Title: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.
Author: Agatha Christie.
Genre: Fiction, mystery, crime, detective story.
Publication Date: 1926.
Summary: Roger Ackroyd knew too much. He knew that the woman he loved had poisoned her brutal first husband. He suspected also that someone had been blackmailing her. Then, tragically, came the news that she had taken her own life with an apparent drug overdose. However, the evening post brought Roger one last fatal scrap of information, but before he could finish reading the letter, he was stabbed to death. Luckily, one of Roger’s friends and the newest resident to retire to this normally quiet village takes over the investigation—none other than Monsieur Hercule Poirot.
My rating: 8/10
♥ To tell the truth, I was considerably upset and worried. I am not going to pretend that at that moment I foresaw the events of the next few weeks. I emphatically did not do so. But my instinct told me that there were stirring times ahead.
♥ Mrs. Ferrars' husband died just over a year ago, and Caroline has constantly asserted, without the least foundation for the assertion, that his wife poisoned him. She scorns my invariable rejoinder that Mr. Ferrars died of acute gastritis, helped on by habitual overindulgence in alcoholic beverages. The symptoms of gastritis and arsenical poisoning are not, I agree, unlike, but Caroline bases her accusation on quite different lines.
"You've only got to look at her," I have heard her say. Mrs. Ferrars, though not in her first youth, was a very attractive woman, and her clothes, though simple, always seemed to fit her very well, but all the same, lots of women buy their clothes in Paris and have not, on that account, necessarily poisoned their husbands.
..I don't think Caroline ever felt sorry for Mrs. Ferrars whilst she was alive. Now that she has gone where (presumably) Paris frocks can no longer be worn, Caroline is prepared to indulge in the softer emotions of pity and comprehension. I told her firmly that her whole idea was nonsense. I was all the more firm because I secretly agreed with some part, at least, of what she had said. But it is all wrong that Caroline should arrive at the truth simply by a kind of inspired guesswork. I wasn't going to encourage that sort of thing. She will go round the village airing her views, and every one will think that she is doing so on medical data supplied by me. Life is very trying.
♥ It is odd how, when you have a secret belief of your own which you do not wish to acknowledge, the voicing of it by some one else will rouse you to a fury of denial.
♥ The one thing we do know about him is that he is interested in the growing of vegetable marrows.
But that is certainly not the sort of information that Caroline is after. She wants to know where he comes from, what he does, whether he is married, what his wife was, or is, like, whether he has children, what his mother's maiden name was—and so on. Somebody very like Caroline must have invented the questions on passports, I think.
♥ I was busily exterminating dandelion roots when a shout of warning sounded from close by and a heavy body whizzed by my ear and fell at my feet with a repellent squelch. It was a vegetable marrow!
I looked up angrily. Over the wall, to my left, there appeared a face. An egg-shaped head, partially covered with suspiciously black hair, two immense mustaches, and a pair of watchful eyes. It was our mysterious neighbor, Mr. Porrott. He broke at once into fluent apologies. "I demand of you a thousand pardons, monsieur. I am without defense. For some months now I cultivate the marrows. This morning suddenly I enrage myself with these marrows. I send them to promenade themselves—alas! not only mentally but physically. I seize the biggest. I hurl him over the wall. Monsieur, I am shamed. I prostrate myself."
♥ "But can you figure to yourself, monsieur, that a man may work towards a certain object, may labor and toil to attain a certain kind of leisure and occupation, and then find that, after all, he yearns for the old busy days, and the old occupations that he thought himself so glad to leave?"
♥ "And anyway," continued Miss Flora, "all this making a fuss about things because some one wore or used them seems to me all nonsense. They're not wearing or using them now. The pen that George Eliot wrote The Mill of the Floss with—that sort of thing—well, it's only just a pen after all. If you're really keen on George Eliot, why not get The Mill on the Floss in a cheap edition and read it?"
♥ "Of course he didn't do it," said Caroline, who had been keeping silent with great difficulty. "Ralph may be extravagant, but he's a dear boy, and has the nicest manners."
I wanted to tell Caroline that large numbers of murderers have had nice manners, but the presence of Flora restrained me.
♥ "Are you a man of good observation, Dr. Sheppard?" he asked at last.
"I think so," I said, surprised.
"There was a fire in the grate, I see. When you broke the door down and found Mr. Ackroyd dead, how was the fire? Was it low?"
I gave a vexed laugh. "I—I really can't say. I didn't notice. Perhaps Mr. Raymond or Major Blunt—"
The little man opposite me shook his head with a faint smile. "One must always proceed with method. I made an error of judgment in asking you that question. To each man his own knowledge. You could tell me the details of the patient's appearance—nothing there would escape you. If I wanted information about the papers on that desk, Mr. Raymond would have noticed anything there was to see. To find out about the fire, I must ask the man whose business it is to observe such things."
He moved swiftly to the fireplace and rang the bell.
&heart; "Raymond or Blunt must have pushed it back," I suggested. "Surely it isn't important?"
"It is completely unimportant," said Poirot. "That is why it is so interesting."
♥ "You will find, M. le docteur, if you have much to do with cases of the kind, that they all resemble each other in one thing."
"What is that?" I asked curiously.
"Every one concerned in them has something to hide."
♥ "It sounds very simple," I said.
"Everything is simple, if you arrange the facts methodically."
♥ I, too, looked around. "If those walls could speak," I murmured.
Poirot shook his head. "A tongue is not enough," he said. "They would have to have also eyes and ears. But do not be too sure that these dead things"—he touched the top of the bookcase as he spoke—"are always dumb. To me they speak sometimes—chairs, tables—they have their message!" He turned away towards the door.
"What message?" I cried. "What have they said to you today?"
He looked over his shoulder and raised one eye brow quizzically. "An opened window," he said. "A locked door. A chair that apparently moved itself. To all three I say, 'Why?' and I find no answer."
♥ "To begin with—method. That's what I always say—method!"
"Ah!" cried the other. "That, too, is my watchword. Method, order, and the little gray cells."
"The cells?" said the inspector, staring.
"The little gray cells of the brain," explained the Belgian.
"Oh, of course; well, we all use them, I suppose."
"In a greater or lesser degree," murmured Poirot. "And there are, too, differences in quality. Then there is the psychology of a crime. One must study that."
♥ Blunt said nothing for a minute or two. Then he looked away from Flora into the middle distance and observed to an adjacent tree trunk that it was about time he got back to Africa.
♥ I looked at him inquiringly, but he began to fuss about a few microscopic drops of water on his coat sleeve. The man reminded me in some ways of a cat. His green eyes and his finicking habits.
.."My good friend," he said gently and reproachfully, "Hercule Poirot does not run the risk of disarranging his costume without being sure of attaining his object. To do so would be ridiculous and absurd. I am never ridiculous."
♥ "Blackguard, I thought," said Blunt.
"No," I said, "only a man with more money than was good for him."
"Oh! money! All the troubles in the world can be put down to money—or the lack of it."
♥ "What did you think of that girl?"
"Which girl? The parlormaid?"
"Yes, the parlormaid. Ursula Bourne."
"She seemed a nice girl," I said hesitatingly.
Poirot repeated my words, but whereas I had laid a slight stress on the fourth word, he put it on the second.
"She seemed a nice girl—yes."
♥ I heard Caroline's voice, rather acid in note, calling from the top of the stairs. "James, you will be late for dinner." I put some coal on the fire and went upstairs obediently.
It is well at any price to have peace in the home.
♥ Poirot became suddenly very foreign in manner, as he often did when excited over anything. "M. l'Inspecteur," he said, "beware of the blind—the blind—comment dire?—the little street that has no end to it."
♥ "And now, messieurs et mesdames," said Poirot rapidly, "I will continue with what I was about to say. Understand this, I mean to arrive at the truth. The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to the seeker after it."
♥ "Les femmes," generalized Poirot. "They are marvelous! They invent haphazard—and by miracle they are right. Not that it is that, really. Woman observe subconsciously a thousand little details, without knowing that they are doing so. Their subconscious mind adds these little things together—and they call the result intuition. Me, I am very skilled in psychology. I know these things."
♥ "So I give you then, a little lecture. The first thing is to get a clear history of what happened that evening—always bearing in mind that the person who speaks may be lying."
♥ "To begin with, one must look at the thing logically—"
"Just what my poor Hastings used to say," interrupted Poirot, "but alas! he never did so."
♥ On looking back, the thing that strikes me most is the piece-meal character of this period. Every one had a hand in the elucidation of the mystery. It was rather like a jigsaw puzzle to which every one contributed his own little piece of knowledge or discovery. But their task ended there. To Poirot alone belongs the renown of fitting those pieces into their correct place.
♥ "I'm prostrated," said Mrs. Ackroyd in a faint voice. "Absolutely prostrated. It's the shock of poor Roger's death. They say these things often aren't felt at the time, you know. It's the reaction afterwards.
It is a pity that a doctor is precluded by his profession from being able sometimes to say what he really thinks. I would have given anything to be able to answer "Bunkum!" Instead, I suggested a tonic.
♥ The position was now very delicate indeed. Fortunately words, ingeniously used, will serve to mask the ugliness of naked facts.
♥ "I never have liked that girl very much. She's a good servant, and she says Ma'am, and doesn't object to wearing caps and aprons (which I declare to you a lot of them do nowadays), and she can say "Not at home" without scruples if she has to answer the door instead of Parker, and she doesn't have those peculiar gurgling noises inside which so many parlormaids seem to have when they wait at at table—"
♥ "—who knows? After all, many crimes have been committed for the sake of less than five hundred pounds. It all depends on what sum is sufficient to break a man. A question of the relativity, is it not so?"
♥ "Girls are very artful."
♥ "I thank you, no," said Poirot, rising. "All my excuses for having deranged you."
"Not at all, not at all."
"The word derange," I remarked, when we were outside again, "is applicable to mental disorder only."
"Ah!" cried Poirot, "never will my English be quite perfect. A curious language. I should then have said disarranged, n'est-ce pas?"
"Disturbed is the word you had in mind."
♥ Poirot's bewilderment vanished. He laughed heartily. "Ah, that! A simple visit to the dentist, c'est tout. My tooth, it aches. I go there. My tooth, it is at once better. I think to return quickly. The dentist, he says No. Better to have it out. I argue. He insists. He has his way! That particular tooth, it will never ache again."
♥ "A weak nature," I insisted. "But not a vicious one."
"Ah!" said Poirot. "But weakness, where does it end?"
♥ Poirot was silent for a minute, watching the curling smoke rise from his cigarette. When at last he spoke, it was in a gentle far-away voice that produced a curious impression. It was totally unlike his usual manner.
"Let us take a man—a very ordinary man. A man with no idea of murder in his heart. There is in him somewhere a strain of weakness—deep down. It has so far never been called into play. Perhaps it never will be—and if so he will go to his grave honored and respected by every one. But let us suppose that something occurs. He is in difficulties—or perhaps not that even. He may stumble by accident on a secret—a secret involving life or death to some one. And his first impulse will be to speak out—to do his duty as an honest citizen. And then the strain of weakness tells. Here is a chance of money—a great amount of money. He wants money—he desires it—and it is so easy. He has to do nothing for it—just keep silence. That is the beginning. The desire for money grows. He must have more—and more! He is intoxicated by the gold mine which has opened at his feet. He becomes greedy. And in his greed he overreaches himself. One can press a man as far as one likes—but with a woman one must not press too far. For a woman has at heart a great desire to speak the truth. How many husbands who have deceived their wives go comfortably to their graves, carrying their secret with them! How many wives who have deceived their husbands wreck their lives by throwing the fact in those same husbands' teeth! They have been pressed too far. In a reckless moment (which they will afterwards regret, bien entendu) they fling safety to the winds and turn at bay, proclaiming the truth with great monetary satisfaction to themselves. So it was, I think, in this case. The strain was too great. And so there came our proverb, the death of the goose that laid the golden eggs. But that is not the end. Exposure faced the man of whom we are speaking. And he is not the same man he was—say, a year ago. His moral fiber is blunted. He is desperate. He is fighting a losing battle, and he is prepared to take any means that come to his hand, for exposure means ruin to him. And so—the dagger strikes!"
He was silent for a moment. It was as though he had laid a spell upon the room. I cannot try to describe the impression his words produced. There was something in the merciless analysis, and the ruthless power of vision which struck fear into both of us.
"Afterwards," he went on softly, "the danger removed, he will be himself again, normal, kindly. But if the need again arises, then once more he will strike."
♥ "You mock yourself at me," said Poirot, smiling; "but never mind. The old ones they laugh last sometimes, when the young, clever ones do not laugh at all."
♥ ..he began, and stopped. He is one of those inarticulate men who find it hard to put things into words.
♥ Poirot looked thoughtfully at the side door. "Mademoiselle Flora went into the garden, I think," he murmured.
"I've been every kind of a fool," said Blunt abruptly. "Rum conversation we've been habing. Like one of those Danish plays. But you're a sound fellow, M. Poirot. Thank you." He took Poirot's hand and gave it a grip which caused the other to wince in anguish. Then he strode to the side door and passed out into the garden.
"Not every kind of a fool," murmured Poirot, tenderly nursing the injured member. "Only one kind—the fool in love."
♥ "I suppose you know pretty well everything there is to know about Poirot's family by this time," I said, exasperated.
"Pretty well," said Caroline complacently. "It's a great relief to people to be able to tell all their troubles to some one."
"It might be," I said, "if they were ever allowed to do so spontaneously. Whether they enjoy having confidences screwed out of them by force is another matter."
♥ "You have the medical degree, I dare say, James—at least, I mean I know you have. But you've no imagination whatever."
"Having endowed you with a treble portion there was none left for me," I said dryly.
♥ I was beginning to understand Poirot's methods. Every little irrelevancy had a bearing upon the whole.
♥ "My friend Hastings, he of whom I told you, used to say of me that I was a human oyster. But he was unjust. Of facts, I keep nothing to myself. But to everyone his own interpretation of them."
♥ "I was so cruel to him that night—so hard and bitter. I wouldn't listen to what he was trying to say—wouldn't believe that he really cared. I just stood there telling him what I thought of him, and saying the coldest, cruelest things that came into my mind—trying my best to hurt him."
"Do him no harm," said Caroline. "Never worry about what you say to a man. They're so conceited that they never believe you mean it if it's unflattering."
♥ Suddenly he sighed and shook his head.
"What is it?" I asked,
"It is that there are moments when a great longing for my friend Hastings comes over me. That is the friend of whom I spoke to you—the one who resides now in the Argentine. Always, when I have had a big case, he has been by my side. And he has helped me—yes, often he has helped me. For he had a knack, that one, of stumbling over the truth unawares—without noticing it himself, bien entendu. At times he has said something particularly foolish, and behold that foolish remark has revealed the truth to me! And then, too, it was his practice to keep a written record of the cases that proved interesting."
♥ Poirot sprang from his chair. I had a moment's terror that he was going to embrace me French fashion, but mercifully he refrained.
♥ "I hope you won't mind," I stammered. "I may have been a little—er—personal now and then."
"Oh! I comprehend perfectly; you have referred to me as comic—as, perhaps, ridiculous now and then? It matters not at all. Hastings, he also was not always polite. Me, I have the mind above such trivialities."
♥ The secretary was debonair as ever. "What's the great idea?" he said, laughing. "Some scientific machine? Do we have bands round our wrists whiten register guilty heart-beats? There is such an invention, isn't there?"
"I have read of it, yes," admitted Poirot. "But me, I am old-fashioned. I use the old methods. I work only with the little gray cells."
♥ "The number is complete," said Poirot. "Everyone is here." There was a ring of satisfaction in his tone. And with the sound of it I saw a ripple of something like uneasiness pass over all those faces grouped at the other end of the room. There was a suggestion in all this as of a trap—a trap that had closed.
..He beamed round at us all. "But yes—I mean what I say. See now. I did not invite Inspector Raglan to be present. That was for a reason. I did not want to tell him all that I knew—at least I did not want to tell him to-night."
He leaned forward, and suddenly his voice and his whole personality changed. He suddenly became dangerous. "I who speak to you—I know the murderer of Mr. Ackroyd is in this room now. It is to the murderer I speak."
♥ "You think not? Remember what I said—the truth goes to Inspector Raglan in the morning. But, for the sake of your good sister, I am willing to give you the chance of another way out. There might be, for instance, an overdose of a sleeping draught. You comprehend me? But Captain Ralph Paton must be cleared—ça va sans dire. I should suggest that you finish that very interesting manuscript of yours—but abandoning your former reticence."
"You seem to be very prolific of suggestions," I remarked. "Are you sure you've quite finished?"
"Now that you remind me of the fact, it is true that there is one thing more. It would be most unwise on your part to attempt to silence me as you silenced M. Ackroyd. That kind of business does not succeed against Hercule Poirot, you understand."
..I feel not pity for her.
I have no pity for myself either.
So let it be veronal.
But I wish Hercule Poirot had never retired from work and come here to grow vegetable marrows.