Summary: Chapter 27: Apologia

Dr. Sheppard adds to his manuscript that he had originally planned to write an account of deceiving Hercule Poirot and getting away with murder. He writes how his plan to evade discovery as Mrs. Ferrars’s blackmailer began forming when he saw her and Ralph conferring intently. Murdering Roger had always been part of his scheme because he was convinced that Mrs. Ferrars would have eventually told Roger everything. Dr. Sheppard looks back over his manuscript, pleased with the misdirections he had included about the night of the murder. He savors his tidying up the crime scene while Parker phoned for the police, packing up the Dictaphone in his black bag, and moving the chair that shielded the device from view back into its proper place. 

Dr. Sheppard bemoans that his perfect plan was undone by the unexpected behavior of everyone else. He admits that he saw Caroline with her powers of observation as his most feared adversary, and now he expresses the wish to protect her from knowing the truth about his weak character. Poirot anticipated this compassionate impulse of a once-moral gentleman and asked Dr. Sheppard to finish his manuscript with a signed confession to the murder. Poirot had also suggested that Dr. Sheppard overdosing would remove any further consequences. Dr. Sheppard concludes that he will take veronal as a kind of poetic justice.

Analysis: Chapter 27

Dr. Sheppard’s chosen title for the final chapter is “Apologia,” a term meaning “a formal defense or justification,” which sets the stage for this chapter to function as a defense of his actions rather than as an actual apology or a remorseful confession. His pride in his writing abilities and attempts to misdirect the players involved, including the great Hercule Poirot, indicate a detached understanding of the wrongs he has done. His confession is one of a weak man with a blunted moral fiber, though not a deranged one, who was moved to blackmail and then to murder. This mirrors exactly Poirot’s character sketch from Chapter 17, further vindicating the detective’s methods and intelligence. Dr. Sheppard takes pride in the way his deceptions have contained elements of truth, and as he prepares to take his own life, Dr. Sheppard confesses feeling no pity, not even for himself. This last bit of narration paints a perfect picture of a man utterly corrupted.