The house next door, The Larches, has recently been taken by a stranger. To Caroline’s extreme annoyance, she has not been able to find out anything about him, except that he is a foreigner. The Intelligence Corps has proved a broken reed. Presumably the man has milk and vegetables and joints of meat and occasional whitings just like everybody else, but none of the people who make it their business to supply these things seem to have acquired any information. His name, apparently, is Mr Porrott— a name which conveys an odd feeling of unreality. The one thing we do know about him is that he is interested in the growing of vegetable marrows.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is an absolute classic, even among the other books of the Poirot series.
For one, this is the book that catapulted Christie from an average mystery writer to a being recognised as a driving force in the genre. It’s her sixth book, and it is the first with a twist that is utterly memorable.
This is also the book where we meet Poirot in his attempted retirement. Attempted, because there is this pesky unexplained death that happens in the village of King’s Abbot, which draws Poirot away from his garden. And quite rightly so!
Poirot is no gardener!
This is made very obvious right from the start where we get to watch something that is rare in the series – Poirot’s being defeated and humiliated, by nothing more than the infamous vegetable marrow:
“I saw the chance to escape into the garden. I am rather fond of gardening. I was busily exterminating dandelion roots when a shout of warning sounded from close by and a heavy body whizzed by my ears and fell at my feet with a repellent squelch. It was a vegetable marrow!
I looked up angrily. Over the wall, to my left, there appeared a face. An egg-shaped head, partially covered with suspiciously black hair, two immense moustaches, and a pair of watchful eyes. It was our mysterious neighbour, Mr Porrott. He broke at once into fluent apologies.
“I demand of you a thousand pardons, monsieur. I am without defence. For some months now I cultivate the marrows. This morning suddenly I enrage myself with these marrows. I send them to promenade themselves— alas! not only mentally but physically. I seize the biggest. I hurl him over the wall. Monsieur, I am ashamed. I prostrate myself.”
Seriously, this is one of my favourite scenes in the whole series, and it is why I have re-read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd several times. Once you know the twist, it is hard to forget and makes a re-read somewhat pointless.
However, the scene in the vegetable patch is one that is funny every time.