n apparent?) suicide and then a murder. I’ve had the ebook for years and must have read it at some point, but I could no longer remember who the letter writer or killer were. Small town, lots of gossip, an anonymous and malicious letter writer? Sounds like exactly the kind of soap opera-ish mystery melodrama I love!
And so, armed with my trusty detective notebook (an unused AGO notebook that’s been gathering dust since I can’t even remember when), a ballpoint pen, and my little grey cells, I set to work. Within the first few chapters (16% of the book), I had pages of notes, strong theories about the poison pen writer’s identity and motives, and a renewed appreciation for Christie’s craft in creating complex, psychologically textured characters. I also had a bit of a headache from actively paying attention to the characters and their backstories, rather than just sitting back and waiting for Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot to tell me what actually happened. Detective work is harder than I thought!
By the 60% mark, I had two really strong (or so I think) theories about the murderer and their motive. It was around this point that I started to feel really smug: the Queen of Crime thought she was being clever, but here I was already outsmarting her at barely even past the halfway point.
Then I kept reading. At some point Miss Marple shows up and starts making cryptic little side comments about things that are apparently “interesting” and actions that are supposedly “brave.” And then my confidence falters. Because suddenly, I realize that my two very strong theories don’t really make all that much sense. And while they address some aspects of the mystery, they also create some big gaping logic holes. So I tried thinking through both theories, and testing out a couple alternative theories that maybe fit the puzzle a bit more fulsomely. By the 74% mark, I realized that I had a whole mess of new clues, theories, and suspects, and zero idea what had actually happened.
It was at the 87% mark that I realized I needed to stop reading. Things were coming to a head, and I could tell the big reveal was coming up soon. I figured it was time for me to take a pause to study all my clues and come up with a final theory about who the letter writer and murderer is/are. At this point, I had about four rather wild (and no longer strong) theories, and close to zero confidence any of them made logical sense.
So: did I solve the mystery? Can I now brag that I’ve outsmarted the Queen of Crime?
The answer, I’m afraid, is no, not even in the least bit close. Yes, this suspect flitted through my mind at one point while reading the book, but to be honest, all the characters flitted through my mind as suspects at one point or another, and this particular one barely made a dent.
Bah. So much for my impeccable little grey cells.
Onward and upward then, and on to find another Christie mystery to solve. Go, little grey cells, go!
The actual solution, along with my wild theories, are all beneath the spoiler tag below. Read on if you’re curious; skip if you want to read this book for yourself. (It’s much more fun coming in cold!)
*** SPOILERS BELOW ***
My Theory / My Detective Big Reveal: