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Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie: Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will summarize and examine quotes from one of Agatha Christie's well-known novels of murder and suspense, ''Murder on the Orient Express''.

Hercule Poirot

Imagine your train is stuck in a snowdrift overnight with a murderer on board. Agatha Christie's recurring character, Hercule Poirot is a Belgian detective that is traveling to England by train when he finds himself in interesting company. Little does he know that this train ride will require his skill and cunning to solve an unexplained murder in one of the cabins.

Let's summarize Murder on the Orient Express and look at some quotes that help explain this story.

Part One: the Murder

In the first part of the story, Poirot takes a train from Syria to Stamboul (Istanbul). He happens to notice two both British persons that seem to be pretending that they don't know each other. Poirot thinks they seem suspicious.

When they arrive in Stamboul, they board a connecting train, the Orient Express, while Poirot checks into a hotel with the intent of sightseeing. At the hotel, there is a telegram waiting for him that says, ''Development you predicted in Kassner case has come unexpectedly. Please return immediately.'' Poirot purchases a ticket on the Orient Express to return to England.

In the dining room at the hotel, Poirot encounters an old friend, Monsieur Bouc, who will also be on the train. They notice two Americans boarding their train. When one of them walks by, Poirot notes, ''… I could not rid myself of the impression that evil had passed me by very close.'' This man is named Ratchett, and he asks Poirot to work for him because he has received death threats. Poirot refuses.

When on the train, Poirot hears a scream from a neighboring compartment, where Ratchett is staying. Poirot hears the conductor check if things are okay. Later he finds that an American woman claimed that her compartment was visited, and still later hears a knock against his door. When he looks into the hall, he sees a lady in a red kimono walking away.

The train stops because it is in a snowdrift and all the passengers go to the dining car. Bouc pulls Poirot in his room to tell him that a passenger, Ratchett, was stabbed 12 times during the night. The coroner, Dr. Constantine thinks it might have been a woman that committed the murder. The window is open in the room of the victim, but it appears that the murderer is still on board because there are no footprints in the snow.

The men collect evidence, including a piece of a woman's handkerchief containing the letter 'H', a pipe cleaner, two different types of matches, and a scrap of paper that refers to Daisy Armstrong, a three-year-old American girl who was kidnapped for ransom and murdered. Poirot figures out that Ratchett was really Cassetti, the man who killed Daisy.

Part Two: the Evidence

Poirot collects the testimonies of all of the passengers and crew of the train at the time of the murder. They are all brought in for questions and have been found to have solid alibis. One thing that each of them seems to have in common is that when Poirot indicates Ratchett's true identity, they believe that ''the swine deserved what he got.''

After the interviews are completed, Mrs. Hubbard finds the dagger in her bag. Poirot searches all of the bags and finds the conductor's uniform in another lady's luggage. Then, he finds the scarlet kimono in his own suitcase. In response to his find, Poirot says, ''It is like that. A defiance. Very well, I take it up.''

Part Three: Who Dunnit

While part two focuses on the collection of evidence, part three of this novel is about Poirot applying his critical thinking skills and formulating a solution with the assistance of Bouc and Dr. Constantine. Poirot goes to several of the passengers to confirm suspicions.

Since every passenger is somehow related to the Armstrong case, Poirot concludes that one of two things happened. He decides to present both scenarios and let Bouc and Constantine decide which one they will tell the police.

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