Tea Tonic and Toxin: Mystery and Thriller Podcast and Book Club


by Agatha Christie

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) has become known as one of Agatha Christie’s most controversial novels due to an unexpected stunner of a twist at the end. Christie considered it her masterpiece.

In 2013, the British Crime Writers’ Association voted it the best crime novel ever written.

Read: Buy it used, read it for free, or get it on Amazon. (Reading time: ~4 hours)

Reflect: Check out the conversation starters below.

Weigh In: Share your thoughts using the form below!

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Tea Tonic & Toxin Podcast

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The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: Share Your Thoughts

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The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Tea Tonic & Toxin Podcast
Agatha Christie - Hercule Poirot - Tea Tonic & Toxin Podcast
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Tea Tonic & Toxin Podcast

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

We All Have Something to Hide: Things aren’t always as they seem. Characters present themselves in one way but hide their true intentions and true selves beneath the surface. We all have something to hide, don’t we?

“Every one of you in this room is concealing something from me.” He raised his hand as a faint murmur of protest arose. “Yes, yes, I know what I am saying. It may be something unimportant—trivial—which is supposed to have no bearing on the case, but there it is. Each one of you has something to hide.”

What on Earth Is a Vegetable Marrow? A marrow is a cucurbit, which means it’s from the same family as the melon, cucumber, squash and courgette (zucchini). The marrow is actually a courgette that has been left on the plant to grow a little longer; likewise, if you pick a marrow when small, it’s classed as a courgette. Marrow has a creamy flesh, edible skin and seeds, and a mild flavour.

You can steam, bake, boil, fry or roast marrow. The stripy skin is edible, but if you are roasting or frying you might want to remove the seeds and stringy middles so you can just enjoy the flesh.

Have you ever eaten vegetable marrow? Do you garden? Have you ever given yourself over to gardening a single vegetable as an all-consuming hobby? If you were to garden a single food, what would that food be?

The Mongoose: Rudyard Kipling’s story “Ricki-Ticki-Tavi” is referenced, part of The Jungle Book (a story dear to my heart, having recently read it to my son). “Go & find out” or sit placidly at home and find out. Are you familiar with either of these two types of personalities? Do you have one?

The Intelligence Corps: Miss Marple: Agatha Christie said Caroline was her favorite character and her inspiration to create the character of Miss Marple. How do you feel about Caroline? Have you read any Miss Marple?

“I was able to set M. Poirot right upon several points. He was very grateful to me. He said I had the makings of a born detective in me—and a wonderful ​​psychological insight into human nature.”

Working for a Living: Miss Russell goes about with pinched lips and an acid smile, professing sympathy for “poor Mrs. Ackroyd—dependent on the charity of her husband’s brother. The bread of charity is so bitter, is it not? I should be quite miserable if I did not work for my living.” Would you be?

Living the Dream: Old habits die hard for Poirot and Sheppard. People often talk about their dream to _____ and then never pursue that dream, even when given the chance. Or they foolishly fritter away their money (Sheppard and Blunt). Or, like Poirot, they’re dissatisfied when they get what they want.

“[A] man may work towards a certain object, may labor and toil to attain a certain kind of leisure and occupation, and then find that, after all, he yearns for the old busy days, and the old occupations that he thought himself so glad to leave?”

“Yes,” I said slowly. “I fancy that that is a common enough occurrence. I myself am perhaps an instance. A year ago I came into a legacy—enough to enable me to realize a dream. I have always wanted to travel, to see the world. Well, that was a year ago, as I said, and—I am still here.”

The Unreliable Narrator: Challenge all assumptions. Game changer.

“To tell the truth, I was considerably upset and worried. I am not going to pretend that at that moment I foresaw the events of the next few weeks. … But my instinct told me that there were stirring times ahead.”

“I think I can safely say that it was at this moment [when Ralph Paton and Mrs. Ferrars are walking together] that a foreboding of the future first swept over me. Nothing tangible as yet—but a vague premonition of the way things were setting.”

“I plunged into a careful narrative, embodying all the facts I have previously set down. 

Hastings! Allusions to Hastings throughout. Early on, Poirot even says Sheppard reminds him of Hastings. 

p15-“Also, I had a friend – a friend who for many years never left my side. Occasionally of an imbecility to make one afraid, nevertheless he was very dear to me. Figure to yourself that I miss even his stupidity. His naivete, his honest outlook, the pleasure of delighting and surprising him by my superior gifts – all these I miss more than I can tell you.

Was Hastings his puppy? Do you have a friend like Hastings or Poirot? How would you describe your friend?

A Strain of Weakness: Sheppard’s weakness. Caroline calls this out toward the end of the book, but we see it from the start. He’s disingenuous. p11- When Miss Russell says she doesn’t think the liniment will do any good, he thinks “I didn’t think it would either, but I protested in duty bound. After all, it couldn’t ​​do any harm, and one must stick up for the tools of one’s trade.”

Did he think of blackmail in this way?

They discussed Ralph Paton. “A weak nature,” I insisted. “But not a vicious one.”

“Ah!” said Poirot. “But weakness, where does it end?”

Caroline: “Take James here—weak as water, if I weren’t about to look after him.”

With Sheppard there was no end in sight. What was his worst crime? Prescribing meds that don’t cure? Turning a blind eye to murder? Blackmailing? Squandering his blackmail? Trying to get more and more? Driving Mrs Ferrar’s to suicide? Murdering Roger Ackroyd? Framing the man who considered him his best friend?

From “The Flying Stars,” The Innocence of Father Brown: “There is still youth and honour and humour in you [Flambeau]; don’t fancy they will last in that trade. … [No] man has ever been able to keep on one level of evil. That road goes down and down. Many a man … started [as] an honest outlaw, a merry robber of the rich, and ended stamped into slime.”

​​Justice: The book explores the fine line between justice served through legal means and personal moral codes. Several characters take matters into their own hands. In Styles, Poirot let an innocent man be tried for murder because he thought it would bring a woman’s happiness. In The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, he allowed the murderer to commit suicide because he thought it would spare a woman trial. What do you think about Poirot’s sense of justice?

Never Underestimate Hercule Poirot: Is Poirot’s bragging real? Poirot being taken for “past his prime.” – is it intentional?

Sheppard underestimates and misjudges Poirot at every turn.

“I overestimated his general self-confidence, and I took it for granted that the things which puzzled me must be equally puzzling to him.”

The first time I really noticed his tactic of diversion was when he emphasized the COLOR of Ralph’s shoes, when what he was really trying to figure out was if they were boots. Does he do this with his own personality?

What aspects of our own personalities are cultivated?

Drugs & Addiction: Miss Russell is reluctant to take the doctor’s prescription, citing harm done by drugs, particularly cocaine addicts of the time. We live in a time where cocaine addiction and prescription drug addiction, if anything, are an even bigger problem. And we still look for a cure. Is there a cure? There’s also an interesting bonding that can take place through shared traumatic experiences with addiction.

“Roger Ackroyd’s wife had admittedly died of drink. Ashley Ferrars had been a drunkard for many years before his death. It was only fitting that these two victims of alcoholic excess should make up to each other for all that they had previously endured at the hands of their former spouses.”

Diabolical Doctors: Whose Body and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd have had the admired doctor as the murderer. Is it because no one would suspect him? Or because everyone should suspect him?  A man with a lot of knowledge & opportunity.

Hemingway Never Drank Here: Carolyn says “right on, Flora” …

Flora: “All this making a fuss about things because some one wore or used them seems to me all nonsense. They’re not wearing or using them now. The pen that George Eliot wrote The Mill on the Floss with—that sort of thing—well, it’s only just a pen after all. If you’re really keen on George Eliot, why not get The Mill on the Floss in a cheap edition and read it.”

The Big Reveal

“A person who was at the Three Boars earlier that day, a person who knew Ackroyd well enough to know that he had purchased a dictaphone, a person who was of a mechanical turn of mind, who had the opportunity to take the dagger from the silver table before Miss Flora arrived, who had with him a receptacle suitable for hiding the dictaphone—such as a black bag, and who had the study to himself for a few minutes after the crime was discovered while Parker was telephoning for the police. In fact—Dr. Sheppard!”

My first time reading this book I was completely stumped and never saw it coming. Were you surprised?

I wondered what my second reading would be like. I rarely read or watch things a second time. Would it feel just as obfuscated to me as before? I was surprised to find it glaring off the pages! Page after page, she points to the doctor. If you’ve read it more than once, how was your second reading?

Is it really just the concept of the unreliable narrator that makes one so blind to the possibility that Sheppard did it?

Obsession, Guilt, and Redemption: Mrs. Ferrars and Dr. Sheppard relentlessly pursue their desires, even at the cost of their health, morality, and sanity. Compulsive behavior drives people to commit acts they might not otherwise consider, leading to tragic outcomes. Mrs. Ferrars grapples with guilt and the need for redemption; Dr. Sheppard arguably does not. Past actions haunt them nonetheless. Their choices have consequences.

“not that I take any responsibility for Mrs. Ferrar’s death. It was the direct consequence of her own actions. I feel no pity for her. I have no pity for myself either.”

A woman trapped in an abusive marriage murders her husband. Roger Ackroyd was horrified. How do you feel? Is there any quarter for pity here?

A woman trapped in an abusive marriage murders her husband. You see an opening to take advantage of this knowledge. Do you consider blackmail? How do you approach it?

Shepherd has no pity for himself either. How is this possible? Is he truly this consistent in his “weakness?” It’s fair, but is it possible?

When do you pity yourself?

About Tea, Tonic & Toxin

Tea, Tonic, and Toxin is a book club and podcast for people who love mysteries, thrillers, introspection, and good conversation. Each month, your hosts, Sarah Harrison and Carolyn Daughters, will discuss a game-changing mystery or thriller from the 19th and 20th centuries. Together, we’ll see firsthand how the genre evolved.


Along the way, we’ll entertain ideas, prospects, theories, doubts, and grudges, along with the occasional guest. And we hope to entertain you, dear friend. We want you to experience the joys of reading some of the best mysteries and thrillers ever written.

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