The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

by Agatha Christie

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Compare Poirot’s approach to the investigation to that of the police in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

In his investigation in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Poirot takes a systematic approach that addresses both emotional and logical factors. Poirot is sensitive to unspoken nuances that betray individuals’ motivations. After learning as much as possible, he sits back to digest the information, using his “little grey cells.” The police have the advantage of their official capacity, but they are hampered by their pre-conceptions about their fellow townspeople and their acceptance of supposed facts that are later proved false.

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As a detective, Hercule Poirot is both intuitive and intellectual. He has grown accustomed to people underestimating his talents, despite his almost always being right. In this small English town, Poirot’s Continental appearance and mannerisms often throw people off guard, and his Belgian-accented English prompts some to doubt his intelligence. Because Poirot has a knack for seeming to lend a sympathetic ear, a wide variety of people open up to him. He is thus uniquely positioned to accumulate both opinions and facts that, at first glance, seem completely unrelated to the matter at hand.

In the Roger Ackroyd case, both Poirot’s reputation and his status as an outsider help him solve the murder. The local police allow Poirot to “assist” them once they learn the newcomer’s identity. Their familiarity with numerous potential suspects as pillars of the community harms their objectivity, as they are unlikely to suspect upstanding citizens of violent crimes. As Poirot draws specific community members into the investigation, he learns apparently unrelated details about them.

Although Poirot does not always immediately grasp the significance of specific information, he has the talent and the patience for tying together these supposed loose ends. Poirot can calmly sit back and reflect on possible connections. He considers this to be both a natural and an intellectual approach, in which he lets his brain work of its own accord. His expression for this stage is letting “the little grey cells” function.

In this case, both the timing of Ackroyd’s death and the manner of concealing the actual time become highly significant. The police had accepted the time at face value, but Poirot rejects all assumptions. Ultimately, both his knowledge of Sheppard’s hobby of tinkering with mechanical objects and his insights into the doctor’s massive ego allow him to solve the crime.

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