The novel’s narrator is a physician in the town of King’s Abbott. He serves as a companion-chronicler to Hercule Poirot, the brilliant detective who will eventually crack the very complicated case. Although Sheppard appears to be a genial, straightforward character, his complicity in the mystery will prove one of the great plot-twists of all time. Ultimately, Dr. Sheppard is revealed to be a shrewd, duplicitous, detached villain.
Dr. Sheppard’s older spinster sister is a voracious gossip who uses a network of servants as informants to gather all sorts of information on anyone who piques her interest. She is unsatisfied unless she knows about all the goings-on in the town, and usually interjects her opinions on things, especially when unprovoked. Agatha Christie later admitted that Caroline served as a model for her famous Miss Marple character, the spinster detective who pokes her nose in everyone else’s business.
Perhaps Agatha Christie’s most famous character, Poirot appears in 33 novels and over 60 short stories. A retired Belgian detective, Poirot is small in stature but full of self-importance. He is a brilliant detective, relying on his own logic and critical thinking skills (rather than an obsession over physical facts and clues) in order to determine the truth of the crime. He treats everyone as a suspect, and takes no statement or allegation for granted. Instead, he painstakingly verifies all testimonies while privately forming his own hypotheses, only revealing the truth when he is sure of his suspicions.
Although she never appears as a living character in the novel, Mrs. Ferrars nonetheless plays an important role in the plot. A nervous woman who, according to Caroline, couldn’t stand her alcoholic husband, she poisoned him in order to escape from his abusiveness. However, the financial strain of being blackmailed for this crime, as well as the guilt over the crime itself, led her to kill herself, but not before asking her close companion Roger Ackroyd to avenge her against the blackmailer.
A genial widower, Ackroyd is the central figure in King’s Abbott. A wealthy businessman, Ackroyd’s influence as well as the intrigue surrounding his stepson, family, and himself, make him a constant subject of gossip and speculation. Sheppard describes Ackroyd as being a proper man, who believed heavily in society’s rules for rightness as well as its class divisions. He is murdered at the beginning of the novel, providing the mystery that Poirot will so brilliantly solve.
Ackroyd’s stepson, Paton is handsome and charming, but constantly getting into trouble with debts and financial obligations. His disappearance, as well as several major clues (including how well he stood to benefit from Ackroyd’s death), make him the major suspect in the crime. He is described as having a “weak” character, which leads him to fall constantly into debt, and look for easy ways to discharge it (such as agreeing to marry Flora when he is already committed).
Mrs. Cecil Ackroyd
Ackroyd’s sister-in-law, she and her daughter Flora came to live at Fernly Park after her husband (Ackroyd’s brother) died. Shallow and garrulous, Mrs. Ackroyd is prone to episodes of self-involved drama, and admits to falling into debt in an effort to sustain her upper class lifestyle. She complains of the difficulty of relying financially on her miserly brother-in-law.
Mrs. Ackroyd’s daughter, Flora is young, fair, and beautiful. Like her mother, she is burdened by the strain of being financially dependent on her uncle, and longs for freedom from this frustrating reliance. Although she agrees to be engaged to her step-cousin Ralph Paton, she does so because she sees the opportunity for more independence and a new life, not out of love. She claims to have a weak character (particularly with regards to money) just like Ralph, and she claims that an understanding of this mutual weakness brought them together.
Ackroyd’s young, charming secretary, Geoffrey Raymond is buoyant and debonair, maintaining a relaxed attitude throughout the investigation. Although Ackroyd’s death upset him, he is nonetheless laid back and confident throughout the novel. He admits to being in a bit of debt, which the money he got from Ackroyd’s will takes care of, but insists that he has an alibi for the time of the murder, and thus should not be considered a suspect.
A big game hunter and old friend of Ackroyd, Blunt is taciturn and, when he does speak, direct. Blunt’s secret love for Flora Ackroyd seems out of character with his moderate, reserved personality, but his ultimate decision to express this love allows him to win her over in the end.
Ackroyd’s housekeeper, Miss Russell is efficient and no-nonsense, with a proficiency that renders her intimidating to many of the characters she encounters, even those in a higher social class than she. Although she is reserved to the point of inaccessibility, she ultimately demonstrates emotion when confronted after her son, Charles Kent, faces suspicion for Ackroyd’s murder. Miss Russell distanced herself from her son because she gave birth to him out of wedlock – although she provided for him financially, she refused to acknowledge him publicly for fear of what it would do to her reputation. Her respectability is of the utmost importance to her.
Ackroyd’s butler, Parker, is a professional and competent servant. Poirot suspects there is something corrupt about him, and eventually discovers that Parker blackmailed his former employer, and was snooping around for the means to blackmail Ackroyd, as well. Although Parker is greedy, Poirot nevertheless deems him too cowardly to be Ackroyd’s murderer.
Born a “lady” but forced to make her own living when her parents could not provide for her, Ursula decided to become a parlormaid. Although it represented a step-down in class, it allowed her to support herself, and she knew she was a competent maid. After falling in love with Ralph Paton and secretly marrying him, Ursula was furious when he announced his engagement to Flora and is distraught when he disappears after his uncle's murder.
Miss Ackroyd’s disowned son, Kent shows signs of having been a strong, capable, smart man, but an addiction to alcohol and heroin has caused him to become a seedy, paranoid criminal. Although Miss Russell wants to believe he can recover from his addiction, he does not show any signs of being motivated to cure himself. He does not, however, reveal his mother’s identity when questioned by the police, helping to preserve her reputation in town.
The main inspector into Ackroyd's murder, Raglan immediately identifies Ralph as a potential suspect. Raglan’s reticence to welcome Poirot onto the investigating team is softened only by Poirot’s adept flattery. He is proud of his investigative method, although he lacks the critical thinking skills and brilliance that allow Poirot to analyze the many clues the crime provides.
The local police officer, Davis is the first on the scene when Ackroyd is found murdered. He is self-important and blundering, and obsessed with physical clues that will ultimately not prove to be useful to solving the murder. His initial incompetence only serves to demonstrate the brilliance of Poirot.
A local, Colonel Melrose is initially reluctant to believe in Ralph’s guilt. He is fond of Ralph and unwilling to consider the possibility that Ralph could be the murderer. However, as the evidence against Ralph mounts, he hesitatingly begins to be convinced that Ralph is the killer.
Roger Ackroyd and Mrs. Ferrars’ lawyer, Mr. Hammond is a small, “dried up” man who Dr. Sheppard describes as “having lawyer written all over him” (p. 111). However, he does willingly provide Poirot with some key details about the terms of Ackroyd’s will as well as the money Mrs. Ferrars was paying her blackmailer.
The housemaid, Elise Dale is a simple, straightforward girl, and quickly dismissed by Poirot as a potential suspect.
A good friend of Caroline Sheppard, Miss Gannett is, like Caroline, a busybody and town gossip, who adores speculating with Caroline about the crime.
A friend of Caroline and Dr. Sheppard, Colonel Carter is a somewhat pompous man who likes to exaggerate the details of his “exotic” and “impressive” past.
Ursula Bourne’s sister, Mrs. Folliott pretends to be her former employer in order to help Ursula get a job. A kind woman unused to lying, she becomes incredibly uncomfortable when Dr. Sheppard asks her about Ursula.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
In a stunning plot twist, Poirot reveals that it is Dr. Sheppard who is the murderer. Sheppard stabbed Ackroyd before leaving him that night, programmed the Dictaphone to go off at 9:30 and provide him with an alibi, then snuck around the side of...
Throughout the novel, Dr. Sheppard gives us the appearance of being a relatively neutral narrator. He shares conversations in detail and recounts events with precision. His opinions are limited to the personalities of others, and in what we...