Monday, December 29, 2008

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Works by the renowned Agatha Christie never fail to intrigue me. Despite being rendered somewhat blase by overenthusiastic consumption of her works (Admission of guilt: that would be no one's fault but my own. Christie is a prolific author with more than 80 novels and story collections to her name, and, imbecile that I am, I would insist on systematically devouring every Christie book that comes my way ;P), every once in a while, a gem of a twist ending will crop up and jar this particular reader out of her smug apathy. 

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is that gem.

I admit that I'd cast a somewhat jaundiced eye over the cover when I picked up this paperback at the local library. Published in 1926, this Hercule Poirot mystery was declared "one of Christie's best known and most controversial novels".


(A/N: I dislike Poirot. Arrogant, with an almost comically inflated opinion of his abilities, M. Poirot always seems to be a tad egocentric. My preference runs more to reserved, but keen-eyed spinsters - Miss Marple for example. Her "Victorian modesty" (though old-fashioned) is more amusing and far more tolerable than Poirot's bombast.

But then, I guess I'm being harsh. Poirot does have a plausible reason for his pompousity. "The little grey cells" have admirable ways of proving themselves. *grudging respect*)

Most Hercule Poirot mysteries tend to have the same sort of style (unlike Miss Marple mysteries which have more variations in fashion).  The story usually takes place either in the third-person narrative or from the personal narrative of Captain Hastings (Poirot's companion - he is to Poirot what Watson is to Holmes). A scarce amount of clues are found in the crime scene. An inordinate amount of seemingly irrelevant morsels of information are provided. Poirot makes the occasional enigmatic comment throughout the investigations, and in the end assembles all the suspects together and promulgates the identity of the culprit.

Rather predictable.

2 much work

But The Murder of Roger Ackroyd diverges from the mode in two distinct ways:

(Spoiler alert!

(1) The story is not told from a third-person narrative or even from the personal narrative of Hastings. It is told from the personal narrative of a Dr. James Sheppard - a country doctor who is the very embodiment of discretion and reticence. All the same, though, the detective casually reflects that Sheppard shares some similarities with Hastings; M. Poirot duly engages the doctor as a colleague. 

(2) The ending. As I said before, it is a gem of a twist ending. I do not want to disclose more: it might ruin the book for others.

(A/N: Woe betide those who spread major spoilers far and wide (and without warning!). I hate that sort of people. E.g.: OMG!! GUYS!!! THE BUTLER DID IT!!!! OMG!!! (*ahem* That's a spoiler for another book ¬_¬) When I receive a spoiler of that caliber, I feel like shaking the spoiler-bearer. Hard >:(


Grr... So, no more spoilers :P)

Anyways, this is a must-read book for any fan of the Queen of Crime (ie: Agatha Christie ;) Do read it, people. Ciao! ;D

(A/N: Comments/criticisms welcome.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The House of the Scorpion

A fascinating 380-page sci-fic novel by 3-time Newbery Honor Author, Nancy Farmer, The House of the Scorpion introduces a futuristic predicament that arises from the technology of cloning. (I hesitate to share more, lest I ruin the book for those who have yet to read it. Thus, the requisite warning - Note: Spoiler alert!)

The protagonist, Matteo "Matt" Alacran, is a clone of a wealthy and powerful drug lord.  Though some might consider his status to be enviable, Matt's status marks him as a non-human. Thus, he's considered livestock. His very existence is a stigma to himself.

Although the sci-fic subjects covered in The House of the Scorpion are not novel (the 2005 movie The Island had the same idea about the possible use of clones - but then that movie was released 3 years after the book; this raises the interesting question about The Island's source of inspiration ;) and the initial setting vaguely reminiscent of Fitzgerald's The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,  the story is executed marvelously. There is no gratuitous violence to solve the problems encountered. Solutions to dilemmas are contrived through the wise  cooperation of the characters involved. Indeed, (though this statement seems trite) it is in the characters that lie the strength of this story. Warm enough to elicit empathy, yet shown with enough human nature to retain interest - even the villians get the same treatment, resulting in the sparkling study of an evil, vicious person that still draws commiseration.

The plot is tightly constructed; but not overtly so that the story groans under the burden of its architecture. If you desire suspensive sci-fic with warm, believable characters, this book is tailored to fit. 


(A/N: So... that's my first ever book review, people ;P And, yes, that's a pic of the first edition cover... replete with Newbery Honor shields and a plethora of book awards :O

(A/N #2: I was really holding back on the spoilers, 'coz my bro, the all-wise Prophet S, thinks I've already said too much. *eyeroll* Anyways, I don't think this review is anywhere near perfect yet, so there's a strong likelihood for major editing in the not-so-distant future. Comments and criticism much welcome ^_^)