Chapters 5 & 6 Summary
Dr. Sheppard arrives back at Fernly Park and demands that Parker take him to Ackroyd’s body. Parker, surprised, asks what he is talking about. Dr. Sheppard is surprised to hear that Parker did not deliver the mysterious phone message. He hopes that means the call was just a practical joke, but just in case, Dr. Sheppard insists on seeing Ackroyd to confirm for himself that he is fine.
Parker and Dr. Sheppard go to Ackroyd’s office, but the door is locked. The two bang on the door but there is no answer, so instead they break down the door with a nearby chair. Inside, they discover Ackroyd’s body lifeless in a chair with a metal dagger in his neck. Parker leaves to call the police and inform Raymond and Major Blunt, while Sheppard stays with the body. Raymond, Major Blunt and Parker return, and the four speculate on who killed Roger Ackroyd and for what reason. Raymond insists that nothing major has been stolen, but Sheppard notices that the envelope from Mrs. Ferrars is gone.
Finally, the inspector arrives, and Sheppard and Parker explain the mysterious phone message as well as their discovery of the body. The group discovers that the window, which Sheppard insists he closed earlier, is now open, and they see footsteps in the mud outside, which the Inspector believes were caused by the murderer fleeing. Sheppard remembers the mysterious man he saw approaching Fernly Park earlier, but Parker insists that no one has come through the front door all night.
Sheppard confirms that he left Ackroyd at ten minutes to 9 pm, but Raymond, meanwhile, tells the group that he heard Roger Ackroyd talking around 9:30 pm – at the time he thought it was with Dr. Sheppard, but now he doesn’t know who it could have been. Raymond states that the little of the conversation he overheard involved Ackroyd stating, “The calls on my purse have been so frequent of late that I fear it is impossible for me to accede to your request” (p. 56).
Parker informs the inspector that he saw Flora Ackroyd leaving her uncle’s study at 9:45 pm. He admits that he had gone to deliver Ackroyd’s nightly whisky and soda, having forgotten Ackroyd’s earlier request that he be left alone. The inspector asks to talk to Flora, and Raymond goes to fetch her. They pretend to ask her about a robbery, not wanting to upset her with news of the murder, and she confirms that she saw her uncle around 9:45 to wish him goodnight. Finally, they admit to her that her uncle was killed, and, in shock, she faints. Blunt wakes Mrs. Cecil Ackroyd to tell her the news and so she can attend to Flora.
Meanwhile, the inspector asks Dr. Sheppard about the stranger. Sheppard remembers that while he recognized something familiar about the man’s voice, it sounded somewhat disguised. The two go back to Ackroyd’s study, where the inspector reveals that, in asking Parker some questions about the murder, Parker mentioned something about Ackroyd and blackmail. Sheppard decides to tell the inspector everything he has related so far with regards to Mrs. Ferrars and Roger Ackroyd. The inspector replies that this gives them a clear motive for the murderer – who he now believes is Parker. He thinks Ackroyd discovered Parker had been blackmailing Mrs. Ferrars, then accused Parker, who killed Ackroyd in response, before placing the call to Dr. Sheppard.
Meanwhile, they examine the murder weapon – a decorative dagger. They discover fingerprints on the dagger, and seek out Raymond to see if he recognizes the weapon. Raymond identifies the dagger as a curio given to Roger Ackroyd from Major Blunt, who, when called, verifies this. The dagger had been stored in the silver table with the lid that Dr. Sheppard had studied earlier in the drawing room. He explains how he was sure that he heard the lid being lowered earlier in the day before dinner.
They question Miss Russell, who confirms that she lowered the lid to the table when she was in the drawing room that evening. She can’t remember if the dagger was there or not when she lowered the lid. They agree that anyone could have picked up the weapon at any point during the day. The inspector locks up the study until his boss Colonel Melrose can study the crime scene the next day. Raymond observes the inspector rather obviously trying to sneak a sample of Parker’s fingerprints, and he gamely offers the inspector business cards with his and Dr. Sheppard’s fingerprints, as well. Dr. Sheppard finally arrives home, where Caroline awaits to hear the whole story. He explains that the police suspect Parker, but she dismisses this idea as ridiculous.
Chapters 5 & 6 Analysis
Chapter 5 finally delivers the murder that the novel’s title has been promising. The discovery of Ackroyd’s body, as well as the resulting flurry of activity, deliver many more clues as to the identity of the murderer. Once again the reader remains in the hands of Sheppard as narrator, and once again, as the reader will ultimately discover, Sheppard deceives by omission. When explaining Mrs. Ferrars’ blackmail issue to the inspector in Chapter 6, Sheppard writes that he “narrated the whole events of the evening as I have set them down here” (p 62-3), a statement that appears to imply he told the inspector everything he knew, but instead actually implies that he deceived the inspector the same way he deceived the reader.
Not that the suspicious behavior of the other characters is fabricated. Luckily for the deceitful Dr. Sheppard, everyone in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd has something to hide, and must act dishonest when the force of the inspector’s office comes sweeping down on them. Flora’s discomfort when she’s first gets questioned by the inspector, Parker’s guilt over the accusation of sneaking around – all of this behavior is that of truly guilty parties. However the guilt is displayed by all the characters of the novel for many different offenses.
The inspector’s arrival and rather obvious pomposity and incompetence in Chapter 6 – from his excitement over the fingerprints on the dagger to his awkward attempts to collect Parker’s fingerprints – will only serve to emphasize Poirot’s considerable skill when he eventually enters the investigation. Although the inspector is only one of many police detectives who will be working on the case, he is the first responder and clearly, in Dr. Sheppard’s view, not the skilled officer that he thinks he is.
It is interesting to note the tone of the novel, especially in the chapters directly before and after Ackroyd’s murder. Although not a humorous novel, there is nonetheless a lightness with which Christie describes the murder. It is a subject of fascination and interest, rather than something grizzly and upsetting. The characters certainly react to Ackroyd’s murder with horror, but Christie does not intend to terrify her reader. Instead, as a murder mystery, the novel is meant to be interesting and intriguing like a puzzle. Christie achieves this lightness by focusing on clues and details of the potential suspects, rather than, for example, detailed descriptions of the victim, or lengthy explanations of other characters’ grief.