Renee at It’s Book Talk began Throwback Thursday as a way to share some old favourites or books that you’re finally getting around to reading that were published months or years ago.
This week, my Throwback Thursday ‘old favourite’ is a spoof of the classic Golden Age of Detection country house murder mystery, The Act of Roger Murgatroyd by Gilbert Adair.
Boxing Day circa 1935. A snowed-in manor on the very edge of Dartmoor. A Christmas house-party. And overhead, in the attic, the dead body of Raymond Gentry, gossip columnist and blackmailer, shot through the heart. But the attic door is locked from the inside, its sole window is traversed by thick iron bars and, naturally, there is no sign of a murderer or a murder weapon. Fortunately (though, for the murderer, unfortunately), one of the guests is the formidable Evadne Mount, the bestselling author of countless classic whodunits. In fact, were she not its presiding sleuth, THE ACT OF ROGER MURGATROYD is exactly the type of whodunit she herself might have written.
I’ve said it before and I’ll no doubt say it again, I love a country house murder mystery. I also love humour so this spoof of the genre is just up my street. It’s not an outrageous laugh-a-minute Naked Gun-type romp – it’s more a knowing, self-aware homage. The plot itself is clever and perfectly able to hold its own against some of the classics.
It’s even my favourite sub-genre: a snowed-in country house murder mystery with an unknown murderer in the midst! And there’s a floorplan! Albeit a scant one, but as I’ve also said before, I love a floorplan.
The cover is perfect: designed to look old and tatty, with the old-style Cluedo cards hinting at what’s to come. The title itself is obviously a take on The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and the rest of this short series similarly uses Agatha Christie for naming (as well as almost everything else!) inspiration: specifically The Mysterious Affair at Styles and And Then There Were None.
Our detective, Evadne Mount appears to be Poirot, Marple and Christie’s fictional alter-ego Ariadne Oliver all wrapped up in one. The second in the series, A Mysterious Affair of Style, is also brilliant. The third, And Then There Was No One, takes quite a different turn, gets a bit meta and didn’t quite work for me. I’ve read the first two a couple of times so I might give them all a re-read to see if the last one grows on me. If not, at least the first two are reliably good reads.
I would recommend this for anyone who enjoys a good mystery, particular in the GAD-style, and has their tongue firmly in their cheek.