Re-read a whodunit (even though you already know who done it because you’ve read it before)!

Why, you ask, should I re-read a whodunit when I already know who done it because I’ve read it before!? The quick answer, which I mentioned in an answer to a completely different question in a completely different context two days ago, is that it’s the journey that counts, not the destination.

A longer answer is twofold:

  1. Sometimes you don’t remember whodunit. So you’re reading it again for the first time, if you know what I mean.
  2. Sometimes you’re reading again specifically because you know the murderer and want to see the writer’s craft. How did she keep you from figuring it out, while still “playing fair” with the reader by providing enough clues and no unrevealed facts.
  3. Sometimes you’re reading it again for the pleasure of the words and sentences.

Context: I just re-read Agatha Christie’s 1926 novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, which I had first read when I was in high school or college (I don’t remember which). This was not situation #1 above, as everyone knows who the murderer was. This book is one of the earliest examples of the unreliable narrator, after all.

It was also not situation #3. Christie is justly known as a master of plot, not as a master of style. I re-read Tolkien for the pleasure of the words and sentences (Lord of the Rings trilogy seven times, for example), but not Christie.

That leaves situation #2, which was my real reason this time.

Categories: Books