The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
Author Agatha Christie
Cover artist Ellen Edwards
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Crime novel
Publisher William Collins, Sons
Publication date
June 1926
Media type Print (hardback, paperback)
Pages 312 (first edition, hardback)
Preceded by The Secret of Chimneys
Followed by The Big Four

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a work of detective fiction by Agatha Christie, first published in June 1926 in the United Kingdom by William Collins, Sons[1] and in the United States by Dodd, Mead and Company on 19 June 1926.[2] It is the third novel to feature Hercule Poirot as the lead detective.

Poirot retires to a village near the home of a friend he met in London, Roger Ackroyd, who agrees to keep him anonymous, as he pursues his retirement project of perfecting vegetable marrows. He is not long at this pursuit when his friend is murdered. Ackroyd's niece calls Poirot in to ensure that the guilt does not fall on Ackroyd's son; Poirot promises to find the truth, which she accepts.

The novel was initially well-received, remarked for the startling ending, and in 2013, 87 years after its release the British Crime Writers' Association voted it the best crime novel ever.[3] It is one of Christie's best known and most controversial novels, its innovative twist ending having a significant impact on the genre. Howard Haycraft included this novel in his list of the most influential crime novels ever written.[4] The short biography of Christie which is included in 21st century UK printings of her books calls it her masterpiece, although writer and critic Robert Barnard has written that he considers it a conventional Christie novel.

Plot summary

The news in King's Abbot is all about the death of Mrs Ferrars, a wealthy widow who is rumoured to have murdered her husband. Roger Ackroyd, a widower who was to marry Mrs Ferrars, is distraught. He invites Dr James Sheppard to his house Fernly Park to dinner. Sheppard dines with Ackroyd; Ackroyd's sister-in-law Mrs Cecil Ackroyd; her young daughter Flora; Major Blunt, a big-game hunter; and Geoffrey Raymond, Ackroyd's personal secretary. Flora announces her engagement to Captain Ralph Paton, stepson of Ackroyd. After dinner, Sheppard and Ackroyd talk in his study. Ackroyd tells him that Mrs Ferrars had confided to him that she was being blackmailed about killing her husband. Ackroyd receives a letter, a suicide note, in the post from Mrs Ferrars, which he will finish reading after Sheppard leaves. On the walk home, Sheppard bumps into a man outside the gates, seeking directions to Fernly Park. Once home, Dr Sheppard receives a telephone call after 10 pm. He rushes out, telling his sister Caroline that Parker, Ackroyd's butler, has found Roger Ackroyd dead. Upon Sheppard's arrival, Parker says he never made such a call. Parker, Sheppard, Raymond, and Blunt find Ackroyd, stabbed to death with a weapon from his collection.

Hercule Poirot, who is cultivating vegetable marrows next door to the Sheppards, comes out of retirement at the request of Flora Ackroyd. Ralph Paton is the police suspect and is nowhere to be found. She does not believe he is guilty. Raymond and Blunt both overheard Ackroyd speaking to someone from within his study, and Flora said goodnight to her uncle, placing Ackroyd's death into a narrow time frame for which Parker, Raymond, Blunt, Mrs Ackroyd, and Miss Russell, the housekeeper, all have alibis. Police trace the telephone call to Dr Sheppard to King's Abbot station. Poirot proceeds to collect more information on suspects not in the house, including the representative of a dictaphone company who had visited Ackroyd some days previously. He asks the exact time at which Dr Sheppard met the stranger at the Fernly Park gates. Poirot finds a goose quill and a scrap of starched cambric in the summer house, and a ring with the inscription "From R" in the backyard pool. Poirot notices that the parlourmaid Ursula Bourne has no alibi for the murder. He carefully observes the study, learning of the repositioning of a chair from Parker's first view of Ackroyd, to his next.

Poirot brings together Sheppard, Flora, Mrs Ackroyd, Raymond, and Blunt, telling them that they have been concealing something from him. Dr Sheppard aids Poirot as he can, conducting research into Ursula Bourne. Raymond and Mrs Ackroyd both reveal that they were in debt, which Ackroyd's death resolved, for both were included in Ackroyd's will. Flora reveals that she did not see her uncle in his study, confessing to stealing money from Ackroyd's bureau in his bedroom. Raymond and Blunt are the last to hear Ackroyd alive. This leaves Flora, Blunt, Raymond, and Mrs Ackroyd without alibis. Blunt's secret is revealed; he is in love with Flora. Poirot calls a second meeting, adding the butler, housekeeper and Captain Paton. The goose quill is a heroin holder belonging to the stranger Sheppard met, Miss Russell's illegitimate son. The ring belongs to Ursula Bourne, who is secretly married to Ralph Paton. Poirot knows the killer's identity, confirmed by a telegram received during the meeting. He does not reveal the name; instead he issues a warning to the killer.

When Poirot and Sheppard are alone, their conversation takes a startling turn. Poirot had fetched Ralph from the asylum where Sheppard had been hiding him since the murder. Sheppard had used Ackroyd's dictaphone to make it appear that Ackroyd was alive after Sheppard killed him. Sheppard stabbed Ackroyd just before leaving the house. Poirot explains the inconsistency in the time it took for Sheppard to reach the gates, deducing that he looped back to Ackroyd's study window and planted Paton's footprints there. Earlier that day, he asked a patient of his to phone him at a specific time, confirmed by the telegram. Sheppard wanted to be on the scene to discover Ackroyd's body, remove the dictaphone and return the chair that concealed it from view to its original place. Sheppard blackmailed Mrs Ferrars, for £20,000, now lost in a bad investment. He murdered Ackroyd to stop him knowing this, thus ending any chance at normal life for Sheppard. Poirot tells Sheppard that all this information will be reported to the police in the morning. Dr Sheppard continues writing his report on Poirot's investigation. Sheppard admits his guilt. He writes that he wanted to write the account of Poirot's great failure — that is, not solving the murder of Roger Ackroyd. Sheppard writes both his confession and his suicide note.


Narrative voice and structure

The book is set in the fictional village of King's Abbot in England. It is narrated by Dr James Sheppard, who becomes Poirot's assistant, in place of Captain Hastings who has married and settled in the Argentine. The novel includes an unexpected plot twist at the end of the novel. In the last chapter, Sheppard notes certain literary techniques he used to conceal his guilt without having written anything untrue (e.g., "I did what little had to be done" at the point where he hid the dictaphone and moved the chair).

Literary significance and reception

The Times Literary Supplement's review began with "This is a well-written detective story of which the only criticism might perhaps be that there are too many curious incidents not really connected with the crime which have to be elucidated before the true criminal can be discovered". The review then gave a brief synopsis before concluding with "It is all very puzzling, but the great Hercule Poirot, a retired Belgian detective, solves the mystery. It may safely be asserted that very few readers will do so."[5]

A long review in The New York Times Book Review, read in part:

There are doubtless many detective stories more exciting and blood-curdling than The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, but this reviewer has recently read very few which provide greater analytical stimulation. This story, though it is inferior to them at their best, is in the tradition of Poe's analytical tales and the Sherlock Holmes stories. The author does not devote her talents to the creation of thrills and shocks, but to the orderly solution of a single murder, conventional at that, instead.[6]
Miss Christie is not only an expert technician and a remarkably good story-teller, but she knows, as well, just the right number of hints to offer as to the real murderer. In the present case his identity is made all the more baffling through the author's technical cleverness in selecting the part he is to play in the story; and yet her non-committal characterization of him makes it a perfectly fair procedure. The experienced reader will probably spot him, but it is safe to say that he will often have his doubts as the story unfolds itself.[6]

The Observer said,

No one is more adroit than Miss Christie in the manipulation of false clues and irrelevances and red herrings; and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd makes breathless reading from first to the unexpected last. It is unfortunate that in two important points – the nature of the solution and the use of the telephone – Miss Christie has been anticipated by another recent novel: the truth is that this particular field is getting so well ploughed that it is hard to find a virgin patch anywhere. But Miss Christie's story is distinguished from most of its class by its coherence, its reasonableness, and the fact that the characters live and move and have their being: the gossip-loving Caroline would be an acquisition to any novel.[7]

The Scotsman said,

When in the last dozen pages of Miss Christie's detective novel, the answer comes to the question, "Who killed Roger Ackroyd?" the reader will feel that he has been fairly, or unfairly, sold up. Up till then he has been kept balancing in his mind from chapter to chapter the probabilities for or against the eight or nine persons at whom suspicion points. ... Everybody in the story appears to have a secret of his or her own hidden up the sleeve, the production of which is imperative in fitting into place the pieces in the jigsaw puzzle; and in the end it turns out that the Doctor himself is responsible for the largest bit of reticence. The tale may be recommended as one of the cleverest and most original of its kind.[8]

Howard Haycraft,[9] in his seminal 1941 work, Murder for Pleasure, included the novel in his "cornerstones" list of the most influential crime novels ever written.[4]

Robert Barnard, in A Talent to Deceive: An appreciation of Agatha Christie, writes:

Apart — and it is an enormous "apart" — from the sensational solution, this is a fairly conventional Christie. ... A classic, but there are some better Christies.[10]

Laura Thompson, Christie's biographer, wrote:

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is the supreme, the ultimate detective novel. It rests upon the most elegant of all twists, the narrator who is revealed to be the murderer. This twist is not merely a function of plot: it puts the whole concept of detective fiction on an armature and sculpts it into a dazzling new shape. It was not an entirely new idea ... nor was it entirely her own idea ... but here, she realised, was an idea worth having. And only she could have pulled it off so completely. Only she had the requisite control, the willingness to absent herself from the authorial scene and let her plot shine clear.[11]:155–156

In 1944–1946, the noted American literary critic Edmund Wilson attacked the entire mystery genre in a set of three columns in The New Yorker. The second, in the 20 January 1945 issue, was titled "Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?", though he does no analysis of the novel. He dislikes mystery stories altogether, and chose the famous novel as the title of his piece.[12][13]

Pierre Bayard, literature professor and author, in Qui a tué Roger Ackroyd? (Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?), re-investigates Agatha Christie's Ackroyd, proposing an alternative solution in another crime novel. He argues in favour of a different murderer – Sheppard's sister, Caroline – and says Christie subconsciously knew who the real culprit is.[14][15]

In 1990, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd came in at fifth place in The Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time, a ranking by the members (all crime writers) of the Crime Writers' Association in Britain.[16] A similar ranking was made in 1995 by the Mystery Writers of America, putting this novel in twelfth place.[17] In 2013, the Crime Writers' Association voted this novel as CWA Best Ever Novel.[3] The 600 members of CWA said it was "the finest example of the genre ever penned." It is a cornerstone of crime fiction, which "contains one of the most celebrated plot twists in crime writing history."[3][18] The poll taken on the 60th anniversary of CWA also honored Agatha Christie as the best crime novel author ever.[3][18]

In the "Binge!" article of Entertainment Weekly Issue #1343-44 (26 December 2014–3 January 2015), the writers picked The Murder of Roger Ackroyd as an "EW and Christie favorite" on the list of the "Nine Great Christie Novels".[19]

The short biography of Christie which is included in 21st century UK printings of all of her books states that this novel is her masterpiece.

The character of Caroline Sheppard was later acknowledged by Christie as a possible precursor to her famous detective Miss Marple.[20]:433


Christie revealed in her 1977 autobiography that the basic idea of the novel was first given to her by her brother-in-law, James Watts of Abney Hall, who in a conversation one day suggested a novel in which the criminal would be a Dr. Watson character: i.e., the narrator of the story. Christie considered it to be a "remarkably original thought".[20]:342

In March 1924, Christie also received an unsolicited letter from Lord Mountbatten. He had been impressed with her previous works and had written to her, courtesy of The Sketch magazine (publishers of many of her short stories at that time) with an idea and notes for a story whose basic premise mirrored the Watts suggestion.[11]:500 Christie acknowledged the letter and after some thought and planning began to write the book but kept firmly to a plot line of her invention.

In December 1969, Mountbatten wrote to Christie for a second time after having seen a performance of The Mousetrap. He mentioned his letter of the 1920s, and Christie replied, acknowledging the part he played in the conception of the book.[21]:120–121

Publication history

The novel received its first true publication as a fifty-four part serialisation in the London Evening News from Thursday, 16 July, to Wednesday, 16 September 1925, under the title, Who Killed Ackroyd? Like that paper's serialisation of The Man in the Brown Suit, there were minor amendments to the text, mostly to make sense of the openings of an instalment (e.g., changing "He then..." to "Poirot then..."). The main change was in the chapter division: the published book has twenty-seven chapters whereas the serialisation has only twenty-four. Chapter Seven of the serialisation is named The Secrets of the Study whereas in the book it is Chapter Eight and named Inspector Raglan is Confident.

In the US, the novel was serialised in four parts in Flynn's Detective Weekly from 19 June (Volume 16, Number 2) to 10 July 1926 (Volume 16, Number 5). The text was heavily abridged and each instalment carried an uncredited illustration.

The Collins first edition of 1926 was Christie's first work placed with that publisher. "The first book that Agatha wrote for Collins was the one that changed her reputation forever; no doubt she knew, as through 1925 she turned the idea over in her mind, that here she had a winner."[11]:155

HarperCollins, the modern successor firm to W. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., remains the UK publishers of Christie's oeuvre.

By 1928, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was available in braille through the Royal National Institute for the Blind[22] and was amongst the first works to be chosen for transfer to Gramophone record for their Books for the Blind library in the autumn of 1935.[23][24] By 1936 it was listed as one of only eight books available in this form.[25]

Book dedication

Christie's dedication in the book reads:

To Punkie, who likes an orthodox detective story, murder, inquest, and suspicion falling on every one in turn!

"Punkie" was the family nickname of Christie's sister and eldest sibling, Margaret ("Madge") Frary Watts (1879–1950). There was an eleven-year age gap between the two sisters but they remained close throughout their lives. Christie's mother first suggested to her that she should alleviate the boredom of an illness by writing a story. But soon after, when the sisters had been discussing the recently published classic detective story by Gaston Leroux, The Mystery of the Yellow Room (1908), Christie said she would like to try writing such a story. Margaret challenged her, saying that she would not be able to do it.[11]:102 In 1916, eight years later, Christie remembered this conversation and was inspired to write her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles.[21]:77

Margaret Watts herself attempted a career as a writer. She wrote a play, The Claimant, based on the Tichborne Case. The Claimant enjoyed a short run in the West End at the Queen's Theatre from 11 September to 18 October 1924, two years before the book publication of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.[21]:113–115

Dustjacket blurb

The dustjacket blurb read as follows:

M. Poirot, the hero of The Mysterious Affair at Stiles [sic] and other brilliant pieces of detective deduction, comes out of his temporary retirement like a giant refreshed, to undertake the investigation of a peculiarly brutal and mysterious murder. Geniuses like Sherlock Holmes often find a use for faithful mediocrities like Dr. Watson, and by a coincidence it is the local doctor who follows Poirot round, and himself tells the story. Furthermore, as seldom happens in these cases, he is instrumental in giving Poirot one of the most valuable clues to the mystery.[26]

The dustjacket blurb is repeated inside the book on the page immediately preceding and facing, the title page.[26]


Stage play

Main article: Alibi (play)

The book formed the basis of the earliest adaptation of any work of Christie's when the play, Alibi, adapted by Michael Morton, opened at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London on 15 May 1928. It ran for 250 performances with Charles Laughton in the role of Poirot. Laughton also starred in the Broadway run of the play which was retitled The Fatal Alibi and opened at the Booth Theatre on 8 February 1932. The American production was not as successful as the British had been and closed after just 24 performances.

Alibi is especially notable as it inspired Christie to write her first stage play, Black Coffee. Christie, along with her dog Peter, attended the rehearsals of Alibi and found its "novelty" enjoyable.[11]:277 However, "she was sufficiently irritated by the changes to the original to want to write a play of her own."[11]:277


Main article: Alibi (1931 film)

The play was turned into the first sound film to be based on a Christie work. Running 75 minutes, it was released on 28 April 1931, by Twickenham Film Studios and produced by Julius S. Hagan. Austin Trevor played Poirot, a role he reprised later that year in the film adaptation of Christie's 1930 play, Black Coffee.

Adapter: H. Fowler Mear
Director: Leslie Hiscott

Austin Trevor as Hercule Poirot
Franklin Dyall as Sir Roger Ackroyd
Elizabeth Allan as Ursula Browne
J. H. Roberts as Dr. Sheppard
John Deverell as Lord Halliford
Ronald Ward as Ralph Ackroyd
Mary Jerrold as Mrs Ackroyd
Mercia Swinburne as Caryll Sheppard
Harvey Braban as Inspector Davis
With Clare Greet, Diana Beaumont, and Earl Grey


Orson Welles adapted the novel as a one-hour radio play for the 12 November 1939 episode of The Campbell Playhouse. Welles himself played both Dr Sheppard and Hercule Poirot.

Adapter: Herman J. Mankiewicz[28]:355
Producer: John Houseman, Orson Welles
Director: Orson Welles

Orson Welles as Hercule Poirot and Dr Sheppard
Edna May Oliver as Caroline Sheppard
Alan Napier as Roger Ackroyd
Brenda Forbes as Mrs Ackroyd
Mary Taylor as Flora
George Coulouris as Inspector Hamstead
Ray Collins as Mr Raymond
Everett Sloane as Parker

The novel was adapted as a 1½-hour radio play for BBC Radio 4 first broadcast on 24 December 1987. John Moffatt made the first of his many performances as Poirot. The adaptation was broadcast at 7.45pm and was recorded on 2 November of the same year.

Adaptor: Michael Bakewell
Producer: Enyd Williams

John Moffatt as Hercule Poirot
John Woodvine as Doctor Sheppard
Laurence Payne as Roger Ackroyd
Diana Olsson as Caroline Sheppard
Eva Stuart as Miss Russell
Peter Gilmore as Raymond
Zelah Clarke as Flora
Simon Cuff as Inspector Davis
Deryck Guyler as Parker
With Richard Tate, Alan Dudley, Joan Matheson, David Goodland, Peter Craze, Karen Archer and Paul Sirr


The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was adapted as a 103-minute drama transmitted in the UK on ITV Sunday 2 January 2000, as a special episode in their series, Agatha Christie's Poirot. In this adaptation Japp – not Sheppard – is Poirot's assistant, leaving Sheppard as just another suspect. However, the device of Dr Sheppard's journal is retained as the supposed source of Poirot's voice-over narration and forms an integral part of the dénouement. The plot strays considerably from the book, including having Sheppard run over Parker numerous times with his car and commit suicide with his gun after a chase through a factory. Ackroyd was changed to a more elderly, stingy man, disliked by many, who owns a chemical factory. Mrs Ackroyd is also not as zany as in the book version.

Adaptor: Clive Exton
Director: Andrew Grieve


David Suchet as Hercule Poirot
Philip Jackson as Chief Inspector Japp
Oliver Ford Davies as Dr. Sheppard
Selina Cadell as Caroline Sheppard
Roger Frost as Parker
Malcolm Terris as Roger Ackroyd
Nigel Cooke as Geoffrey Raymond
Daisy Beaumont as Ursula Bourne
Flora Montgomery as Flora Ackroyd
Vivien Heilbron as Mrs Ackroyd
Gregor Truter as Inspector Davis
Jamie Bamber as Ralph Paton
Charles Early as Constable Jones
Rosalind Bailey as Mrs Ferrars
Charles Simon as Hammond
Graham Chinn as Landlord
Clive Brunt as Naval petty officer
Alice Hart as Mary
Philip Wrigley as Postman
Phil Atkinson as Ted
Elizabeth Kettle as Mrs Folliott

Russian film

In 2002, the story was made into a Russian film titled Неудача Пуаро ("Neudacha Puaro" = "Poirot's Failure"). This film version was overall quite faithful to the original story.

Konstantin Rajkin as Hercule Poirot
Sergei Makovetsky as Dr. Sheppard
Lika Nifontova as Caroline Sheppard
Olga Krasko as Flora

Graphic novel

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was released by HarperCollins as a graphic novel adaptation on 20 August 2007, adapted and illustrated by Bruno Lachard (ISBN 0-00-725061-4). This was translated from the edition first published in France by Emmanuel Proust éditions in 2004 under the title, Le Meurtre de Roger Ackroyd.

See also


  1. 1 2 The English Catalogue of Books. XII, A-L. Kraus Reprint Corporation. 1979. p. 317.
  2. 1 2 Marcum, J.S. (May 2007). "The Classic Years 1920s". An American Tribute to Agatha Christie. Retrieved 1 April 2009.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Brown, Jonathan (5 November 2013). "Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd voted best crime novel ever". The Independent. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
  4. 1 2 Collins, R.D., ed. (2004). "Haycraft Queen Cornerstones: Complete Checklist". Classic Crime Fiction. Retrieved 1 April 2009.
  5. "Review". The Times Literary Supplement. 10 June 1926. p. 397.
  6. 1 2 "Review". The New York Times Book Review. 18 July 1926.
  7. "Review". The Observer. 30 May 1926. p. 10.
  8. "Review". The Scotsman. 22 July 1926. p. 2.
  9. Grimes, William (13 November 1991). "Howard Haycraft Is Dead at 86; A Publisher and Mystery Scholar". New York Times. Retrieved 18 September 2015.
  10. Barnard, Robert (1990). A Talent to Deceive: An appreciation of Agatha Christie (Revised ed.). Fontana Books. p. 199. ISBN 0-00-637474-3.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Thompson, Laura (2007). Agatha Christie, An English Mystery. Headline. ISBN 978-0-7553-1487-4.
  12. Wilson, Edmund (14 October 1944). "Why Do People Read Detective Stories?". Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  13. Wilson, Edmund (20 January 1945). "Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?". Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  14. Bayard, Pierre (2002) [1998]. Qui a tué Roger Ackroyd?. Les Editions de Minuit. ISBN 978-2707318091.
  15. Bayard, Pierre (2000). Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?. Fourth Estate New Press. ISBN 978-1565845794.
  16. Susan Moody, ed. (1990). The Hatchards Crime Companion. 100 Top Crime Novels Selected by the Crime Writers' Association. London. ISBN 0-904030-02-4.
  17. Penzler, Otto (1995). Mickey Friedman, ed. The Crown Crime Companion. The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time Selected by the Mystery Writers of America. New York. ISBN 0-517-88115-2.
  18. 1 2 "Agatha Christie whodunit tops crime novel poll". BBC News: Entertainment & Arts. 6 November 2013. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
  19. "Binge! Agatha Christie: Nine Great Christie Novels". Entertainment Weekly (1343-44): 32–33. 26 December 2014.
  20. 1 2 Christie, Agatha (1977). An Autobiography. Collins. ISBN 0-00-216012-9.
  21. 1 2 3 Morgan, Janet (1984). Agatha Christie, A Biography. Collins. ISBN 0-00-216330-6.
  22. "A Book Printed For the Asking!". Evening Telegraph. British Newspaper Archive. 24 September 1928. Retrieved 24 July 2014. (subscription required (help)).
  23. "Talking Books". The Times. London. 20 August 1935. p. 15.
  24. "Recorded books for the blind". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. British Newspaper Archive. 23 August 1935. Retrieved 24 July 2014. (subscription required (help)).
  25. "Talking Books". The Times. London. 27 January 1936. p. 6.
  26. 1 2 Christie, Agatha (June 1926). The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. London: William Collins and Sons.
  27. Adair, Gilbert (11 November 2006). "Unusual suspect: Gilbert Adair discovers the real secret of Agatha Christie's success". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 July 2011.
  28. Welles, Orson, and Peter Bogdanovich, edited by Jonathan Rosenbaum, This is Orson Welles. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1992. ISBN 0-06-016616-9


This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/15/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.