Murder on the Orient Express Author- Agatha Christie was born in 1890 in England and raised by a wealthy American father and English mother. Her books have sold over a billion copies in English and another billion in 44 foreign languages. She is the author of 78 crime novels and was made a dame in 1971. She was married twice, her second husband being an archeologist whom she often traveled with on his archeological exhibitions to the Middle East. This gave her an understanding of that part of the world, which she used in this story. Agatha Christie died in 1976 in her home in England.
Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express in 1934 and based it on two events that actually occurred.
-A very cold winter in Europe in 1928 to 1929 when the Orient Express was stuck in a snowdrift near the Turkish border for six days and the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby in the United States in 1932 which Agatha called the Armstrong family.
The Armstrong case was a kidnapping performed by a gangster named Casetti who kidnapped the daughter of the extremely rich American Armstrong family but instead of returning her when the ransom was paid instead left her to die. This is the most vital clue in the whole case as once the murdered Mr Ratchett is connected to being Casetti Hercule Poirot easily unravels the suspects true identities.
Genre- the genre of Murder on the Orient Express I think is a detective murder mystery as the murder seems as though it will never be logically solved.
Orient Express- is one of the world’s most famous luxury trains, which made its maiden voyage from Paris in 1883 to Istanbul; its last regular scheduled service was in 1977. The Orient Express made this long journey from Western societies to the East into a trip that only took a few days in surroundings of utmost luxury.
How important is the setting? The setting is extremely important as the train has become snowbound and all the passengers can not leave. It is therefore considered a closed setting. This setting allows the identities of the passengers to be easily found by looking at their passports but these also may be faked. It also means that all the suspects can be found easily as there is nowhere to hide or run. So it is highly like that the murderer is still on the train.
Murder on the Orient Express- After finishing his affairs in Syria, Hercule Poirot arrives at the Tokatlian Hotel in Stamboul for a sight seeing tour of the city. To his disgust a telegram arrives informing him that he must return to England at once on business.
Quickly Poirot tries to book passage on the next Orient Express. While dining at the Tokatlian Poirot unexpectedly runs into his old friend Monsieur Bouc a director of the Companie Internationle des Wagon-lits, which runs the Express and to there delight they find out that they will be travelling together on the orient express.
At the station Poirot and Bouc discover that the sleeping car is fully booked a most unusual occurrence in winter. Through Bouc’s help one passenger who is late loses their berth in the carriage that is made up of passengers bound for Calais to Poirot. Poirot finds himself travelling with a curious assortment of passengers of all nationalities, social classes and occupations all travelling in the off-season.
Although with a carriage of such strange people one character especially attracts Poirot attention: a smartly dressed, obviously rich, evil looking American. The next day to his surprise the same American approaches the detective in the dining cart. Samuel Edward Ratchett informs Poirot that his life has been threatened. He offers Poirot a large sum of money if the famous Belgium will protect his life. Poirot refuses saying, ‘If you will forgive me for being personal but I do not like your face.
The next morning the American is found dead of multiple stab wounds in the compartment next to Poirot’s. The situation is even more complicated as the train has becomes marooned in a snowdrift between the towns of Vincovci and Brod in Yugoslavia.
Naturally Monsieur Bouc, with the local police unavailable because of the snow, calls upon Poirot to conduct the investigation. The suspects are quickly narrowed to the individuals who spent the night in the Calais coach. With the evidence left in the murderer berth examined and the suspects interviewed Poirot arrives on not one, but two solutions to the crime.
Poirot calls for all the passengers in the Calais coach to meet in the dining cart were he puts forward his two solutions. Dr Constantine and Monsieur Bouc will decide on which one will be correct.
Poirot solutions are:
- The first solution is that a man disguised as a conductor entered the Orient Express on the station before the train became snowbound and entered Mr Ratchetts berth with a key and stabbed him twelve times. The murderer then left through the connecting doors between berths of Mr Ratchett and Mrs Hubbards dumping the knife in her room. Then on his way out he placed his conductors uniform in the suitcase of a passenger who was not in their berth at the time and left the train via their same entry before the train left the station.
-The second solution is that all passengers in the Calais coach stabbed Mr Ratchett once explaining why all had watertight alibis as even the conductor was involved. It also explains why there was twelve different stab wounds on the body. Also they were all connected to Armstrong case and felt very close to the murdered child. It also explains why a carriage was fully booked out in the season when it is normally quite on the Orient Express. But if it was not for the train becoming snowbound and an unexpected traveler boarding the train they would have committed the perfect crime because if one was suspected two or three other passengers in the same carriage would give them an alibi confusing the case.
Verdict- even though the answer points highly in the direction of the second solution Dr Constantine and Monsieur Bouc make a strange decision. But I will leave it up to you to decide which is the right solution to give to the Yugoslavian police. But you must take into account that after the murder of the kidnapped child the nurse of the child commits suicide as she was convicted of the kidnapping. The mother of the child gave birth to a still baby and died in the process. After this the father had nothing and committed suicide-making Cassetti not just the murderer of an innocent child but destroyer of a whole family.
The characters in Murder on the Orient Express make the book interesting as most are suspects and all have legitimate alibis.
Victim - Mr. Ratchett -American subject. Berth No. 2. First Class
Samuel Edward Ratchett from the very beginning of the book is described as a smartly dressed, obviously wealthy but evil looking man. A typical looking criminal who I thought would end up being the murderer not the murdered. His real identity is soon found as being the notorious kidnapper in the Armstrong case.
Investigators - Hercule Poirot -Belgium subject. Detective. Berth No. 1. First Class
Hercule Poirot is the main character a well known and respected detective from the Belgium police force.
- Dr Constantine
Dr Constantine helps Poirot through out the case mainly in the medical field but also adds his own opinions on the case.
- M. Bouc -Belgium subject. Train official
Monsieur Bouc is a director of the Compagnie International des Wagon-lits, which runs the Orient Express. He is also good friends with Hercule Poirot and helps out in the case.
And the suspects are
Suspects - Edward Masterman -English subject. Berth No.4. Second Class
- Antonio Foscarelli -American subject. (Italian birth.) Berth No. 5. Second Class
- Hector MacQueen -American subject. Berth No. 6. Second Class
- Hildegrade Schmidt -German subject. Berth No. 8. Second Class
- Greta Ohlsson -Swedish subject. Berth No. 10. Second Class
- Mary Debenham -British subject. Berth No. 11. Second Class
- Caroline Hubbard -American subject. Berth No. 3. First Class
- Countess Andrenyi -Hungarian subject. Diplomatic passport. Berth No. 12. First Class
- Count Andrenyi -Hungarian subject. Diplomatic passport. Berth No. 13. First Class
- Princess Dragomiroff -Naturalized French subject. Berth No.14. First Class
- Colonel Arbuthnot -British subject. Berth No.15. First Class
- Cyrus Hardman -American subject. Berth No. 16. Second Class
- Pierre Michel -French subject. Conductor
the suspects are located in the Calais carriage and here are there berths. Show overhead. Explain berths Poirot and Rachetts adjoining doors.
The relationship between the passengers in the Calais coach and the murdered man is the main theme of this story. The whole story revolves around the fact that the suspects were related to the Armstrong family.
The relationships were in the following way:
- Edward Masterman was the Butler of the armstrong family who was looked after well and was in the house when the kidnapping occurred.
- Antonio Foscarelli was the Driver for the Armstrong family who was involved in the mafia and they don’t agree with kidnapping or the murder of children
- Hector MacQueen - Was treated like a son by Mrs Armstrong as his mother died when he was eight years old.
- Hildegrade Schmidt was theCook of the Armstrong family and very good friends with Paullet the maid accused of the kidnapping who commit suicided
- Greta Ohlsson was the nanny of the Armstrong child and was looked after well
- Mary Debenham - The Armstrong family took her into the home and into there hearts.
- Caroline Hubbard -The child murdered was her grand daughter
- Countess Andrenyi -Was sister to Mrs Armstrong and the murdered child was her niece
- Count Andrenyi - Countess Andrenyi’s husband
- Princess Dragomiroff was the God mother of Mrs Armstrong
- Colonel Arbuthnot was good friends with Mr Armstrong who was also a colonel.
- Cyrus Hardman was going to marry Paulet the maid accused of the kidnapping who ended up committing suicide.
- Pierre Michel -Was the father of Paulet
Other themes in the book are revenge and morals. The theme revenge occurs, as the murder is committed in revenge for the Armstrong family. The theme morals occurs when the decision of which solution should be given to Yugoslavian police is decided on the morals of Dr Constantine and Monsieur Bouc.
I enjoyed this story and whislt reading it I wondered if it was a good detectivew story and therefore I compared it to W.H. Audens description of a detective story. Which is “A murder occurs; many are suspected; all but one suspect, who is the murderer, are eliminated; the murderer is arrested or dies.” While a murder does occur and many are suspected but that is were the similarity ends. Because the suspects are not eliminated down to a single criminal and a murderer is not arrested or dies. Perhaps this is because Agatha Christie believed that the outcome does not always have to do justice in accordance with the law and rather that it is morally right.