“In the economy of action, effort is a cost, and the acquisition of skill is driven by benefit and costs. Laziness is built deep into our nature.”
The Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie altered the accustomed conventions of the genre of detective fiction in 1926 with the release of this unprecedented novel and created much a fuss in her audience with the very first publication by Harper Collins. This is Christie’s fifth novel featuring the little Belgian detective, Hercule Piorot. The novel is widely favored for its significant impact on the genre with the aid of its newfangled twist ending with respect to the identity of the murderer which is also the most controversial of her works.
The novel is set in the village of King’s Abbot in England and the narrator is Dr. James Sheppard with “no false statement”. To everyone’s recent notice there is a suicide committed by Mrs. Ferrars who had been rumored to have murdered her husband. She has left a letter in a blue envelope to be sent to Mr. Roger Ackroyd, a “country squire”(to whom she was expected to be married soon) which he refuses to read in the presence of anyone for it was meant for his eyes and his eyes only and so he will finish reading it after Dr. Sheppard has left. The letter must be a suicide note which contains the identity of the blackmailer who had posed a threat to Mrs. Ferrars’s safe and peaceful life of stainless grandeur in the village of King’s Abbot, as anticipated by Dr. Sheppard in his experience “Women usually wish to reveal the state of mind that led to the fatal action. They covet the limelight”.
Sheppard was invited to dinner with Ackroyd and the inmates of the Ackroyd’s household: 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. 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 murdered. Upon Sheppard’s arrival, Parker says he never made such a call. Sheppard, Parker, Raymond and Major Blunt find Ackroyd, stabbed to death with a weapon from his collection, the Tunisian dagger. Dr. Sheppard is held in true wisdom and fidelity by all the residents of the village and the readers in the case of Mr. Ackroyd’s murder as he was supposedly the last person to see Ackroyd alive in his study refusing to read the letter.
M. Hercule Piorot who happens to be cultivating vegetable marrows recently moved to Sheppard’s neighborhood at the Larches and is summoned by Flora Ackroyd, Ackroyd’s neice to step out of his retirement project and investigate the case for all facts and figures. The little Belgian detective promises to find out everything as he says “If I go into this, you must understand one thing clearly. I shall go through with it to the end. The good dog, he does not leave the scent, remember!”
All the mystery has been captured in Dr. Sheppard’s written record of this case proved interesting when he decided to try his hands on preparing a meticulous and accurate manuscript of the events while he was mixed up with something of this kind only this time.
Just as Poirot puts it after finishing the first twenty chapters of it -‘You have recorded all the facts faithfully and exactly though you have shown yourself becomingly reticent as to your own share in them.’ We and Poirot have his reticence to rely on all the way to the end as to what could be neater than :
‘The letters were brought in at twenty minutes to nine. It was just on ten minutes to nine when I left him, the letter still unread.I hesitated with my hand on the door handle, looking back and wondering if there was anything I had left undone.’
P.S. Nobody likes vegetable marrows.