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

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Episode 32
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Episode 32
Tea, Tonic, and Toxin
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, published in 1926, is one of Agatha Christie’s most controversial novels due to a stunner of a twist at the end. It’s also a bonafide page-turner. Christie considered it her masterpiece. In 2013, the British Crime Writers’ Association voted it the best crime novel ever written.

Can Hercule Poirot find the killer? Can you?

And is The Murder of Roger Ackroyd the best mystery 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.

Weigh In: Share your thoughts here!

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Podcast Transcript: Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Sarah Harrison 0:24
Welcome to Tea Tonic & Toxin, a book club and podcast for anyone who wants to explore the best mysteries and thrillers ever written. I’m your host, Sarah Harrison.

Carolyn Daughters 0:35
And I’m your host Carolyn Daughters. Pour yourself a cup of tea, a gin and tonic, …

Sarah Harrison 0:40
… but not a toxin …

Carolyn Daughters 0:44
And join us on a journey through 19th and 20th century mysteries and thrillers, every one of them a game changer.

Sarah, this is our second episode on The Murder of Roger Ackroyd!

Sarah Harrison 1:00
I know because the first episode was packed full of vegetable marrow, and we needed to make more room.

Carolyn Daughters 1:07
Yes, but to be fair, it sounds amazing, this vegetable marrow.

Sarah Harrison 1:12
I’m gonna get some zucchini and overgrow it myself just so I can have some vegetable marrows not available in American stores.

Carolyn Daughters 1:20
And fling one at the neighbors over the fence.

Sarah Harrison 1:23
I wish.

Carolyn Daughters 1:28
We’re going to talk The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Before we get too far. I think we wanted to thank our sponsor.

Sarah Harrison 1:37
We love our sponsors, our sponsors.

Carolyn Daughters 1:39
We especially love this sponsor. It’s Grace Sigma, a boutique processing engineering consultancy run by Sarah Harrison.

Sarah Harrison 1:54
She’s great.

Carolyn Daughters 1:55
She’s amazing. Grace Sigma works nationally in such industries as finance, telecom, and government. Grace Sigma uses lean methods to assist in data dashboarding, storytelling, training, process visualization, and project management. Whether you’re a small business looking to scale or a large company whose processes have become tangled, Grace Sigma can help. You can learn more at gracesigma.com.

Sarah Harrison 2:27
We also have a super special listener award. Today, Joanne Castendyk from Salida, Colorado. Thank you so much for your interactions on social media. Thank you for being a wonderful listener. And to show our gratitude, we are going to be sending you a beautiful sticker, which I’m going to hold up because we also have a video option happening today. Really our first full-length video recording. This Tea Tonic & Toxin sticker will be yours.

Carolyn Daughters 3:00
It’s gonna look great on your water bottle on your cooler.

Sarah Harrison 3:03
Wherever you like to stick stickers.

Carolyn Daughters 3:07
Give it to your children see where they want to put it.

Sarah Harrison 3:26
No, don’t do it because. It’s a high quality sticker. It won’t come off easily.

Carolyn Daughters 3:31
A great eternal reminder to listen to the podcast. If you want your own on-air shout out and one of these awesome stickers, all you have to do is weigh in on the books that we’re reading at teatonicandtoxin.com. We have a page on each one of the books, and we have a comment form on our contact page. You can also weigh in on Facebook @teatonicandtoxin and Instagram @teatonicandtoxin.

Sarah Harrison 4:02
We also have a super special guest today.

Carolyn Daughters 4:10
Our guest is Simon Eli Millman. He’s going to join us in a discussion about The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. To some he’s known as the mythical white panther who cries to others. To others, he’s the host of the podcast Everything I Hate About Me to other still, he’s Urban Jack of the synth pop band Urban Jack and the Savage Sophisticates or the long-gone frontman of Subterranean Howl. Music producer, photographer, and director of theatrical productions. Eli, who are you, and what are you up to these days?

Carolyn Daughters 4:44
So we’ve been calling you Eli. Is that correct?

Sarah Harrison 4:51
That’s what I call him. Everyone else calls you Simon in my experience.

Eli Milliman 5:08
Well, it depends. It actually depends on the place. In Alabama, everyone calls me Eli.

Sarah Harrison 5:17
In Alaska, you were Eli. That’s where we met .

Eli Milliman 5:21
Then in Portland I was Simon. But the Feds were closing in, and I had to move. I had to change the name again.

Sarah Harrison 5:31
What does Shannon call you?

Eli Milliman 5:37
She calls me Eli.

Carolyn Daughters 5:53
You’re currently pretty focused it seems on a theatrical production.

Sarah Harrison 5:58
And the three albums, right? Why three at the same time?

Eli Milliman 6:03
Because I had three different ideas. One of them is actually long overdue to be finished. It’s an album of duets that I’m I’m doing. And then two of them are Urban Jack albums that are stylistically different. But they are two styles that I’m very interested in doing. I’ve just been writing and slowly recording them at the same time. I should put emphasis on “slowly.”

Sarah Harrison 6:39
Wasn’t last year the year you did 12 albums in 12 months or something crazy?

Carolyn Daughters 6:44
It was the year before. That started halfway through lockdown or something. In previous times, I’ve always been in bands, and then you’re locked into what the band can can do. Well, during lockdown I was no longer locked into what I can do with a band. Now I’m basically just doing everything by myself. So I was like, I’m gonna produce at the rate that I want to produce. And that was an album a month for writing, recording, and releasing an album a month for 12 months.

Eli Milliman 7:27
I’ve paused my podcast just for a short window here, hopefully because I’m also writing something else. And I’m actually working on a book. It’s just all this stuff. There’s only so far you can spread yourself. But I really wanted to actually finish one of these things. I can pick up the podcast at any time and keep it going. Something like a book or an album, it’s really tough to take these big breaks. You really want to get into a rhythm and keep it going.

Sarah Harrison 8:15
Well, thank you for being on our podcast with your busy schedule.

Eli Milliman 8:21
It’s my pleasure.

Carolyn Daughters 8:23
Thanks for not doing your own podcast, but doing ours.

Sarah Harrison 8:33
You write you like write stuff down and then you read. You have a super duper radio voice, but it’s almost with some kind of accent when you’re doing the podcast. I don’t know if it was because you were talking Julius Caesar or Shakespeare or what, but it didn’t quite sound like conversational Eli. It was formal Eli.

Eli Milliman 9:05
There is a difference. My podcast is theater. I’m telling the truth. And I’m relating my thoughts in an honest way. But it is a performance.

Sarah Harrison 9:19
Are you playing piano at the same time? Because I noticed the piano is happening throughout. Are you doing that while you’re talking?

Eli Milliman 9:26
I come back and add that in afterwards. That’s too much for my feeble brain to do at the same time.

Sarah Harrison 9:41
I know you’ve written complements to movies and stuff. So I could imagine you doing that. I feel like you should write something mysterious for our podcast. Make some emphasis when I’m about to talk, some kind of duh-duh-duh.

Eli Milliman 10:24
Something really impactful.

Sarah Harrison 10:35
Before we go down to too long on that rabbit trail, I should read a summary of the book. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a classic detective novel written by Agatha Christie and published in 1926. It may be the best mystery novel ever written. Set in the English countryside, the story revolves around the mysterious murder of Roger Ackroyd, a wealthy businessman. The plot unfolds through the perspective of Dr. James Sheppard, the village doctor who narrates the chilling events that transpire. Following Roger Ackroyd’s death, the renowned detective Hercule Poirot investigates the murder. Poirot quickly realizes that everyone in the household, including family members and household staff, had motives and opportunities to commit the crime. As he delves deeper into the case, he unearths secrets, hidden relationships, and unexpected connections Poirot methodically interviews the suspects, gathering clues and piecing together the puzzle. Everyone has something to hide. In the end, in a stunning twist, Poirot exposes the truth behind Roger Ackroyd’s death, revealing the shocking identity of the real murderer.

Carolyn Daughters 12:25
That’s big. I like it.

Eli Milliman 12:29
How old was she? Was she about 30? Or 36 at the time?

Carolyn Daughters 12:35
That’s a great question. I don’t know how old she was.

Eli Milliman 12:39
I think she was born in 1890. If memory serves, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was published in 1926.

Carolyn Daughters 12:48
So she was 36 when it was published. Her first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was published in 1920.

Eli Milliman 13:11
I thought it was totally taken. But I thought initially it was serialized and came out. And I think it was even titled slightly differently. Like, Who Murdered Ackroyd or something like that.

Sarah Harrison 13:27
I’ll have to look it up. My little Agatha Christie companion book didn’t tell me that.

Carolyn Daughters 13:36
When we did The Mysterious Affair at Styles, we had our guest Jill Carstens on. She had done some Agatha Christie bio research. I’m tragically not very bio oriented. I should know more about these authors.

Eli Milliman 13:57
I only brought it up because I was thinking about the age at which these great masters tend to write, it tends to be like their early to mid 30s. Shakespeare, he’s writing his greatest works right around then. Agatha Christie even considered it her masterpiece, but she goes on to have a career that spans another 50 years after The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

Sarah Harrison 14:31
I prefer to think about late bloomers myself. Ladies who move into retirement, and then finally do something.

Eli Milliman 14:40
It’s never too late to create a masterpiece. Most of us aren’t even creating art in our 30s. We have to wait till later to really find that time and inspiration.

Carolyn Daughters 14:58
I always think of Yeats and you his, like, very folk, fairy types of poems that he wrote until much later in age when all of the poems that we know him for started to come about. I think of him as my role model. You don’t have to keep on keepin on. You can change things up at a different point in your life, and it can be later in your life. I like that idea.

Sarah Harrison 15:29
I tend to give myself a crisis per decade. At each decade, I have some kind of weird crises. I remember at 20, I was like, Picasso had his first Paris show at 20. What am I doing with my life?

Eli Milliman 15:53
Yeah, it’s dangerous to compare.

Carolyn Daughters 15:58
And Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises in six weeks. What’s wrong with me? It’s too much.

Eli Milliman 16:09
That’s why I think some authors know they’re onto something. But Christie probably didn’t realize this was her masterpiece until she had written another 20 or 30 books. And then she’s looking back and knows that was something special. That was lightning in a bottle. When I’m creating, I try to just shove all that out of my head. When I’m writing, I know this doesn’t have to be the greatest thing I ever do.

Sarah Harrison 16:48
That will keep you from doing anything.

Eli Milliman 16:52
I’m 10 years past when Agatha Christie was writing The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. And I think I’m putting out my greatest creative output, in my opinion. Other people might disagree, but I’m the one who counts.

Carolyn Daughters 17:12
As long as you’re enjoying it. That’s got to be at least half the battle.

Sarah Harrison 17:19
One of the things I didn’t realize about The Murder of Roger Ackroyd until we were in it was that Sheppard mentioned he had read some of Captain Hastings’ work. I didn’t realize that Hastings was destined to become the Watson to Poirot, that he’s been following him around and writing down his antics.

Carolyn Daughters 17:44
Hastings is in several of Agatha Christie’s Poirot books. And eventually he gets married to a woman and they move to Argentina. But, yeah, he’s a staple in many of the books. It’s nice to have that sidekick, dense guy who follows you around, asking the same questions I would be asking. I’m never on par with Sherlock Holmes and Poirot. I’m always the Watson, where maybe my questions at times are intelligent or sometimes, as with Hastings, they’re not. But I always feel more like that sidekick. I think it gives the reader that person that they identify with really quickly. Like, yeah, I get what you don’t get.

Sarah Harrison 18:42
The last Christie we read was The Mysterious Affair at Styles. And that’s where Poirot has just come over from Belgium. He’s a refugee. We just meet Hastings. And then in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, he’s in mourning because his good friend Hastings is gone. I was like, oh, is he gonna come back? And I thought, is this the last Poirot book? No, it’s not. There’s lots more. It was a little confusing that he was retired and Hastings was out of the picture already.

Carolyn Daughters 19:11
He also makes comparisons between Sheppard and Hastings, saying, Oh, you remind me so much of Hastings in so many ways. I think this is that harkening back to this idea that the doctor is not as bright as he thinks he is. He’s delusional. He underestimates Poirot at every turn until the very last pages. And also I think he thinks of himself as infallible. He came up with the most creative way to possibly commit a crime and nobody can figure this out. And he’s living next door to the world’s foremost detective. The comparisons with Hastings, I think, are really interesting. Poirot knows before we do that Sheppard isn’t quite as bright as Sheppard thinks he is.

Eli Milliman 20:10
I think part of that is probably Poirot also taking Sheppard into his confidence right. Poirot is trying to get Sheppard to buy into the idea that he’s his new Watson, his new partner. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. That kind of a deal.

Sarah Harrison 20:34
And he said at the end he was onto Sheppard from the beginning. It was early on it, and it caught my attention that your timing was off. I wrote down this quote that Poirot said about Hastings in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. It cracks me up. “Also I had a friend, a friend who for many years never left my side. Occasionally of an imbecility to make one afraid. Nonetheless, he was very dear to me. Figure to yourself that I miss even his stupidity, his naivety, his honest outlook, the pleasure of delighting and surprising him by my superior gifts. All these I miss more than I can tell you. And I didn’t know what to make of that. It was in the sense very Sherlock Holmes-y. “You know, Watson, you’re the lens that shows my brilliance.” It’s so pompous and so insulting. Are we meant to believe that he’s just not very good at English? Or is he just quirky?

Carolyn Daughters 21:43
I think his English is quite good.

Eli Milliman 21:48
I think Agatha Christie takes obviously a lot of inspiration from Sherlock Holmes, in which both of these detectives lean on theatricality. They’re both actually playing a part a lot of the time, and they love an audience. Hastings and Sheppard and Watson, they’re the best audience that these guys can have. They’re just always amazed at all of these things that they do. It’s really inspiring to somebody there who is never thinking what they’re thinking and is always amazed at everything they do

Sarah Harrison 22:31
“An imbecility to make one afraid.” It’s scary sometimes. But the other part about having an honest outlook and being delighted. I definitely know people who may seem a little naive, but their honest outlook is super refreshing to be around because they are just so into stuff, and they’re delighted. Do you have any friends that you feel are like Hastings?

Carolyn Daughters 23:05
Yes, I would like to name them now.

Sarah Harrison 23:13
I don’t think of my friends like that as imbeciles, but sometimes it does seem like Well, okay. Maybe that’s how it was.

Eli Milliman 23:23
I think most parents feel that way. You’re raising their kids. And your kids have a lot of this genuine naïveté, that they are expressing all of the time. And they’re constantly asking questions and feeling like mom and dad have this secret access to knowledge about the world. And quite often I look to my kids and I’m like, how am I supposed to know that? That’s what Google’s for. But I love talking to my children. And I can honestly say that I probably sometimes talk to them and relate to them in a way that Holmes and Poirot relate to people because kids are so stupid. They’re brilliant, they’re genius, but they’re stupid. And it is fun to be able to pull them along and have some like great reveals in which your children are amazed. They’re like wow, you’re not as incompetent as I thought, father.

Sarah Harrison 24:36
That is very Poirot-like. At least in The Mysterious Affair at Styles and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

Carolyn Daughters 24:38
One thing I notice in some people is something Poirot talks about. The method and the gray cells and I am a man of psychology. I don’t have psychological training, but as a writer, and somebody who has read prolifically my whole life, I have to say I’m constantly thinking about people’s motives and what they’re saying and why. And I think a lot of what I hear sounds very two-dimensional where people summarize a situation, or a person’s behavior, or an entire episode or event in such a two-dimensional, really uncomplicated way. And I wonder is that truly the way they see that situation? Because it’s not how I see most situations. I see most situations as extremely complex. Especially if you have a room full of people, everybody’s bringing their entire life of experiences into that room, engaging with each other. Something happens, the room disperses, and the the way people talk about that event can seem overly simplistic to me. And I wonder, Is that just a verbal way we’re summarizing something? Or do people really see it the situation so simply? I don’t know if that makes sense.

Eli Milliman 26:12
I think a lot of people really want the world to be simplified. And one of my favorite topics of discussion is always Jesus. I tend to offend a lot of people with the way I talk about Jesus. You could probably make a lot of parallels between like a Poirot and a Jesus.

Sarah Harrison 26:30
Poirot would love to make those parallels.

Eli Milliman 26:32
He would. Jesus, you need to use your little gray cells. But Jesus has got his disciples, and they’re never quite keeping up. They’re like, Well, what do you mean? And Jesus seems to have this hidden knowledge of the mysteries of things that he is slowly revealing, and sometimes he’s doing it by the parables and things like that. So he’s not being direct about it, sort of like the way like a Poirot might keep a couple of cards still up his sleeve. And you can easily see Jesus as extremely eccentric, extremely obsessive.

Carolyn Daughters 29:42
We started this year with The Innocence of Father Brown, a really great book of short stories that moved Sarah and me and also Deb Donner, who was our guest. It really focused in large part, at least in the beginning, on the choices people make. In particular, there’s this guy Flambeau, and he is going down a dark, dark road. Every crime he commits is a little worse than the last. It’s like every crime he commits is another rung on the ladder and he can see further and farther and he can do a little more than he could before, and it starts to get to a dangerous level. And I actually pulled a quote.

Sarah Harrison 31:07
It’s one of my favorite quotes from my favorite story. Father Brown is talking to Flambeau. And he says “There is still youth and honor and humor in you. 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, the merry robber of the rich and stamped into slime.” Eli, I was stalking you to try to make a cobbled-together bio of you. When I was on the Subterranean Howl Facebook page, you had a quote also by G. K. Chesterton, who was the author of The Innocence of Father Brown. I’ve actually been seeing quotes from him pop up all over the place now.

Carolyn Daughters 32:00
Is it a quote from Orthodoxy?

Eli Milliman 32:04
I’m gonna admit that I don’t think I posted that, so I don’t know.

Sarah Harrison 32:09
I don’t think you have been active on the Subterranean Howl Facebook page for a while.

Eli Milliman 32:15
I have not.

Sarah Harrison 32:17
But I thought it was cool that it was on there. That’s the second quote from him I’ve seen in a week. I’m seeing G. K. Chesterton everywhere right now.

Carolyn Daughters 32:30
Poirot, in his summary at the end of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, when he’s talking to Dr. Sheppard, is basically outlining the psychology of a man who sees that one of his patients has died and is able to tell his patient was poisoned. And so then his mind starts racing. What do I do with this information? Well, I can turn him over to the authorities. I can confront the wife, who probably poisoned him. Or … blackmail. I can come into a legacy, this mysterious 20,000 pound legacy, equivalent of maybe a million dollars today. So he makes a choice. Now, this choice didn’t come from nowhere. His sister tells us he had a weak stain.

Sarah Harrison 33:33
I love that Caroline called it right at the beginning. They’re discussing Ralph Paton and Dr. Sheppard. Sheppard says Paton has a weak nature but not a vicious one. Ah, said Poirot, “but weakness, where does it end?” And then Caroline said, “Take James here. Weak as water if I weren’t about to look after him.”

Carolyn Daughters 34:02
It makes it sound as if he was poised and ready to do something like what he does, which is blackmail. Just the opportunity was missing, and then suddenly the opportunity presents itself. And then from there, what Father Brown is telling Flambeau, the road is really slippery and it goes down, down down. He goes from blackmail to murder.

Sarah Harrison 34:40
I actually started further back. So we have this interaction with Dr. Sheppard and Miss Russell. Miss Russell comes in and wants to know about drugs and drug addictions, and she pretends she has a hurt knee. And he prescribes her lineament, and she’s like, I don’t think this will do any good. And he says in his mind privately, “I didn’t think so either. But I have to stand by the tools of my trade.” He already has a very practiced disingenuousness. He’s gonna prescribe stuff and he’s gonna stand up for things that he doesn’t even really think or believe. A woman’s abused by her husband, and she murdered him. What do you do? Do you turn her in? Do you feel sorry for her and give her a pass? No, you choose blackmail. And then what do you do? You squander it, you’re enmeshed in greed. And you turn the screw and push her into suicide. And now that she’s dead, what do you do? Oh, you murder? And now that you murder, what do you do? You frame, not just any guy, but the guy that considers you his best friend? And then what do you do? It just keeps going on. I like, Eli, what you were saying earlier about how The Murder of Roger Ackroyd doesn’t feel dark. You like the characters. You don’t suspect Sheppard. Nobody suspects Sheppard at all.

Eli Milliman 36:17
He’s the doctor.

Sarah Harrison 36:18
He’s the great doctor. He’s everyone’s best friend. But he is dark.

Eli Milliman 36:22
He doesn’t want to participate in Caroline’s gossip.

Sarah Harrison 36:28
He’s above all that.

Eli Milliman 36:34
People trust him. And on the outside, ou’d say for good reason. He doesn’t seem interested in the petty squabbles. But then you find out he’s not interested because he’s in it. He is the petty squabble going on.

Carolyn Daughters 36:55
He wants to control the story. He doesn’t want all these rumors floating about, and he’s very cautious about what he tells his sister, because he knows it will get repeated. And then a couple times, I think when he’s playing Mahjong, he lets these things slip that seem really careless on his part. And there were times in particular with the money and the mentioning of the legacy and letting things slip when he’s winning. He’s gonna have the perfect hand in Mahjong. I thought, for all of the crimes you’ve committed in a fairly short timeframe, you’re really incautious with what you say and what you do. I thought that was odd.

Sarah Harrison 37:42
What do you think about it being attributed to a weak nature? Or do you consider that the way it’s kind of being chalked up here in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd?

Eli Milliman 37:52
I like that, because had he not ever been had that opportunity, he probably would have lived and died a good person. On my own podcast, I talked about recently what makes a tragedy a tragedy. The tragedy of Macbeth is that this was a noble person, this was a guy who should have lived and died a hero, but opportunity presented itself. And he trusted in the supernatural. Actually, if he would have looked at the supernatural with more suspicion and with with more caution, Macbeth probably would have never done what he did. And once again, he probably would have lived and died a noble hero. And I think Dr. Sheppard probably would have been the same way. Had this opportunity never presented itself, he would have never committed a murder. He would have never done any of the things that he did. One of my favorite genres of film is noir. Because it’s always about a small decision that downward spirals. It goes back to that that Father Brown quote. One wrong decision, and you’re in a face-off with the cops, the gun in your hand. It’s like, what happened? How did I get here? I thought I was a good guy, and now I’m embroiled in all of this.

Carolyn Daughters 39:32
It’s like a Macbeth having the fatal flaw, the hero of noble birth who had so much potential, and that potential is shattered essentially. And I see Sheppard is more prosaic than that. He doesn’t seem as as big or or noble. He seems like every man. That’s the interesting thing about Sheppard. Is Agatha Christie saying that there is something weak in him, and this flaw is is poised to destroy his entire life or destroy other people’s lives? All you need is the right trigger to pull? Or would he, as an average, regular man. have been able to overcome this? I don’t know the answer. I’ve been trying to figure it out. Was this was he doomed to have this spiraling of events happen because of his weak nature?

Sarah Harrison 40:50
I think about it in a universal or spiritual perspective, I think, yes, he is doomed. Because do you get to have this weak nature and not have it tested? Will you actually go through life and have no opportunity for it to exert itself? I rather think you you won’t. Whether it was this or whether it was something else, I think everyone’s nature has the opportunity to have its weak points tested. That’s my feeling. I mean, theoretically, he could have, but I feel like, in reality, we don’t get to do that, to just never have the opportunity to let our worst selves show.

Eli Milliman 41:38
Probably for most of us, we get the opportunity in much smaller ways, though, that don’t involve murder. This is like a magnified version of that. The blase Dr. Sheppard, let’s say, who’s just an everyday guy, he just gets this magnified opportunity that most of us even if the opportunity was there, we probably wouldn’t even think about it.

Sarah Harrison 42:09
We wouldn’t think about it.

Eli Milliman 42:11
If the opportunity to blackmail somebody was there, we wouldn’t. We wouldn’t even consider seizing the opportunity, we would just be like, I hope the best for them or what have you.

Sarah Harrison 42:25
You might even say the uncompassionate Dr. Sheppard. One of the points I really waffle on is that beginning crime that Mrs. Ferrars commits in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. She murdered her husband, who is called a drunk and an animal.

Carolyn Daughters 42:41
I was wondering about that. It’s clear he was an alcoholic. Several people allude to the fact that he must have been hard to be married to. But I didn’t see anything directly stating that he was abusive.

Sarah Harrison 42:56
No, but I also don’t usually see that in books of this time period. Blunt calls him an animal, and was extremely dismissive. And if everyone’s feeling sorry for her in the marriage, I mean, he wasn’t a jolly drunk, he wasn’t a happy drunk. He was the drunk that you might want to murder. And so everyone’s like, Oh, it’s relief he’s gone. But that’s not how Sheppard felt. And at the very end, he doesn’t feel sorry for her. Everything she got was a result of her actions. Don’t feel sorry for me. That really killed me, but it was also interesting that he had no feeling of empathy whatsoever. He just had the feeling of opportunity. Ackroyd was like, Justice must be done. He’s such a straight shooter. But Sheppard doesn’t have that either. There’s no justice must be done. There’s no compassion. There’s only opportunity is what Sheppard sees.

Carolyn Daughters 44:12
So is there an argument to be made that, okay, she killed her husband. Sheppard is blackmailing her. It’s not like he’s blackmailing an innocent person. He’s blackmailing Mrs. Ferrars who just killed her husband.

Sarah Harrison 44:26
That’s what blackmail always is about.

Carolyn Daughters 44:30
It can be trying to hide something terrible or it can be trying to hide something that you don’t want people to know. But, I mean, she’s guilty of killing her husband.

Sarah Harrison 44:44
Yeah, she is guilty.

Eli Milliman 44:47
And in the televised version …

Carolyn Daughters 44:50
Oh, yeah, what happens?

Eli Milliman 44:52
They portray Dr. Sheppard as vindicating himself of the blackmail. And he even gets really emotional and says the law wouldn’t punish her, so he did. That’s not the way it works in book version of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

Sarah Harrison 45:11
The law definitely would have punished her.

Eli Milliman 45:14
Well, doctor, if you would have just told everybody that she poisoned her husband, she would have been punished. So there’s a lot that the TV episode gets really wrong. But I really like the point you guys are making. It makes me think of how when I read the final pages, I really felt like I was reading Edgar Allan Poe. And it was really funny to read, I don’t know, 330 pages or so and not get that feel at all. And then for these last couple of pages, I was like, man, this really feels like the end of an Edgar Allan Poe novel. And then it also almost felt like The Stranger by Camus. It just really had an underplay of not feeling sorry for others, not feeling sorry for yourself, and actually being in wonderment that anybody enjoys life at all. Dr. Sheppard strikes me as somebody who maybe just wasn’t enjoying his life and was trying to find a way that he would enjoy it. And then, but then he blew that opportunity when he blew the money.

Carolyn Daughters 46:34
He really did.

Eli Milliman 46:36
And he was probably mad at himself, but he knew he was the one at fault. He doesn’t feel sorry for Mrs. Ferrars. He doesn’t feel sorry for himself. Because he knows that we’re all at fault for what we do in this absurdist comedy that is life.

Sarah Harrison 46:56
Which is interesting, because a lot of times that’ll move me to compassion. That was a terrible thing you did. I have also been terrible. I can be moved to compassion or having a former marriage that was abusive. My bit was to become suicidal, not to become homicidal. Mrs. Ferrars took a different direction, but I can feel like I definitely don’t feel your choice there, but I get it on some level. I can have a piece of compassion at the same time.

Carolyn Daughters 47:31
And then Mrs. Ferrars has this experience with Ackroyd where they’re about to get engaged. They’re going to move on with their lives together. She tells him the truth of what she did. She sees in his face this reflection of the reality of what she’s done. And she sees it more clearly than she had ever seen it before. And we also learn that for the last six months she has seemed harried and sleep deprived. We get the sense that it has taken a physical toll on her, what she has done. And then I think that the last straw is she tells Ackroyd, and he is shocked. And the next morning she takes her own life. So we see her like, gradually living with the consequences of what she’s done and feeling remorse and guilt for it. Whereas Sheppard’s this whole other creature. He seems outside of all of that. Like you said, not empathetic.

Sarah Harrison 48:46
He’s opportunistic.

Carolyn Daughters 48:49
But also there’s no human compassion in him. He doesn’t seem to recognize the severity of what he has done. Outside of the blackmailing, he took a human life and is about to set up another human being for life in prison for a murder that he himself committed.

Eli Milliman 49:11
Sometimes in a book like The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, I wonder why Ackroyd’s name is in the title. But he’s actually the hinge on which the pendulum swings. Mrs. Ferrars sees Ackroyd’s reaction, and she feels like death is her only way out. Dr. Sheppard sees what’s happening, and he feels like Ackroyd’s death is the only way out. In all these situations, death feels like the only way out. Ackroyd is not causing this death, but at the same time If he weren’t so immovable in his nobility … And that’s why I say he’s the hinge, because the hinge doesn’t move. Everything else is swinging around him. But he won’t move, and other people know that. And so because he won’t move, they feel like death is the only escape from this hinge.

Sarah Harrison 50:28
It’s funny, and I may have this plot line wrong, but you’re making remember the book Rebecca, where she spends the whole book thinking that her husband is still in love with his first wife. And then at the end, she finds out her husband actually killed his first wife. And she’s like, Oh, thank goodness. Now this cloud is gone from over me. I’m like, but he was a murderer …

Carolyn Daughters 50:57
Right. New cloud.

Sarah Harrison 50:59
This is the opposite of Ackroyd there. I don’t know. Where do you fall, Eli? Do you think Ackroyd should have moved? Or should he just have let Mrs. Ferrars get away with it and not married her? What would you do if you’re Ackroyd?

Eli Milliman 51:15
That’s a tough situation. Were I Ackroyd and had I loved somebody and had I felt like they’re — justified isn’t the right word — but if at least their actions were somewhat understandable, then perhaps after the initial shock wore off, I’d be able to be like, Okay. Because you know this person well enough to be in love with them, and you want to marry them. And of course, as all of us who have been married know, you actually never know that person. And they continue to be a stranger to you, or at least …

Carolyn Daughters 51:57
They continue to surprise.

Eli Milliman 52:00
I like to say that I’m well acquainted with my wife. But I don’t actually know her that well, because she’s still surprising me, I’m still surprising her. But I would like to think that if I felt that I knew somebody well enough to want to marry them that I would find something some way within me to be able to “justify” them in their previous actions. Or at least follow, I’ll bring Jesus back in the conversation, and say, neither do I condemn you. But murder is a tough one.

Sarah Harrison 52:47
Yeah. Well, let’s get married. I might not turn her in, but I’m not sure I’d marry her either.

Carolyn Daughters 52:56
But I’m not sure I’m gonna fall asleep first at night. I’m gonna have one eye on her all the time.

Eli Milliman 53:03
You’re gonna behave?

Sarah Harrison 53:04
Right if I act like a jerk, I’m gonna have some thoughts in the back of my mind.

Eli Milliman 53:09
Don’t eat or drink anything she prepares.

Carolyn Daughters 53:12
It’s already weighing on her for like six months. So she’s being human about this act that she committed. And we can’t ever know why exactly she committed it, why she committed it that particular night. We don’t know those details in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. And it’s possible Ackroyd would have come around with time. I mean, it was very fresh, this news. So give him a week or a month, and who knows.

Sarah Harrison 53:44
Although Sheppard didn’t seem to think so. He was like, “I can just see the look on his face when she told him.”

Eli Milliman 53:54
I also do think, though, that there’s another part of this that she doesn’t get caught. But I mean, the doctor knows, but Ackroyd doesn’t catch her. She freely admits it. And I think that in and of itself is a huge argument for her and for Ackroyd, being able to trust her eventually.

Sarah Harrison 54:21
Eli, we haven’t even gotten to all of our topics.

Carolyn Daughters 54:26
So let’s just do a third, fourth, fifth and sixth hour and just commit.

Eli Milliman 54:31
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd deserves it.

Carolyn Daughters 54:32
It does.

Sarah Harrison 54:34
It’s been a pleasure having you on.

Carolyn Daughters 54:36
It has been wonderful. We hope you’ll come back sometime. This conversation has been fantastic.

Eli Milliman 54:42
Thank you. I really have enjoyed it myself. I hope I do get invited back.

Carolyn Daughters 54:48
We hope you continue to do our podcast in lieu of yours.

Sarah Harrison 54:51
It’s much easier. You don’t have to compose a thing.

Eli Milliman 54:54
I know. I just have to read. That’s wonderful.

Sarah Harrison 54:57
You just have to say stuff, and that’s your favorite.

Carolyn Daughters 55:03
Sarah our next book is …

Sarah Harrison 55:06
It looks like it’s going to be Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett.

Carolyn Daughters 55:09
It is! Red Harvest was published in 1929. It was Dashiell Hammett’s transition from short stories to novels. He portrays the Continental Op as a hard-boiled detective. This became a prototype for many detective stories to come. Now, Hammett was a former detective, so he knew his stuff.

Sarah Harrison 55:28
Oh, cool.

Carolyn Daughters 55:29
You can learn more about Red Harvest on our website teatonicandtoxin.com. You can share your thoughts on our website or on Facebook @teatonicandtoxin and Instagram @teatonicandtoxin. And subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode.

Sarah Harrison 55:45
Did Red Harvest get made into a movie?

Carolyn Daughters 55:48
That’s a good question. I don’t recall it.

Sarah Harrison 55:53
Eli had mentioned noir, and Dashiell Hammett is the same author that wrote The Maltese Falcon.

Carolyn Daughters 55:58
Which is our book for August. We’re gonna do back to back Dashiell Hammett, Red Red Harvest and then The Maltese Falcon.

Eli Milliman 56:06
Awesome. Blue Harvest was the working title for Star Wars.

Sarah Harrison 56:10
Was it? Blue Harvest?

Carolyn Daughters 56:15
There is a Red Harvest Star Wars story. If you do a search on Red Harvest, you’ll come up with Star Wars stuff.

Eli Milliman 56:22
And that’s pretty funny stuff.

Carolyn Daughters 56:24
It’s hard even for Dashiell Hammett to compete with Star Wars.

Sarah Harrison 56:31
Alright, listeners. Eli, thanks again for joining us. And until we get to talk next time, stay mysterious.

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