Successfully Breaking the Rules of Detective Fiction in Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and Ruth Rendell’s A Judgement in Stone

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“Mystery fiction is a game with rules, an intellectual competition between writer and reader. To keep the game honest, both writer and reader must be playing by the same rules” (Miller). Some of the conventional rules of detective fiction are listed in S. S. Van Dine’s “Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories” and Ronald Knox’s “10 Commandments of Detective Fiction.” However, some of the ‘rules’ Knox and Van Dine list do not extend to Ruth Rendell’s A Judgement in Stone and Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Despite Rendell and Christie not conforming to these ‘rules’ of detective fiction put forth by Van Dine and Knox, their novels challenge the reader, create thrilling suspense, and while unorthodox are extremely successful. The most important of Ronald Knox’s “10 Commandments of Detective Fiction” is the first commandment: “The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.” Rendell and Christie somewhat abide by Knox’s first commandment, and introduce the criminal at the beginning of their respective novels. However, both novelists defy Knox’s commandment by allowing the reader access to the guilty criminal’s mind. While Christie and Rendell allow access to the minds of the criminals in two different ways, their access allows the reader insight to the minds of these criminals and allows them to view the events that have taken place from the criminal’s perspective, and understand the reasons why each criminal committed their crimes. This provides an interesting and exciting twist to the novel that would not be present if Christie and Rendell had conformed to Knox’s first commandment. In The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Ch... ... middle of paper ... ...ority of the rules, and the ones they have broken only lead to a more riveting story. Overall, while it might seem sacrilegious to disregard some of Van Dine’s rules and Knox’s commandments, both authors do so to create a novel that takes its reader by surprise. Works Cited Christie, Agatha. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: A Hercule Poirot Mystery. New York: Harper, 2011. Print. Knox, Richard. “10 Commandments of Detective Fiction.” Miller, Susan Cummins. "Blazing Trails, Redefining the Game; New Rules for Mystery Fiction with a Geoscientific Twist." Abstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America 35.6 (2003): 20. ProQuest. Web. 28 May 2014. Rendell, Ruth. A Judgement in Stone. New York: Vintage Books, 2000. Print. Van Dine, S. S. "Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories." Handout. The English Detective Novel: EN 3178. York University. May 2014. Print.

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