Summary: Chapter 14: Mrs. Ackroyd

Dr. Sheppard marks a turning point in the investigation on Tuesday, September 21. He notices that Poirot no longer involves him in his deliberations. To Dr. Sheppard, the investigation now seems less a cohesive narrative and more a fragmented jigsaw puzzle. Mrs. Ackroyd summons him that morning on a pretext of symptoms of exhaustion to ask him to give Poirot information she’s been hiding: On September 17, Ursula had come upon Mrs. Ackroyd searching Roger’s desk for his will. Mrs. Ackroyd thinks Ursula was reporting on her. Mrs. Ackroyd also confesses that she left the curio case’s lid open when she heard footsteps as she was taking a piece of silver. Ursula sees Dr. Sheppard as he departs, and they have a brief exchange about the time of death. Meanwhile, Caroline deploys her network at Poirot’s request to ascertain the color of Ralph’s boots from the staff at the Three Boars inn.

Summary: Chapter 15: Geoffrey Raymond

The afternoon of Tuesday, September 21, Dr. Sheppard returns home from seeing patients to learn from Caroline that Raymond came looking for Poirot. Curious, she sends Dr. Sheppard to Poirot’s to deliver a jar of jelly and the intel on the boots. Poirot reacts with disappointment on hearing that the boots were black, not brown. Poirot asks Dr. Sheppard if Miss Russell brought up the topic of cocaine during her visit the morning of September 17. He then shows Dr. Sheppard a newspaper article that had been published that day on the subject. 

Raymond visits Poirot to unburden his conscience. He has been withholding the information that he was badly in debt and Roger’s gift of 500 pounds helped greatly. When he leaves, Poirot and Dr. Sheppard go to Fernly Park and enlist Flora and Parker in a reenactment of their meeting outside the study on the night of September 17. Flora takes up a position outside the closed door with her hand on the doorknob, saying she had just closed the door. Parker confirms that her hand was still on the handle when he saw her. Poirot tells Dr. Sheppard he learned something new but doesn’t tell him what.

Summary: Chapter 16: An Evening at Mah Jong

On Tuesday, September 21, Caroline and Dr. Sheppard host their friends Colonel Carter and Miss Ganett for an evening game of Mah Jong and gossip. Caroline advances the theory that Ralph is in Cranchester based on Poirot’s past comments on the town as he looked at their map of the county. Miss Ganett supports the theory with her observation of Poirot driving back from the direction of Cranchester that afternoon. Exuberant with a winning hand, Dr. Sheppard forgets his reserve and describes the wedding band inscription, and they each have a different speculation: Ralph is secretly married to Flora, Roger had been secretly married to Mrs. Ferrars, Roger had married Miss Russell, and Raymond and Flora were married.

Analysis: Chapters 14–16

Dr. Sheppard’s encounters with Mrs. Ackroyd and Geoffrey Raymond prove both the truth of Poirot’s roundtable accusation and his worth as a detective. Mrs. Ackroyd tells Sheppard she has been “prostrated” by the shock of Roger’s death, but Dr. Sheppard knows the real shock is from Poirot’s accusation. Practically labeling herself a martyr, Mrs. Ackroyd falsely asserts that she has concealed nothing. However, her attempts to discredit any servant testimony as idle gossip and her insistence that Poirot is a ridiculous foreigner in contrast to the English Inspector Raglan provoke suspicion. The suspicion is confirmed when she confesses that she withheld information about the dismissal of Ursula Bourne. Mrs. Ackroyd’s confession and the roundabout way she expresses it expose her slippery relationship with the truth and her constant preoccupation with money. Raymond’s disclosure of his own financial woes continues to show that Poirot’s accusation has incited “a nasty prick of conscience” in those who are withholding important details.

Around the Mah Jong table that night, the players gossip about the case and aspects of each person’s character is mirrored in their game play. Caroline is bold and direct, openly positing her theories about Ralph and his and Flora’s relationship, and admonishing Miss Gannet for playing weakly. Dr. Sheppard is mostly silent during play, taking no hands and resisting his sister’s probes for information on the case. Caroline complains that Dr. Sheppard is “an extraordinary creature” who “can not bring himself to part with information,” but there is more to this than Dr. Sheppard’s nature. Prior to Chapter 14, Dr. Sheppard describes his role as having “played Watson” to Poirot’s “Sherlock,” but now they have parted ways, and Dr. Sheppard no longer has an inside track on the case. Dr. Sheppard’s perspective also appears to have shifted: he is no longer narrating events as they happen but writing about them with knowledge of the investigation’s results.