The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie is the second book in Christie’s Hercule Poirot series. It was published in 1926 and immediately gained popularity and notoriety with readers and critics alike for its unlikely plot twist.
Chapter 1: Dr. Sheppard at the Breakfast Table
The story begins on a Friday morning, when the narrator Dr James Sheppard (Sheppard from here on) tells us that Mrs Ferrars has committed suicide by overdosing on veronal, a sleeping draught. Sheppard’s older sister Caroline is already aware of the news when he comes back home. Caroline had always maintained, without any foundation for it, that Mrs Ferrars had poisoned her husband, who died a year ago; refusing to believe Dr Sheppard’s diagnosis of acute gastritis. She theorises that Mrs Ferrars probably committed suicide because she was overcome with remorse after killing her husband. Sheppard suggests that a woman who can kill her husband in cold blood probably isn’t capable of remorse. Caroline promptly replies Mrs Ferrars wasn’t that kind and presumes that she probably killed her husband, Ashley Ferrars because she simply couldn’t endure suffering and unpleasantness of any kind. And since then she had been living with the guilt of the act. When Sheppard protests her presumptions, Caroline shuts him up by saying that she is sure there is a letter somewhere that confesses to the whole thing.
Chapter 2: Who’s Who in King’s Abbot
Sheppard acquaints the readers with the village of King’s Abbot before he proceeds with the story. King’s Abbot is reportedly rich in unmarried ladies and retired military officers and gossip is the only hobby and recreation for its inhabitants. There are two houses of importance in the village; King’s Paddock, residence of the Ferrars, and Fernly Park, belonging to Roger Ackroyd. Roger Ackroyd had married a much older woman, who drank herself to death four years into the marriage. He never remarried and brought up his stepson Ralph Paton, from his wife’s first marriage, as his own son. Ackroyd’s household comprises his dead brother’s wife, Mrs Cecil Ackroyd and daughter Flora Ackroyd; the housekeeper Miss Russell and a secretary named Geoffrey Raymond. The latest village gossip hints at a possible engagement between Mrs Ferrars and Ackroyd.
While out on his afternoon patient visit, Sheppard wonders if Mrs Ferrars had indeed committed suicide. He remembers seeing her the day before, deep in conversation with Ralph Paton. This surprises him because Ralph has not visited King’s Abbot ever since he quarrelled with his father six months ago. He finds the sight of the two in conversation strange and premonitory. Just then, he runs into Ackroyd, who looks distressed, and wants to speak to him. The doctor asks if it’s regarding Ralph. Ackroyd is confused and tells him that Ralph hasn’t come down to the village from London for six months now. Since Sheppard is busy with his professional obligations, Ackroyd invites him to dinner at 7.30 p.m. and slips away on seeing Mrs Gannett approaching them. To Sheppard, she inquires if Mrs Ferrars took drugs and whether the engagement between her and Mr Ackroyd was broken off. She insists that there was an engagement. At his clinic, Miss Russell is his last patient. She tells him that she came to get her knee inspected but Sheppard suspects she is there to enquire about the suicide. However, she isn’t interested in the suicide. They talk about drugs, poison and finally about detective stories.
Chapter 3: The Man Who Grew Vegetable Marrows
When Sheppard tells his sister about the dinner at Fernly Park, she is excited at the prospect. From her, he finds out that Ralph is staying at the local inn, the Three Boars. The young man had reportedly stayed the night yesterday and was seen going out with an unknown woman. It doesn’t surprise Sheppard that he was out with a woman. Caroline thinks it was Flora Ackroyd and presumes that they are secretly engaged and meet sub rosa to avoid Roger Ackroyd’s disapproval.
They also talk about their new neighbour in the cottage next door, The Larches. So far, Caroline has been unsuccessful in finding out much about him except that he is a foreigner named Poirot. Sheppard suspects him to be a retired hairdresser. He meets Poirot while working in his garden. Poirot tells him about his boring retired life and mentions missing his friend Hastings, who has left for Argentina. Sheppard tells him that he has always wanted to travel. He apparently had the opportunity to do so last year after inheriting a legacy, but he gambled it away. Poirot sympathises and tells him that he does remind him of his dear friend Hastings. Poirot is a friend of Ackroyd’s from London and has come to King’s Abbot after retiring. He tells Sheppard about Ralph and Flora’s engagement and suspects Ackroyd pressured the young man into it. Poirot opines that it is unwise to marry to please so, one else. This makes Sheppard doubt that Poirot is a hairdresser because it is unlikely that Ackroyd would trust a hairdresser with his family secrets.
During tea, Caroline tells Sheppard that she met Ackroyd during her walk and told him about Ralph Paton’s whereabouts. He reproaches her for it. Unperturbed, she states it’s her duty to tell because people ought to know. Ackroyd reportedly headed straight for the inn but she doubts he met Ralph there. That’s because on her walk through the village wood, she overheard Ralph talking to a woman. Afterwards, Sheppard goes to meet Ralph at the inn. He claims to understand him better than anyone else in the village because he knew his mother and knows he inherited her weakness of character. Ralph receives him warmly, offers him a drink and tells him that he might be in trouble with his stepfather. When the doctor offers to help, Ralph ominously replies that he has got to play a lone hand.
Chapter 4: Dinner at Fernly
Sheppard arrives at Fernly Park before half past seven with his black bag. Parker, the butler opens the door for him. Noticing the bag, Raymond, Ackroyd’s secretary, teasingly asks if he has come to dine or on a professional call. Sheppard explains that it’s in case of an emergency. As he turns the doorknob of the drawing room door, Sheppard hears the sound of a window closing. He collides into Miss Russell on her way out of the room. She looks displeased to see him and tells him she had no idea he was invited for dinner. She is out of breath like she has been running and explains that she came to check the flowers and leaves hurriedly. He wonders why she explains her presence in the room and immediately notices that the French window is open. It occurs to him that the sound he heard was not of the window closing and busies himself to determine the source of the sound. His eyes catch the silver table filled with exotic curios. While examining the display, the lid slips from his hand and shuts down. He recognises the sound he had heard. He repeats the action to make sure and goes on inspecting the curios. Flora and her mother join him shortly, followed by Ackroyd’s good friend Major Hector Blunt, an internationally famous hunter and Raymond. After Ackroyd arrives, they all go into the dining room. Dinner is a quite one.
Immediately after dinner, Ackroyd, who is visibly agitated, takes Sheppard to his study. He tells Parker to bring the doctor’s bag from the hall and asks Sheppard to latch the window. When Parker comes with the bag, Ackroyd tells him that they are not to be disturbed by anyone. He proceeds to tell Sheppard that he has been in a tortured state of mind since yesterday. Ralph is mentioned but he is worried about an entirely different issue. He tells Sheppard that Ashley Ferrars was actually poisoned to death a year ago by his wife, Mrs Ferrars. She had confessed everything to him on the eve of her suicide. Since then, he has been tormented and burdened by the terrible secret. Prompted by the doctor, he recounts the events leading up to her death. He apparently got engaged to Mrs Ferrars after her husband’s death. She had requested him to wait till the end of her mourning period before announcing it to the public. Mrs Ferrars had been visibly upset for some time and yesterday, when he reminded her about announcing the engagement, she broke down completely and confessed her crime to him. Someone knew her terrible secret and was blackmailing her. Sheppard sees the repulsion and the horror in Ackroyd’s face. He guesses that Mrs Ferrars probably saw it too. Sheppard asks who it was and recalls the scene of Ralph and Mrs Ferrars talking.
From something Mrs Ferrars had said, Ackroyd got the impression that it was someone from his household who was blackmailing her but admits that he could have misunderstood her. He remembers with pain, how she saw the shock in his face and realised that, by confiding in him, she had made him an “accessory after the fact.” However, she refused to tell him the name of the blackmailer. She had asked for 24 hours, promising Ackroyd that he would hear from her before the hours were up. It didn’t occur to him that she would commit suicide and is racked with guilt. Sheppard assures him that he is not responsible for her death. Ackroyd makes it clear that he doesn’t want to rake up past crimes and Sheppard agrees. However, he wants to punish the blackmailer who drove her to her death. Sheppard asks if he wants to hunt down the blackmailer even though it would mean a lot of publicity. Roger wonders if they should leave the matter alone if no word comes from her because she might have sent him a letter, with the blackmailer’s name, before killing herself. After all, it was the only reason she chose death.
As if on cue, Parker comes to give him the evening mail. And lo and behold! There is a letter from the dead woman. Ackroyd starts to read it aloud but stops midway. After all, it is only his to read. Sheppard urges him to finish reading it. But the more he asks, the more vehemently Ackroyd refuses.
Sheppard leaves him at ten minutes to nine, with the letter still unread. With his hand on the door knob, he wonders if he has left anything undone. He is sure he has not. He meets Parker just outside the door and informs him that Ackroyd doesn’t want to be disturbed for the rest of the night. Sheppard passes through the lodge gate as the church chimes nine o’clock. On the way home he walks into a man, who asks him the direction to Fernly Park. Though the stranger has a rough, uneducated voice, Sheppard finds it familiar.
Chapter 5: Murder
At home, Sheppard receives a phone call as he gets ready for bed. He hurriedly tells Caroline that Parker called to inform that Ackroyd has been murdered and races there. However, Parker is surprised to see him and denies having made any call. When Sheppard tells him why he came back, Parker thinks he is joking. Parker tells him that the women have gone to bed; Mr Raymond and Major Hector were in the billiard room and Ackroyd is still in his study. However, Sheppard insists on making sure that everything is alright and Parker agrees.They find the study locked from the inside and Sheppard calls out for Ackroyd but receives no answer. Taking responsibility for the action, he breaks open the door.
Inside, they find Ackroyd just as Sheppard had left him, in the armchair before the fire. But he is clearly dead; stabbed from behind with a dagger. Sheppard stops the shocked butler from touching anything and sends him away to call the police and the men from the billiard room. He stays behind. When the shocked men arrive, they wonder if it’s a murder or suicide. Sheppard rules out suicide. He also notices the blue envelope, containing Mrs Ferrars’ letter, is missing.
The police arrive and consult Sheppard, who recounts the events leading up to the discovery of the murder. He tells them he latched the window himself on Ackroyd’s behest. However, Inspector Davis finds the window wide open and footprints near it. The police immediately work on the hypothesis of a robbery gone wrong. Davis asks if anyone had seen any stranger about and Sheppard recalls meeting a stranger just outside the lodge gate. When questioned, Parker says no one by that description came to the house at the time mentioned by Sheppard
Next, Davis asks everyone about the last time they saw Ackroyd alive. Sheppard last saw him at ten minutes to nine. Raymond mentions that he heard Ackroyd talking to someone at nine thirty and had assumed that he was talking to Sheppard. Major Blunt did not speak to Ackroyd post dinner. Raymond repeats what he had overheard Ackroyd say; “The calls on my purse have been so frequent of late.” The inspector thinks this is an important clue and wonders if, maybe, Roger himself let in the murderer. The time he was last alive is determined by Davis to be around 9.30 p.m. Parker tells them that he met Flora outside the library at 9:45 p.m., who told him that Ackroyd didn’t want to be disturbed. Flora is summoned and questioned by the police. Flora confirms that she went in to say goodnight to her uncle at 9:45 p.m. She faints when she finds out that Ackroyd is murdered.
Chapter 6: The Tunisian Dagger
Later when they are alone together, Davis tells Sheppard that Parker had overheard the word ‘blackmail.’ So, Sheppard recounts everything that happened that evening, including the arrival of Mrs Ferrars’ letter. Inspector Davis immediately suspects Parker but Sheppard is doubtful. The stranger Sheppard met is also a suspect. Meanwhile, Sheppard does a thorough examination of the body and concludes that Ackroyd was attacked by a right-handed man, the blow was unexpected. From the expression on his face, it looks like he died without knowing who his assailant was. The murder weapon is suspected to be a beautiful Tunisian dagger gifted to Ackroyd by Major Blunt and kept in the silver table. Surprised, Sheppard tells them he heard the lid of the silver table close as he was entering the drawing room, giving a detailed account of how he pinpointed the source of the sound. Miss Russell is questioned. She replies that she had come to check the flowers, had noticed the lid of the silver table left open, quickly shut it and left the room. Davis suspects Parker is the murderer. When he returns home, Sheppard tells his sister everything, except about the blackmail. She is sure that Davis is mistaken about Parker being the murderer.
Chapter 7: I Learn My Neighbour’s Profession
Next day, Flora comes to the Sheppard’s cottage to request Sheppard to come up with her to The Larches to see Poirot. She tells them that he is a renowned London detective and she wants to take his help to prove Ralph’s innocence. Sheppard repeatedly tries to convince her to leave it to the police, who suspect Parker and not Ralph. Flora asks him why he went to the inn after the murder, if that is the case. Sheppard is taken aback because he didn’t want his visit to be discovered. Flora had gone to the inn in the morning, after she found out Ralph was staying there. There, she was informed that Inspector Raglan from Cranchester had also come inquiring after Ralph. Flora insists on Ralph’s innocence even as he disappears without a trace. Sheppard acquiesces when Flora tells him that she wants to find out the truth.
When Flora requests Poirot to help, he says he will agree only if she really wants the entire truth because when he starts on a case, he doesn’t stop until he arrives at the whole truth. Flora assures him she wants the whole truth and Poirot accepts. At Flora’s request, Sheppard narrates everything to him, including the mystery of Ralph’s disappearance. When questioned, Sheppard tells them that he went to the inn to let Ralph know that his stepfather had been murdered.
Poirot goes to the police station with Sheppard to inform the police of his appointment as investigator by Ackroyd’s niece, Flora. The police are not happy with the news and tell him that the case is a simple one, with clear motives and suspects and there is no need for amateurs to interfere. At Raglan’s insinuation, Poirot assures them that he doesn’t want any publicity and will take no credit for his contribution to the case. This thaws the police towards him. Accepting Poirot’s participation, Raglan tells him that the fingerprints on the dagger do not match those of either Parker, Raymond, or even Sheppard. Poirot asks if they are Ralph’s and this directness earns him the respect of both Sheppard and the inspector. Though the police doubt Ralph is the murderer, they admit that the case against him is strong. Ralph was seen in the neighbourhood of Fernly Park about nine thirty before he disappeared. Also, he reportedly owns two pairs of shoes with rubber studs, matching the footprints found outside the window.
The colonel invites Poirot and Sheppard to come with them to the lodge as Raglan wants to check the footprints outside the study. At the lodge, the colonel takes Poirot to the library where he assures him that nothing except the body has been removed. Poirot does a thorough examination. He is methodical with his questions, asking the men only those questions that they would be able to answer, explaining that, “To each man his own knowledge.” So, he asks Parker about the fire and the chair. Sheppard is doubtful of the importance of the position of the chair. Poirot tells him, “It is completely unimportant. That is why it is interesting.”
When Sheppard asks Poirot if he thinks Parker is telling the truth; Poirot believes that in this case he is. And goes on to inform Sheppard that in cases like these, everyone has something to hide. Sheppard asks Poirot if he suspects even him of hiding something. To this, Poirot replies that he thinks that Sheppard is not being completely honest about Ralph. This leaves Sheppard flustered and to hide it, he asks Poirot about his method. Poirot explains how he deduced that Ackroyd wouldn’t have opened the window to let in cool air because the fire was already burning low and it was a cold night. So, he must have opened it to let in someone he knew. All evidence points towards it. The person was with him at 9:30 p.m., as Raymond had overheard them talking and left by 9:45 p.m., when Flora came to bid him goodnight. Now the question remains whether the same person came back to kill him or someone else did. Just then, the colonel enters and tells them that the phone call has been traced to a public call office at King’s Abbot station, a busy commercial junction. He emphatically adds that the night train leaves for Liverpool at 10.23 p.m.
Chapter 8: Inspector Raglan is Confident
Melrose is doubtful they will ever find the person who telephoned Sheppard from the station at such a busy time. The discussion moves back to the stranger. Poirot asks who would be able to tell him if any strange visitor came at the lodge last week. Raymond and Parker are the two likely candidates. While Raymond answers no, Parker says he remembers a young man from Curtis and Troute visiting on Wednesday. Raymond recalls it was a dictaphone salesman. However, Ackroyd did not buy the dictaphone. Mr Hammond, Mr Ackroyd’s lawyer arrives and Raymond leaves to meet him.
Poirot tells Sheppard that sometimes inanimate objects tell him everything there is to tell. When Sheppard asks what they have said to him today, Poirot replies that an open window, a closed door and a chair that moved itself begs the question why, without providing an answer. Sheppard finds Poirot ridiculous, full of self-importance and wonders if his reputation is built on a series of lucky chances. Raglan is already examining the silver table when Poirot and Sheppard arrive. He is sure that the case is simple and suggests that Ralph is the murderer. He states that he employs method and Poirot enthusiastically explains that in addition to method and logic, he uses the grey cells and applies the psychology of crime. Raglan scoffs at the psychoanalysis “stuff” and proceeds to show them a list of the household and their alibis methodically written down on a sheet. He estimates the time of death is between 9:45 to 10 p.m. Raglan still suspects Parker but Poirot maintains he is innocent. Ralph was seen coming around the house at twenty-five minutes past 9, making him a likely suspect. When Poirot asks why Ralph would call from the station, Raglan simply answers that murderers do funny things. The footprints are the most damning evidence against him. The inspector good heartedly laughs when Poirot points out other footprints around it that are definitely a woman’s. Poirot spots a summerhouse and asks Sheppard to accompany him. There, he finds a piece of white cambric and a goose quill.
Chapter 9: The Goldfish Pond
On their way back to the house, Poirot wonders who will inherit the estate. This question takes Sheppard by surprise because he admits that it had not occurred to him before. Poirot wishes that Sheppard would tell him his secret. Whatever the secret, Poirot assures him that he will find out. During their walk, Poirot talks about the beauty of women and points out Flora in the distance. Unaware of them, she is humming happily to herself and at one point laughs outright. Just then, Major Blunt comes out from the trees. Conversationally, Blunt says maybe it’s time for him to go away again. Flora asks him to stay for her sake and he relents. She tells him that she is happy despite everything because her uncle has left her a legacy of twenty thousand pounds. Surprised, Blunt asks if money really means so much to her and she replies that it means everything to her; including freedom from pretending to be grateful for the charities of rich relations.
Just then, something shiny in the pond catches their attention and Blunt tries to take it out. Failing which, he resumes their conversation and reassures her that Ralph will be okay and she coldly replies that she trusts Poirot to find out the truth. Taking it as a cue, Poirot comes forward and introduces himself to Blunt. Upon interrogation, Blunt tells him that he heard Ackroyd’s voice at 9:30 p.m. and assumed Raymond was with him due to his business- like tone. Poirot tries to fish out something from the fish pond but seemingly without success.
Sheppard and Poirot are invited to lunch and they accept. Walking up to the house, Poirot shows Sheppard what he had retrieved from the pond- a woman’s wedding ring with the inscription: From R., March 13 .
Chapter 10: The Parlour Maid
Poirot and Sheppard join Mrs Ackroyd, her lawyer Mr Hammond, and the rest of the household for lunch. After lunch, Poirot introduces himself to Hammond as acting on behalf of Flora to find out who murdered Ackroyd. Mr Hammond doesn’t believe Ralph is the murderer. When Poirot asks him about his money troubles, Hammond admits it to be a recurring problem but he isn’t aware of any financial transaction that happened between Roger and Ralph in the past one year. Poirot asks about Ackroyd’s will and finds out that though legacies were left behind for charities, his employees, Mrs Ackroyd and Flora; the vast majority of his property has been left to Ralph. On Poirot’s behest, Sheppard goes over to Blunt and engages him in a conversation to gauge if he could be Mrs Ferrars’ blackmailer. He finds out that Blunt came into a legacy last year which he lost after investing in a dubious scheme. Sheppard sympathises and shares a similar experience with him. Later, he tells Poirot that Blunt is innocent.
To Mr Hammond’s inquiry about money for household expenses, Raymond replies that Mr Ackroyd had withdrawn a hundred pounds on the eve of his murder and had placed the money in an unlocked drawer in his room. It is discovered that forty pounds are missing. Upon inquiry, the police learn that the new parlour maid is leaving in a week’s time. Reportedly, she was summoned by Ackroyd, who scolded her over some disarranged documents and this prompted her dismissal. The parlour maid, Ursula Bourne, is interviewed by the police. Afterwards, Sheppard wonders if she could be the blackmailer because Mrs Ferrar’s letter to Ackroyd mentioned ‘person’ not ‘man’. So, Poirot asks him to go to her former employer and find out more about her.
Chapter 11: Poirot Pays a Call
On Sunday, Dr Sheppard visits Bourne’s former employer Mrs Folliot and is confused by the woman’s nervous hostility. When he returns, Caroline tells him that Poirot had come visiting. It’s apparent that she is won over by Poirot’s prowess as a high-profile detective. Sheppard irritably asks if they talked about the case at all. When Caroline tells him that she told Poirot about the conversation she overheard in the woods; he tells her that she has made Ralph’s case harder. Caroline disagrees and is actually surprised that he has not told Poirot himself. She believes that Ralph’s innocence can be established as the young woman could be the perfect alibi. Caroline also told Poirot that Miss Russell visited him the morning of the murder. At this, Dr Sheppard recalls the conversation he had with Miss Russell that went from drugs and poison to detective stories.
Chapter 12: Round the Table
There is an inquest on Monday, after which Raglan tells Poirot and Dr Sheppard that he is helpless in the face of evidence piling up against Ralph. The inspector is bewildered at his continued disappearance. He informs them that the police are on the lookout for him. Later, Poirot tells Sheppard that when the mystery of the phone call is solved, the murder will be explained. Sheppard considers the call irrelevant. When Raglan informs Poirot that the fingerprints don’t match anyone’s, Poirot suggests examining the dead man’s fingerprints for a match.
At the lodge, Poirot assembles Mrs Ackroyd, Flora, Raymond and Hector and pleads with everyone present to tell him Ralph’s whereabouts if they know it. Mrs Ackroyd declares that she is grateful that the news of Flora and Ralph’s engagement wasn’t made public yet. In indignant anger, Flora declares that she will publicly announce her engagement to Ralph, the very next day. Her mother is horrified and though Raymond admires her loyalty he advises against it. It is only when Poirot requests her to postpone the announcement by a day or two that Flora reluctantly agrees. Then, Poirot makes a dramatic announcement; “Messieurs et mesdames, I tell you, I mean to know. And I shall know- in spite of you all.” Raymond asks what he means by that. Poirot replies that everyone present in the room is hiding something from him. He challenges someone to deny this but no one does. Point proven, he leaves.
Chapter 13: The Goose Quill
Sheppard goes to Poirot’s house and expresses his displeasure with Poirot taking his sister’s help with the investigation. Poirot good humouredly admits that he likes employing the experts. Poirot replies that he has gathered a great deal of valuable information and confronts Sheppard for hiding the fact that his sister overheard Ralph’s conversation with some woman. Sheppard, in turn, confronts him for enquiring about his patients and Poirot evasively tells him that he finds Miss Russell an interesting study. Dr Sheppard asks if he also finds her suspicious, like Caroline and Mrs Ackroyd. At this, Poirot exclaims at the intuitive power of women.
When Sheppard asks Poirot, what are his actual thoughts on the matter, the latter tells him that his method requires him to view everyone as a suspect until proven innocent and not to trust anyone, including Sheppard. Poirot tells him that he knows that Sheppard wasn’t lying about the stranger because a neighbour’s maid had also been asked directions to Fernly Park by a stranger. Poirot connects the stranger’s American accent to the quill he found at the summerhouse, which is actually used to snort heroin in America and Canada. Sheppard tries his hand at using logic to hypothesise who the murderer could be. He guesses that the American stranger must have climbed in the open window and killed Ackroyd. He suspects the stranger is Parker’s accomplice in the blackmailing of Mrs Ferrars. This would be why he killed Ackroyd with the dagger provided by Parker.
Poirot replies that his theory leaves a great deal unaccounted for; the call, the chair, and the missing money. Sheppard thinks the position of the chair is irrelevant and repeats that he thinks it was Ralph who was with Ackroyd at 9.30 p.m. He suggests that Ackroyd might have given him the forty pounds. When Sheppard comments on how strong the case is against Ralph, Poirot disagrees. He declares Ralph innocent because there is too much evidence against him for it to be true.
Chapter 14: Mrs Ackroyd
The next day, Sheppard marvels at Poirot’s method that is deceptively irrelevant. Poirot’s provocative announcement is effective because Mrs Ackroyd summons him. She is lying in bed, looking sickly. In a roundabout way, she tells him that Ackroyd was miserly with the household finances and rarely gave her or Flora any spending money. As a result, she had incurred some debt from some moneylenders. Worried about her financial prospects, she apparently got curious about what Ackroyd had bestowed her in his will. However, Ursula walked in while she was searching for the will. Before leaving the study, she overheard Ursula requesting to talk to Ackroyd in private. Mrs Ackroyd also tells him that she had read about an old silver piece that was sold for a fortune at Christy’s. So, in the evening, she went to check the silver table for a similar piece she wanted to get valued in London and surprise Ackroyd. She ran away, leaving the lid of the silver table open because Miss Russell was coming in from the French window. Sheppard doubts that she wanted it inspected for Ackroyd’s sake but finds the bit about Miss Russell interesting. Mrs Ackroyd wants Dr Sheppard to relay all this to Poirot.
Poirot meets Ursula Bourne in the hall, who helps him into his overcoat. Sheppard notices that she has been crying. He asks her why she lied about being summoned by Ackroyd when in fact it was she who asked to speak to him. She replies that she wanted to leave in any case and asks him in a low voice if anyone knows where Ralph is. Next, she surprises him by asking about the time of the murder. When Sheppard tells her that it was between 9:45 to 10 p.m., she asks if there’s a possibility that it happened before that. Sheppard tells her that it’s impossible since Flora had last seen him alive at 9:45 p.m. Later, Caroline informs her brother that Poirot had asked her to find out the colour of Ralph’s boots. Dr Sheppard is not happy with Poirot using his sister in his investigation. Caroline finds out that the boots were black, not brown.
Chapter 15: Geoffrey Raymond
Sheppard relays Mrs Ackroyd’s message to Poirot, including Miss Russell’s lie. Poirot is not surprised at Miss Russell’s lie. They both think she went out to meet someone. Sheppard also gives him Caroline’s message that the boots were black, not brown. Poirot exclaims that it is a pity they are black, not brown. He tells Poirot about the conversation he had with Miss Russell at his clinic, which involved drugs. Poirot asks if it’s cocaine she spoke of, and Sheppard asks him how he knows. Just then, Raymond enters and tells Poirot that he has a confession to make. He assures him that it’s nothing but he wants to have a clear conscience anyway. And proceeds to tell them that he had some money problems but Ackroyd’s legacy of five hundred pounds took care of. After Raymond leaves, Poirot remarks that people have murdered for less than that. He points out that everyone in the house benefited from Ackroyd’s death except Blunt. Dr Sheppard suggests that the blackmailer and the murderer might not be been two different persons and Poirot agrees. However, Poirot still suspects Parker to be the blackmailer and the thief of the letter. He asks Sheppard to accompany him to the lodge, where he recreates the scene between Flora and Parker on the night of Ackroyd’s murder, and is satisfied with what he sees.
Chapter 16: An Evening at Mah Jong
At their weekly night of Mah Jong, the Sheppards and their two guests- Mrs Gannett and Colonel Carter- discusses the murder during the game. Mrs Gannett informs them that Ursula Bourne has reportedly been keeping to herself and crying for days now. Caroline tells them that Poirot has been looking at a map of the area and she assumes that it means Ralph is in Cranchester. This throws Sheppard off guard. After several reproaches from his sister for being so discreet, in a moment of triumph, he tells them about the wedding ring. Everyone offers a theory about who it might belong to. Before going up to bed, Caroline assures her brother that Flora isn’t in love with Ralph Paton and never has been.
Chapter 17: Parker
On Tuesday morning, after the joint funeral of Mrs Ferrars and Ackroyd, Poirot asks Sheppard to come back with him to interview Parker. Poirot confronts Parker about blackmailing his former employer. Even as the butler is trying to regain his composure, Poirot asks him if he tried to overhear the conversation between Sheppard and Ackroyd with the intent to blackmail Ackroyd. Parker reluctantly admits that he did blackmail his former employer, a Major Ellerby, but he insists that he didn’t blackmail Ackroyd. He merely assumed Ackroyd was being blackmailed by someone and wanted a share of it.
Afterwards, Poirot takes Dr Sheppard to Hammond’s office to confirm Parker’s innocence. After Poirot verifies that Hammond was Mrs Ferrars’ lawyer, he asks Sheppard to recount the story of the blackmail. The lawyer is not surprised and says he had suspected it for some time. Hammond tells them that Mrs Ferrars sold securities of around twenty thousand pounds in just one year. After this, Poirot is convinced that Parker is not their man. Poirot now suspects that either Blunt or Raymond is the blackmailer. He tells Sheppard that he found out that the legacy Blunt inherited was close to twenty thousand pounds.
Dr Sheppard invites Poirot to have lunch with him and his sister. Talking of Ralph, Sheppard admits he has a weak nature but not a vicious one. Poirot comments on the latent potency of weaknesses. Caroline tells him that even her brother is weak as water and adds that Ralph is innocent. In a strange voice, Poirot soliloquies how the weaknesses of good men often lead them to do horrible things, whenever it’s required and go back to being good people again. It leaves a strange impression on both his listeners. Just then, Sheppard receives a call from the police station informing him that they have detained a man named Charles Kent at Liverpool. He is believed to be the mysterious stranger Sheppard ran into and they want him to come and identify him.
Chapter 18: Charles Kent
Poirot, Sheppard and Inspector Raglan take the train to Liverpool. Raglan comments that now they will know about the blackmailing part of the business, if nothing else. They meet Superintendent Hayes at the Liverpool police station. He welcomes Poirot warmly and assures everyone that with Poirot around, the case will soon be solved. The stranger’s name is Charles Kent. On interrogation, he tells them his whereabouts at the estimated time of the crime but he refuses to tell them why he visited Fernly Park. Poirot asks him if was born in Kent. The man ridicules him for assuming that he was born in Kent because his last name is Kent. Poirot pointedly tells him that in certain cases, it is a possibility. It elicits a strange reaction from the man. Poirot doesn’t explain what he meant to anyone, including Sheppard, reiterating that it is just a small idea of his.
Chapter 19: Flora Ackroyd
The next morning, Raglan informs Sheppard that Kent’s alibi is rock solid but he still hasn’t told them his reason for visiting Fernly Park. Raglan and Sheppard make fun of Poirot’s outlandish theories. Raglan suggests that Poirot is crazy and it’s an inherent trait. In fact, Caroline had told him that Poirot has a mad nephew. They go to Poirot’s to tell him Kent’s alibi is fool-proof. Poirot advices Raglan not to release Kent just yet. When Raglan protests and reminds him of the estimated time of the murder, Poirot claims he doesn’t take anyone’s statements for a fact until it has been proven beyond doubt, and reveals that it was Flora who stole the forty pounds and lied about seeing her uncle at 9:45 p.m. His reconstruction of the crime (ch. 15) has made it clear that Flora hadn’t gone inside the study, as she said she did, when Parker saw her. The inspector wants to go to the lodge immediately to verify this and takes Poirot and Sheppard along with him. In Blunt’s presence, Flora admits to taking the money. She is actually relieved that its out in the open. She doesn’t have to pretend to be what she isn’t and storms out of the room. After Flora leaves, Blunt tries to cover for her by saying that Ackroyd had given him the money. Poirot follows Blunt out and confronts him about the secret he conceals; his love for Flora. Poirot advises him not to hide it and tells him that Flora actually cares for him. He assures Blunt that her loyalty to Ralph is for the sake of their friendship, not love. Blunt takes Poirot’s advice gratefully and goes after Flora into the garden.
Chapter 20: Miss Russell
Raglan is disappointed that he has to fix the time of Ackroyd’s murder all over again. Poirot accompanies him to the station, leaving Sheppard to attend to his patients. Afterwards, Poirot returns to the Sheppard’s’ cottage and is invited to talk in Sheppard’s workshop- where he tinkers with small mechanisms like alarm clocks. Poirot informs him that, with help from the police, he plans to publish a false report in the newspaper about Ralph’s arrest. He also informs Sheppard that he has invited Miss Russell to his clinic for an interview.
When Miss Russell arrives, Poirot tells her that Charles Kent has been arrested in Liverpool. She defiantly asks what of it. Sheppard suddenly realises why he thought the stranger’s voice familiar- it resembles Miss Russell’s. At first, she acts uninterested and detached until Poirot tells her that the estimated time of Ackroyd’s murder has been pushed back to between 8:50 to 9:45 p.m. He tells her that this would mean that Charles Kent is the murderer. She breaks down in terror and desperation and insists that Kent went nowhere near the study, confessing that he came to meet her in the summerhouse. She had run to the summerhouse earlier in the evening to leave him a note. This is why she was breathless when Sheppard ran into her. She reluctantly tells them that Charles Kent is her son out of wedlock. She had kept it a secret from the world and him, as well. He turned out badly, drinking and taking drugs. He was sent to Canada some years back and she didn’t hear from him until he found out she is his mother and wrote, asking for money. Once back in London, he decided to come see her at Fernly. If her disgraceful past was discovered, she would lose her post as housekeeper. So, she had left a note asking him to wait in the summerhouse to avoid discovery. That’s why she had visited Sheppard in the morning to ask about drugs; in hope of a solution. She briefly met him between 9:20-9:25 p.m. and gave him all the money she had. She made sure that he left before she too went in; taking a detour because Major Blunt was on the lawn. Poirot tells her she need not tell the police what she has told them, unless it is rendered necessary in the future, which he deems unlikely. He assures her that her secret is safe with them.
Chapter 21: The Paragraph in the Paper
The next morning, Caroline talks about the report of Ralph’s arrest and tells Sheppard that she saw someone arrive at Poirot’s cottage early in the morning. Later, when Poirot comes to their house; despite all her ruses and tactics, she is unable to make him divulge who his mysterious guest was. He asks Sheppard to accompany him on a walk and Sheppard soon realises that they are walking towards the lodge. Poirot wants him to leave a message at the lodge that he wants Flora, Colonel Blunt, Mrs Ackroyd and Raymond to come to his cottage for a conference at nine p.m. Poirot doesn’t accompany Sheppard inside, deciding to walk around the lawn instead. Sheppard meets Mrs Ackroyd from whom he learns that Flora and Blunt are engaged. He is appalled when she makes excuses for Flora’s theft. Sheppard finally manages to give her Poirot’s message and joins Poirot on the road and they walk back to the house. When they enter, Caroline excitedly informs them that Ursula arrived at the house soon after they left and is in a terrible state. When Poirot sees her, he greets her as Mrs Ralph Paton.
Chapter 22: Ursula’s Story
Ursula tells them she fell in love with Ralph while working at the lodge. Ralph had convinced her to get married in secret. She reveals that she was the woman with Ralph in the woods. Finding out that Ralph had got engaged to Flora, she called him down to the village. Since Ralph showed fear and reluctance, she disclosed the marriage to Ackroyd on Friday. Ackroyd said some unpleasant things to her and she retaliated by handing in her resignation. She met Ralph later that night, at twenty-seven minutes to ten in the summerhouse. They had a huge and ugly fight, and she left in anger. After she finishes her account, she realises that this makes Ralph and herself very likely suspects. She tells them she has not heard from Ralph since and asks Sheppard if he has any idea where Ralph is. He replies that he does not know at the moment. Poirot assures her that he will take care of everything.
Chapter 23: Poirot’s Little Reunion
Poirot tells Sheppard that he misses Hastings because he always kept a written record of their adventures that he could peruse. Sheppard shyly tells him that he has a written record too. Poirot asks to see it. Sheppard is reluctant because he hasn’t been too kind towards Poirot in the account but Poirot says he does not care for such trifles. So he leaves Poirot to read it while he goes to see a patient. When he returns at 8 p.m., Poirot congratulates him on his precise writing. He remarks that Sheppard has kept himself very much in the background, unlike Hastings.
They leave for The Larches with Ursula, leaving a very curious and disappointed Caroline behind. When everyone arrives, he introduces them to Mrs Ralph Paton. Mrs Ackroyd exclaims in disbelief. However, Flora welcomes her to the family with warmth, apologizing for causing her unintentional pain by getting engaged to Ralph. Miss Russell and Parker also arrive. Once everyone is seated, Poirot begins by telling them that they are all suspects.
Then he describes the two meetings that took place in the summerhouse that night; between Ralph and Ursula; and Miss Russell and Charles Kent. The first thing he clears is that the voice heard at 9.30 p.m. by Raymond was the recorded voice of Roger on the dictaphone. He had kept its purchase a secret to surprise Raymond. By this account, Ackroyd was alive at 9.30 p.m. This clears almost all of suspicion, except Ralph. Ursula says that Ralph wouldn’t have the courage to kill his stepfather. Raymond doesn’t doubt her claim but asks where is Ralph. Poirot tells them that Ralph is right here with them
Chapter 24: Ralph Paton’s Story
When Poirot points out Ralph standing at the door, Sheppard gets uneasy. Poirot tells Sheppard he shouldn’t have kept secrets from him. Sheppard admits that he had known about Ralph’s secret marriage. After the murder was discovered, he realised that either Ralph or his wife would be suspects, so he met Ralph and told him how things stood. Ralph picks up the story here and tells everyone that he feared that his wife might have actually murdered his father in a rage. The thought of having to give evidence that might incriminate his wife, made Ralph disappear as Sheppard advised him. Continuing the account, Poirot says Sheppard had hid him well. Poirot deduced that the best hiding place would be a home for the mentally unfit. Hence, he cooked up the story of a mad nephew to ask Caroline for advice. She obliged and told him about two such homes that Sheppard recommended to his patients. Ralph was admitted to one of them under another name. Ralph had no idea how serious the case against him was because the home didn’t allow news from the outside world.
Here, Poirot tells Sheppard that though he was truthful in his writing, his reticence meant that he didn’t write the entire truth. When Raymond asks for Ralph’s account of what happened that night; Ralph doesn’t say much. He has no alibi, but he gives his word that he went nowhere near the study. Poirot announces that things are simple enough; to save Ralph Paton, the real murderer should confess. He claims to know the murderer and will reveal the name to Inspector Raglan in the morning. Just then, Poirot receives a telegram. When Blunt asks him who the murderer is, Poirot tells them he knows for sure now. He tells them the reunion has come to an end and reminds the murderer again that tomorrow the truth will go to Inspector Raglan.
Chapter 25: The Whole Truth
Poirot asks Sheppard to stay back. Sheppard still thinks Poirot is nowhere near solving the murder and condescendingly asks him why act like he knows the murderer when he apparently doesn’t. Poirot replies that there is always a reason and logic for what he does. Sheppard tries to guess the reason. Either he wanted to scare the murderer into confessing or he was using himself as bait to lure out the murderer. Poirot laughs that he is not so heroic as to use himself as a bait. When Sheppard asks if he wants the murderer to get away Poirot gravely answers that there is only one way out and it doesn’t lead to freedom. Sheppard asks incredulously if he really believes that the murderer was one of the people gathered there today. Poirot says yes and takes him through a detailed narration of his method, based on impeccable logic and reason- the purpose of the call, the importance that the murder be discovered at night instead of in the morning, the displaced chair hiding the dictaphone, the footprints outside the window – all of which pointed to Dr Sheppard as the murderer.
Chapter 26: And Nothing But The Truth
After a dead silence of a minute or half, Sheppard laughs at the absurdity of it. Poirot however tells him that he suspected him straight away because of the discrepancy in time. Normally, it takes five minutes to reach from the lodge to the gate but it took him ten minutes that night. Sheppard asks what he could gain from killing Ackroyd and Poirot answers safety; because he was the blackmailer all along. He tells Sheppard that his repeated mention of a legacy was untraceable. He had invented it to account for the money he extorted from Mrs Ferrars; and which he had gambled away. He knew that if Ackroyd found out, he would be ruined.
Sheppard asks him what explanation he has for the telephone call. Poirot confesses this was the hardest puzzle. He had an idea about why he would want to go back later-to remove the dictaphone but he didn’t know how it was accomplished. He found out Sheppard’s tactic by looking at his list of patients on the day of the murder. Finding Miss Russell’s name on it was a lucky coincidence. Sheppard had asked one of his patients, departing by the 10:23, the favour to call at his number. The telegram he received had confirmed it. Sheppard nonchalantly comments that it all sounds impractical. Poirot simply reminds him that he will call Inspector Raglan in the morning. However, he offers him a way out for the sake of his sister and suggests an overdose of a sleeping draught but insists that Ralph’s name must be cleared. Poirot also suggests that Sheppard should finish the manuscript but without his former reserve. Sheppard remarks at his prolific suggestions and asks if he is finished. Poirot replies that there is just one more suggestion- it would be stupid to try and silence him like he did Ackroyd. Sheppard agrees. And they take leave of each other.
Chapter 27: Apologia
In the last chapter, Sheppard confesses to his crimes. He had actually wanted the manuscript to be published one day- as a testimony to Poirot’s failure. He worries about Caroline but is reassured by Poirot’s promise to take care of things. He plans to mail the manuscript to Poirot after he is done writing and then kill himself. In a self-conscious act of poetic justice, he chooses veronal to end his life.
There is a dramatic shift in the narrator’s tone here. Sheppard gives his own version of events, filling in with little details. He admits that Flora’s lie about seeing Ackroyd at 9.45 and Parker turning out to be a blackmailer like him, were unexpected. He shows no remorse and the only saving grace seems to be his concern for his elder sister, Caroline.