Ending of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

EponaEpona Edgewood NM, USA
SPOILERS!!  I just finished TMORA and loved it, but I simply don’t get the ending. I understand that the doctor is going to commit suicide rather than face prosecution for the blackmailing and the murder. But other than that, I don’t understand what his suicide accomplishes. The mere fact of his suicide will confirm his guilt, and it won’t save Caroline from shame; it will avoid the spectacle of a trial is all.  I also didn’t understand the point of his manuscript and was confused by Poirot insisting that in the manuscript Ralph Paton could not be guilty of anything.  I thought the manuscript was supposed to be the actual story — which was a very good one — so why would Poirot issue the caution about Ralph Paton?


  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    I don't understand your 2nd point but the rest is just as you say, By Committing suicide Shepard is saving Caroline (And him), the shame of a long drawn out trial, it is as simple as that.
  • @Epona, it's difficult but you might try and put yourselves in Doctor Sheppard's shoes in the early 1920s. A doctor would have been the pillar of the community, trustworthy, utterly respectable, someone who knows a lot of secrets about the local community. He would not be able to continue his profession in the village and it's more than likely he would be struck off the register of doctors. The truth about the murders would very quickly spread throughout the village, his life would not be worth living in his own eyes.  Ralph Patton was the chief suspect in the eyes of the police all along, so Poirot wanted to make sure that his name was cleared of all suspicion - anything else may have prevented him from marrying Flora.
    Hope that helps.
  • EponaEpona Edgewood NM, USA
    Thanks so much for the thoughts.  My second point, confusingly presented, was that I don't totally understand the role of the manuscript. Poirot thinks the doctor is an excellent writer, and of course he likes the idea of a book being written about himself.  So did Poirot give the doctor some time -- rather than having him immediately arrested -- not just to give him the opportunity to commit suicide, but also to give him the opportunity to finish the manuscript?  A not entirely selfless gesture, in other words.  
  • @Epona, I feel it was a confession that Poirot wanted, so that the various points could be clarified and other individuals cleared from any suspicion. If Dr. Sheppard had not written the manuscript I believe that the police would still have been looking into other aspects of the murders, because as with all of these things, Poirot does not always have the answer to the murders he investigates, he needs the culprit to own up to the murder. A good example of this is in the novel Curtain, which was the final Poirot story. 
  • JS88JS88 Peterborough
    I know I'm a bit late to this one, but I saw a documentary on Sly Arts where the hypothesis (?) was that poirot got it wrong. Dr Sheppard took the fall to protect his sister. I initially thought it was a load of old hooy but I can't get the idea that it makes more sense for him write the confession and take his own life in that scenario. I am going to re read it this year with that in mind to see if it does fit the events.
  • @JS88. I wonder how long ago you read the story. Christie provides about five strong hints as to the murderer, so there is no chance of getting it wrong. Poirot would also be very distraught at the thought of his little grey cells having got it wrong. If you recall, it would not be possible for Caroline Sheppard to have been present when the murders took place. The individual on Sky Arts was trying to create a sensation and draw attention to himself, I suggest that he has not read the book and may know very little about Poirot or Agatha Christie.
    I hope you enjoy reading the book again. Perhaps you could return here and discuss your own views and findings.
  • JS88JS88 Peterborough
    Dr Sheppard, it was quite some time ago that I read it. I am working my way through all Poirot novels in the order of publication, getting through about 4 or 5 a year and am currently reading Dead Mans Folly, just to give you an idea of quite how long ago it was. I must say whilst watching the documentary I thought exactly that, it was a self publicity stunt for the documentary maker, who is a French theatre director who was staging the work as a play. Also, I assume it was a translation he was using, but he did explicitly state he had read the book several times. I have already broken my self imposed rule of not re reading any until I had read them all, I had to shut myself in a darkened room and re read MOTOE after watching Ken's sorry film, so I have decided to re read Ackroyd in the next couple of months. I will read it carefully and report my thoughts once completed (however, judging by your usename you must know the novel well and I already tend to agree with you from dim recollection of the detail)
  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States
    There's a book called Who Killed Roger Ackroyd? that makes the "wrong killer" argument– it's kind of a trendy thing in some French circles, but I didn't care for it.
  • JS88JS88 Peterborough
    I do find the concept of a crime novelist writing a novel where an otherwise infallible detective gets it wrong, but presents it in the novel as him getting it correct, leaving only the tiniest of clues as to the correct solution, very beguiling. I wonder if it has ever been done, and if it has, has anyone worked it out???
  • @JS88
    Can I point you towards Agatha Christie's The Witness for the Prosecution?
  • Not quite what you meant, but SPOILERS ALL THROUGH!!! in Agatha Christie's "Mrs. McGinty's dead", the police investigation and trial end with one accused declared guilty at the trial, but the detective isn't satisfied and calls in Poirot. Similarly, in Dorothy Sayers' "Strong Poison, a woman is indicted, the Jury don't reach an agreement, and the private investigator comes in.
    More to your point, in "The man in the queue" by Josephine Tey, The detective "gets his man", all the clues point to him, the detective doesn't feel it's right, but can't do anything about it. In the end someone else confesses. Also In a short story by AC, "The Chocolate Box" Poirot is completely mistaken, till the real murderer confesses. 
  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States
    Also, in G.K. Chesterton's "The Absence of Mr. Glass," a super-logical detective comes up with a completely rational explanation for a disappearance that's completely wrong.  He is quickly put right by Father Brown.
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom

    Dr Shephard is a very Egotistical and arrogant man, he wants to be someone who Chronicles The Case of The Famous Hercule Poirot, I also think he wants to go down as one of our Greatest Murderers and leave the story for the nation.
  • SPOILER: Dr Sheppard begins his career as a murderer after hearing that Mrs Ferrars, who has committed suicide, has written to her fiancé telling of the blackmail. When he commits his murder he has no idea that Poirot is his neighbour and that the murder will be scrutinised in detail. Concerned about being discovered as the murderer, Sheppard does everything he can to cover up the crime. He is able to do so because Poirot asks him to help solve the crime, believing that Sheppard can ask questions and go to the homes of possible suspects, without the individuals fear of being questioned by the  'police'. The confession at the end is written to clear innocent individuals of any suspicion of being involved in the crime; he is full of remorse and takes his own life ashamed and embarrassed of what the locals will think of him and is unable to face his sister.
  • kunal26kunal26 Ranchi,India
    I know it's quite irrelevant but my question is how could have Poirot and Inspector Ralph closed the case. I mean who was going to be shown as the criminal is the case ?

  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States

    Well, the killer left a signed confession behind before committing suicide, so the authorities would have read it, officially closed the case, and quietly let the matter rest to protect the family member of the killer.  If enough of the public asked why there hadn't been an arrest or if a journalist dug into the case or an innocent person was accused by some unofficial party or something, there might've been a quiet announcement of the identity of the killer.  
  • kunal26kunal26 Ranchi,India
    Yeah that could have been but as we saw the nature of the people of the village and specially Caroline's. So it could have been a bit illogical in this case. 
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