Cover image for Who killed Roger Ackroyd? : the mystery behind the Agatha Christie mystery
Who killed Roger Ackroyd? : the mystery behind the Agatha Christie mystery
Bayard, Pierre, 1954-
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Qui a tué Roger Ackroyd? English
Publication Information:
New York : New Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xii, 160 pages ; 22 cm
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR6005.H66 M853313 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PR6005.H66 M853313 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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A psychoanalyst-cum-professor of literature offers an exciting exploration of Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, the conventions of the mystery novel, and the act of reading itself.

Author Notes

Pierre Bayard is a psychoanalyst and professor of French literature in Paris

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Here's a charming little piece of literary detective work. Even though pretty much every mystery buff in the world knows that the villain in Christie's fourth novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926), is the narrator, Dr. James Sheppard, Bayard asks us to consider that this assumption may not be true. His theory, a kind of alternative reading of the text, is fairly persuasive--many readers of the novel may have entertained similar suspicions--but the book's real value isn't as much in proving whodunit as it is in looking at the art of literary criticism in the context of the detective story. Bayard examines the concept of lying by omission (not actually telling an untruth but instead leaving out vital facts); the psychoanalytical basis of criticism; and the subtle use of various literary techniques throughout the Christie canon. It will make even the most devoted Christie fan look at some of her novels in a new light. A fascinating addition to the critical literature on the mystery genre. --David Pitt

Publisher's Weekly Review

Agatha Christie's private detective Hercule Poirot and mystery devotees alike have presumed for three quarters of a century that Dr. James Sheppard, the narrator of the 1926 novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, is the only possible culprit in the title character's death. In this inquiry into the way readers perceive and writers construct the perfect mystery, Bayard, a French psychoanalyst, presents the possibility that Sheppard was wrongly accused. Examining this classic novel through a Freudian lens, Bayard discovers flaws in Poirot's deductive reasoning that led to the allegation, and shows how to find the real killer by learning how to see a certain way. That kind of seeing involves paying attention not only to the obscuring of information, but also to its omission, or "psychic blindness," a literary convention of which Christie was a master, according to Bayard. Employing his knowledge of psychoanalytic and literary theory, and the Van Dine principleÄthe 20 rules of the detective mystery, established by S.S. Van Dine in the 1928 issue of the American MagazineÄBayard conducts a close reading of the novel to demonstrate how he came to consider Sheppard's innocence, and further suggests that we rethink the deaths of literary characters Madame Bovary and Bergotte, ask what happened to Les Liaisons dangereuses's Madame de Merteuil after her flight to Holland and contemplate who really unleashed the disaster in Emile Zola's Germinal. Bayard is an intuitive and passionate reader of the genre, and manages to build suspense while mounting his airtight argument against Sheppard as murderer and to finger the real killer. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Prologuep. vii
Cast of Charactersp. xi
Part I Investigation
Chapter 1 The Murderp. 3
Chapter 2 The Investigationp. 11
Chapter 3 The Van Dine Principlep. 19
Chapter 4 The Lie by Omissionp. 31
Part II Counterinvestigation
Chapter 1 Endless Nightp. 43
Chapter 2 The Paradox of the Liarp. 51
Chapter 3 Improbabilitiesp. 59
Chapter 4 The Ideal Murdererp. 67
Part III Delusion
Chapter 1 Crossroadsp. 77
Chapter 2 What Is a Delusion?p. 85
Chapter 3 Delusion and Theoryp. 93
Chapter 4 Delusion and Criticismp. 103
Part IV Truth
Chapter 1 Curtainp. 113
Chapter 2 The Truthp. 123
Chapter 3 Nothing but the Truthp. 129
Chapter 4 The Whole Truthp. 137
Notesp. 147