Murder on the Orient Express
Agatha Christie

by contributor

Jack Shields

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Plot Summary
Summary

Hercule Poirot is a retired Belgian police officer that now works as a private detective. He boards the Taurus Express train, which is headed to Stamboul (Istanbul). There are two additional passengers on the train. These are Colonel Arbuthnot and Mary Debenham. These two individuals behave as if they do not know one another. However, Poirot takes note of behavior that implies that they are not strangers. Poirot finds the couple quite suspicious. After the train arrives in Stamboul, Poirot takes a room at the Tokatlian Hotel. When he arrives there, he gets a telegram telling him he must return to London. While he awaits the arrival of the next train, Poirot comes across an old friend. This is M. Bouc, who is head of the Wagon Lit. M. Bouc arranges for Poirot to gain a space on the Orient Express. Poirot sees Ratchett and Hector McQueen eating dinner in the Tokatlian Hotel’s dining room. Poirot indicates that Ratchett is an evil man and akin to animal when describing him to M. Bouc.

When Poirot boards the Orient Express, he is compelled to travel in a second-class cabin because the train is extraordinarily full. Hector and Ratchett McQueen are aboard the train, as well. Ratchett speaks to Poirot and requests that he works for him. Ratchett communicates that he has been getting letters of a threatening nature. He indicates that someone wants to kill him. Poirot refuses to take on the case. M. Bouc has been assigned to the last first class cabin, but he makes arrangements to be moved into another coach. He bestows his first class space to Poirot. Poirot witnesses strange occurrences during his first night in first class. Poiriot is startled from his sleep early in the morning by a cry from the compartment beside him, which belongs to Ratchett. When the wagon lit conductor goes to Ratchett’s door and knocks, a voice from within says: "Ce n'est rien. Je me suis trompe" (It is nothing. I am mistaken). The strange silence that seems to pervade the train makes sleeping difficult for Poirot. After ringing her bell, Mrs. Hubbard notifies the conductor that there is a man in her room. Poirot wants some water and rings his bell, and he is told that the train is being impeded by a snow bank. A thump next door is audible to Poirot. |The train is still stuck the next morning. M. Bouc tells Poirot about Ratchett’s murder. He says that the murderer is still on the train. Poirot says that he will conduct an investigation into the case. Poirot goes about examining Rathcett’s body, as well as the man’s compartment. It is found that Rathcett has twelve stab wounds. Ratchett’s compartment’s window has been left open. It is presumed that this is to lead the investigators to believe that the murderer must have escaped out of the window. However, there is a lack of footprints in the snow outside the window. There is a handkerchief decorated with the initial “H” in the compartment. There is also a pipe cleaner, a charred piece of paper with the name “Armstrong,” and a round match that is different than the type Ratchett used.

It is the piece of paper bearing the word Armstrong that aids Poirot in figuring out who Ratchett is and the reason why someone would hope to murder him. A few years in the past, a man by the name of Cassetti abducted a girl who was only three years old. Her name was Daisy Armstrong. Cassetti did this to demand and collect a ransom from the Armstrong family, but he murdered the child anyway. Poirot reaches the conclusion that Rachett, in fact, is Cassetti.

Interviews begin with the Wagon Lit conductor. After that, they move on to Hector McQuen. Poirot is aware that McQueen has involvement in the case because he has knowledge of the Armstrong note that was discovered in Rachett’s compartment. Hector is taken aback by the fact that Poirot found the note, as he believed it has been entirely destroyed. Poirot inter views Masterman and then he questions Mrs. Hubbard. Mrs. Hubbard says that the murderer had been in her cabin. Poirot receives from all the passengers appropriate alibis as the interviews take place. However, there are some suspicious fragments that are brought to view. For example, a number of passengers saw a woman wearing a red kimono walk in the hallway on the night the murder occurred, but there is no one who will admit to having any such garment. Mrs. Hubbard communicates to Poirot that she asked Greta Ohlsson to lock the communicating door standing between herself and Ratchett. We find that Hildegarde Schmidt came across a stranger who was wearing a Wagon Lit jacket.

Poirot checks through the luggage of every passenger. As he does this, he takes note of a few things that interest him. These include the fact that the label on Countess Andrenji’s luggage is wet, there is a Wagon Lit uniform in a bag belonging to Hildegarde, and the red kimono is present in a piece of luggage belonging to Poirot himself.

Once the luggage check is over, the facts of the case are reviewed by Poirot, M. Bouc, and Dr. Constantine. They come up with a list of questions. Poirot sits and ponders the case, keeping these questions and the evidence in mind. After spending time in a sort of trance-like state, Poirot finds he has discovered a way to solve the case. Prior to fully revealing this solution, he asks several people to come in and he reveals their real identities. Poirot finds that Countess Andrenji is really Helena Goldenberg, Daisy Armstrong’s aunt. She got her luggage label wet and tried to obscure her name, in order to hide her identity. Additionally, it is found that Mary Debenham was Daisy’s governess. On top of that, Antionio Foscanelli was Armstrong’s chauffer, and Greta Ohlsson was nurse to Daisy Armstrong. Princess Dragomiroff takes back her handkerchief from Poirot. This is the same handkerchief that was found in Ratchett’s compartment. Poirot brings all the passengers into the dining car and he sets forth two potential solutions. The first possible solution is that a stranger got onto the train at Vincovci and murdered Ratchett. The second possibility is that every passenger on the Orient Express had involvement in the murder. He states that twelve of the train’s thirteen passengers, all of whom are close to the Armstrong case, murdered Ratchett in an attempt to avenge Daisy’s Armstrong’s murder. Mrs. Hubbard, who has been revealed to be Linda Arden, states that the second solution is the correct one. Poirot makes the suggestion that M. Bouc and Dr. Constantine tell the police that the first solution is the correct one, in order to protect the family. Dr. Constantine and M. Bouc accept this suggestion.

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