Summary: Chapter 25: The Whole Truth

At the end of the meeting, Poirot requests that Dr. Sheppard stay and give him his impressions of the meeting. Dr. Sheppard asks why Poirot issued a warning instead of involving Inspector Raglan in an arrest, which gives the murderer a chance to escape. Poirot states that there is no escape for the murderer. Dr. Sheppard then asks the identity of the murderer. 

Poirot lays out the significance of the phone call Dr. Sheppard received Friday night that he said alerted him to the murder. Without that call, Roger’s body wouldn’t have been discovered until the next day, and the murderer needed a reason to come back to the scene of the crime. Poirot shows that a crucial piece of evidence—the Dictaphone—needed to be removed from the room for the murderer’s plan to work. The Dictaphone, which was engineered for a timed playback, was the source of Roger’s voice heard by Raymond and Blunt, as Roger was already dead. Poirot next shows that the appearance of Ralph’s footprints was part of the murderer’s plan to frame Ralph for the murder. The murderer would have collected the shoes from the Three Boars earlier in the day. The dagger was missing from the case before dinner as testified by Flora. 

Poirot then reveals Dr. Sheppard as the suspect who has the mechanical know-how to retrofit the Dictaphone with a timer, who was at the Three Boars inn earlier, who had the opportunity to take the dagger, and whose black medical bag could accommodate removal of the Dictaphone from the murder scene.

Summary: Chapter 26: And Nothing but the Truth

When Poirot identifies him as the murderer, Dr. Sheppard tells him he is insane. Poirot adds damning details to prove his analysis. Dr. Sheppard’s ten-minute timeline allowed him to be escorted out the front door at 8:50 p.m., double back to the summerhouse and put on Ralph’s shoes, leave muddy footprints by entering the study through the window he had left open, lock the study door from the inside, go out by the window, change into his own shoes, and reach the gate by 9:00 p.m. The Dictaphone was set to go off at 9:15 p.m. when he was back home with Caroline. 

Poirot believes Dr. Sheppard’s motivation was Mrs. Ferrars’s revelation of Dr. Sheppard as her blackmailer in her letter to Roger. Roger would have had no mercy on Dr. Sheppard. The phone call that allowed Dr. Sheppard to return to collect the Dictaphone had been placed at Dr. Sheppard’s request by the American ship’s steward, whom Dr. Sheppard had seen as a patient on Friday morning, a fact confirmed by the telegram Poirot had just received. When Dr. Sheppard feigns ignorance, Poirot tells him that he has delayed revealing his findings to the police until the next day for the sake of Caroline, whom Dr. Sheppard might want to spare from a trial.

Analysis: Chapters 25–26

Dr. Sheppard’s admission to the reader that he believes Poirot is on the wrong track suggests some knowledge of the whole truth on the part of the doctor, though subtly, because his confusion as to the purpose of Poirot’s reunion appears sincere. Dr. Sheppard’s narration wavers between doubtful (“You really believe that one of those people here tonight committed the murder?”) and hopeful (“The window!”) as he attempts to understand whom Poirot has decided is the murderer. As Poirot leads Dr. Sheppard through all the ideas that have led him to an indisputable conclusion, Dr. Sheppard asks many questions and hesitates to answer some. Dr. Sheppard’s character flaws and reliability as a narrator have been a focus from the beginning of the novel and if the reader was suspicious of Dr. Sheppard’s reliability before, his behavior here only adds to the suspicion. Either Dr. Sheppard has truly not considered these details or else he is disclosing that he did not think they would be discovered—or worse. 

Once accused, Dr. Sheppard is not ready to confess, calling Poirot crazy and challenging the idea that he had a motive to murder Ackroyd. Dr. Sheppard’s narration slowly creeps toward confession nonetheless, as he describes himself first as confused and then “trying to rally.” Near the end of their meeting, after Poirot has laid out all of the evidence damning him, Dr. Sheppard yawns and excuses himself as if parting from a perfectly normal social event. He ceases any attempts to further discredit Poirot’s claims, stating that he is not stupid and exhibiting the detached behavior of a guilty man, but one who is resigned to his fate.