Friday, March 25, 2011

Imitating Agatha: Gilbert Adair and the Entertaining Act of Roger Murgatroyd

Adair, Gilbert. The Act of Roger Murgatroyd: An Entertainment. London: Faber, 2007 (2006).

It was, I confess, a sad day in my childhood when I reached the end of the shelf in my local library upon which Agatha Christie's novels were housed. From Curtain: Poirot's Last Case: Hercule Poirot Investigates and the adventures of Tommy and Tuppence (for which I love Christie best) I moved on to Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy Sayers, and P. D. James, all worthy contributors to the mystery genre. Yet aside from James, who still brings out new literary wonders with slow but steady regularity, most of these great authors have passed, leaving behind canons to be enjoyed and finished, and few living detective novelists (again, I exclude James) have managed to replicate such heights of excellence and mystery.

It was with great pleasure, then, that I stumbled across Gilbert Adair's The Act of Roger Murgatroyd in my local library. It was with greater pleasure, a few chapters into Adair's novel, that I discovered how excellently Adair has recreated the mood and elegance of a Christie novel. Shaped slightly in homage to Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Roger Murgatroyd offers nearly every feature a Christie fan might have some to expect: vibrant characters, each with a secret to hide, an older (retired) inspector, and some clever and unexpected sleuthing guaranteed to surprise even the most discerning reader with its cleverness. A fine imitation and a fine piece of work on its own merits, The Act of Roger Murgatroyd is a novel I'd be pleased to recommend to any lover of character-driven mysteries, and I'll certainly keep an eye out for further works by Gilbert Adair.

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