The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Having heard the news of Roger Ackroyd’s murder, Dr. Sheppard drives over to the Ackroyd house. Parker lets him in, and Sheppard demands to know if he’s called the police. Parker seems confused—he knows nothing about a murder. Sheppard explains that, five minutes ago, someone called him, saying it was Parker, to explain that Ackroyd had been murdered. Parker suggests it was a practical joke.
If Parker didn’t call Sheppard with the information, readers might well ask, then who did, and why? This ultimately becomes one of the central aspects of the mystery.
Themes
Secrecy and the Universal Capacity for Violence Theme Icon
Dr. Sheppard asks to see Roger Ackroyd, just to be sure that he’s all right. Parker leads him to the study, which appears to be locked. Sheppard calls Roger’s name, but hears no answer. Worried, he breaks down the door. Inside, Parker and Sheppard find Ackroyd sitting in his armchair, a knife sticking out of the back of his neck. Sheppard instructs Parker to call the police, and then tell Raymond and Major Blunt. Alone, Sheppard inspects the body—Ackroyd has clearly been dead for “some little time.”
Dr. Sheppard is worried—the phone call seems to have rattled him, explaining why he breaks down the door. Sheppard is alone in the study for a brief moment, during which he supposedly attends to his duties as a doctor, confirming that the body has been dead for a certain amount of time, a conclusion that nobody else in the novel questions.
Themes
Secrecy and the Universal Capacity for Violence Theme Icon
Blunt and Raymond rush into the study. Raymond suggests that there was a robbery—nobody would have any other motive for killing Roger Ackroyd. He looks through the drawers, however, and finds that nothing is missing. There are a few letters on the floor, but Mrs. Ferrars’ letter is nowhere to be found.
Raymond’s claim that nobody had a motive for killing Roger already seems naïve—on the contrary, many characters had a motive, often financial. However, the absence of Ferrars’ letter suggests that the blackmailer was somehow involved.
Themes
Secrecy and the Universal Capacity for Violence Theme Icon
Detection and Intellect Theme Icon
The village inspector arrives, accompanied by a constable. He asks about the body, and Dr. Sheppard explains that he was summoned by a call. He also notes that Roger Ackroyd has been dead at least half an hour. The inspector notices two shoeprints on the windowsill, seemingly from shoes with rubber studs. The inspector posits that the killer climbed in through the window and stabbed Ackroyd from behind. Suddenly Dr. Sheppard remembers the mysterious stranger he met earlier that night. However, Parker says that nobody else came to the house that night.
The inspector begins assembling clues, such as the shoe prints, and taking everyone’s testimony, beginning with Dr. Sheppard’s. The mysterious stranger, whoever it was, seems like a likely suspect in the murder—perhaps entering through the window (since Parker claims nobody else came through the door).
Themes
Secrecy and the Universal Capacity for Violence Theme Icon
Detection and Intellect Theme Icon
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The inspector tries to determine the exact time of death. He asks Dr. Sheppard about Roger Ackroyd, and Sheppard recalls leaving around 8:50. Raymond recalls hearing Ackroyd’s voice from the study around 9:30—he wasn’t sure who Ackroyd was talking to, but he heard him saying something about “the calls on my purse” and being unable to “accede to your request.” Blunt claims not to have seen Ackroyd after dinner. The inspector suggests that Ackroyd must have let a stranger into the house, and that Ackroyd must have been alive at 9:30. Parker adds that Roger saw Flora around 9:50—she told Parker, who was bringing whisky to the study, that Roger didn’t want to be disturbed. The inspector becomes suspicious—he asks Parker why he was returning to the study, and Parker suddenly becomes flustered.
Ackroyd seems to have been alive at 9:30—even if nobody saw his body, Raymond heard his voice. Further, the fact that Roger was talking about money (“the calls on my purse”) suggests that he may have been speaking to the blackmailer. Both Flora and Parker seem like likely suspects—Flora because she may have been the last person to see Roger alive; Parker because he’s getting nervous.
Themes
Secrecy and the Universal Capacity for Violence Theme Icon
Detection and Intellect Theme Icon
The inspector asks more questions. Parker explains that the only ways to access Roger Ackroyd’s study would be to come through the main hall or through a window. Then, the inspector asks to speak with Flora Ackroyd. Raymond goes to summon her, with instructions not to tell her that her uncle is dead. Flora comes downstairs a moment later, and the inspector informs her that there’s been a robbery. He asks her about her conversation with her uncle, and Flora confirms that she came in to the study around 9:50 to say good night, and that Roger seemed perfectly fine. Major Blunt goes to Flora and tells her, gently, that Roger’s been killed. Flora faints. Dr. Sheppard and Major Blunt carry her upstairs to bed.
Notice that Flora gives her alibi before she even knows that Roger has been murdered. This is relevant to the plot, since Flora would be more likely to casually give a fake alibi before knowing about the stakes of the investigation than after. The scene is also a sign of the sexism of English society in the early 20th century, since Flora is portrayed as being too fragile and delicate to cope with the news of Roger’s murder.
Themes
Secrecy and the Universal Capacity for Violence Theme Icon
Detection and Intellect Theme Icon
Law vs. Ethics Theme Icon