Form and Content
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is the story of a brutal disruption of order at an English country manor; famous from its first publication, it has been recognized as a classic model of the English mystery genre. It is narrated in the first person by the physician James Sheppard, the importance of which becomes wholly clear only by the novel’s end.
The story begins the day before Roger Ackroyd’s murder, with the death of a prominent townswoman, Mrs. Ferrars. When Sheppard reports the death to Caroline, she rightly infers that it was not an accident but suicide based on remorse; she has believed all along that Mrs. Ferrars poisoned her late husband. While dining at Fernly Park that evening, the doctor learns from Ackroyd that his sister’s surmises are correct. Ackroyd confides in Sheppard that, after having been blackmailed for some time, Mrs. Ferrars confessed the truth to him, knowing that it would affect their private marriage engagement, but did not name the blackmailer. While the men talk, the evening post arrives, containing a last letter from Mrs. Ferrars. After reading the first few lines aloud, Ackroyd realizes that she intends to reveal the blackmailer’s identity, so he puts it aside to read when alone. When Sheppard leaves, he encounters a stranger on the grounds, looking for the manor house. Later that night, he receives a telephone call, purportedly from Ackroyd’s butler, telling him that Ackroyd has been murdered. He rushes back to Fernly Park. No one admits to having made the call, yet they find that, indeed, Roger Ackroyd has been stabbed to death in the locked study where Sheppard had left him.
The local authorities allow Poirot to investigate, with the encouragement of Flora Ackroyd, who fears that Ralph, who has vanished since the murder, may be arrested. Poirot invites Sheppard to assist him with inside information and with gaining access to interview the defensive household members. Major Blunt heard Ackroyd speaking in his study, apparently with Geoffrey Raymond, some time after Sheppard’s departure. Flora claims to have seen her uncle even later, but this claim turns out to be an alibi for having stolen money from his bedroom. She claims, truthfully, not to have seen or heard from Ralph since the murder, and a case begins to shape up against Ralph. Caroline saw him talking to Mrs....
(The entire section is 960 words.)