'Murder on the Orient Express' by Agatha Christie

Style:

‘Murder on the Orient Express’ is an Intuitionist, or ‘cozy’ school, text from the Golden Age of Crime Fiction. This style is described on The Crime Fiction Genre page.

Setting:

In the novel the murder takes place on the Simplon Orient Express. They run into a snow drift meaning the crime was in a closed circle. In the 1930s the Simplon Orient Express was one of the three parallel services that also included the Orient Express and the Arlberg Orient Express. The Orient Express had a reputation of luxury that preceded it and each of the services had incorporated sleeping cars. This was necessary on a trip across Europe that could take, as in the novel, up to and around 3 days.

Context:

All over the world people have referred to and known Agatha Christie as ‘the queen of crime’, and with good reason. Coming closer than anyone to outsell Shakespeare and the Holy Bible, Agatha Christie’s books have sold over two billion copies, half in English and the other half in foreign languages. This makes her ‘the most widely published author of all time and in any language’.

There had never been a detective as popular as the internationally recognized crime-fiction detective Sherlock Holmes until Hercule Poirot was created. The little Belgian detective, who is very much alike in appearance to the clock ‘Cogsworth’ in Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’, first appeared in ‘The Mysterious Affair At Styles’ which was Agatha Christie’s first novel. It was first published in 1920 by The Bodley Head and was written towards the end of ‘the war that would end all wars’. Christie served as a VAD in the First World War.

Agatha May Clarissa Miller was born in 1890 in Torquay which is in the country of Devon. She was in a well off family and the youngest of three girls. Her father was an American by the name of Frederick Alvah Miller and her mother Clarissa Millar was British. Her father died when she was still a child. Never attending school as a child she was educated at home by tutors and a governess. Christie’s mother encouraged her to write at an early age but Christie first confided in music to express her feelings.

When she was sixteen, Agatha studied piano and singing in a school in Paris, but she was always a shy child. Her stage fright turned her away from a possible career in music, for she was an exceptional pianist, and later in life she expressed herself through writing.

When Christie was 24 she married an officer in the Flying Royal Corps in 1914 and had a daughter, Rosalind, in 1919. While Archibald Christie was fighting in World War I, Christie worked in a Red Cross Hospital as a nurse and she also worked in a pharmacy. It was during the First World War that she had the idea of writing a detective novel and working as a nurse gave her knowledge of poisons that would play a big part in her works.

Christie’s first Crime Fiction text ‘The Mysterious Affair At Styles’ took a year to complete although it wasn’t published for another five years, going on the shelves in 1920. ‘The mysterious Affair at Styles’ introduced one of the longest-running characters of fiction. The waxed Moustache of Hercule Poirot appeared in more than 40 books and on his death in 1975 the New York Times gave an obituary making Hercule Poirot the only fictional character to have a notice of death in The New York Times.

Hercule Poirot was Christie’s little Belgian detective who was officially retired. He drew solutions from the objects around him in the closed circle and through the observation of people and their conduct. His technique was to interview people (Averaging two interviews per person) and then to sit back and think. Exercise the mind. He found patterns and links through the interviews and evidence that no other could pick up on; yet despite society’s love for Poirot, Christie said in her diaries that she found him insufferable. That being said, the Christies bought and named their house 'Styles' after her first novel based on the detective work of the clever egghead Hercule Poirot.

In 1926 Agatha Christie’s marriage ended due to the fact that Archie Christie had fallen in love with a younger woman by the name of Nancy Neele. Just before this issue arose Christie’s mother had died. It was too much for Christie. She disappeared. Having been missing for three weeks she was eventually found in a Harrogate hotel. She had suffered from amnesia and a nervous breakdown and never spoke of it thereafter.

There is a movie, however, titled ‘Agatha’ that is about Christie’s time of disappearance and her life as a “Mrs. Neele”. She finalized her divorce in the year 1928.

In 1930 Agatha Christie was married to a young archaeologist, Max Mallowan, and introduced her new female detective in ‘Murder at the Vicarage’. Miss Marple featured in stories and was the token English character. She was located in the English village of St. Mary Mead and was an elderly unmarried woman whose last appearance was in ‘Sleeping Murder’ in 1977. Christie based allot of her character on her grandmother.

Marple was one of the representatives of the ‘cozy’ school of Crime Fiction, or Intuitionists sub-genre, in The Golden Age. The difference between Marple and Poirot was that Marple relied on intense concentration, intuition, feminine sensitivity and empathy to solve cases while Poirot used his great logic and rational means. While Poirot traveled allot, Marple stayed in the village she was born in. Neither of them had a family life.

Although Christie, as an Intuitionist writer, was never concerned with creating a perfectly realistic environment for her characters. She did, however, use her experiences in much of her works. Firstly, she used her knowledge of poisons from her word as a VAD in World War I to be used as a part of her crimes. Secondly, She puts her music and her World War I experiences in ‘The A.B.C. Murders’ of 1936 when she has Poirot sings a World War I song. She further expresses her love for music as both Poirot and Marple show an interest in Opera.

Christie also gained experience from being with her second husband. He was 14 years younger than her and was a catholic. He became one of the greatest archaeologists of his time. Christie had once stated that "An archaeologist is the best husband any woman can have. The older she gets, the more interested he is in her". She had accompanied Mallowan in Syria and Iraq on his excavation sites and used these type of settings for one of her greatest Crime Fiction works being ‘Death On The Nile’ written in 1937. She also wrote these settings into ‘Murder in Mesopotamia’ of 1936 and she wrote of her own adventures on these sites in ‘Come Tell Me How You Live’ of 1946.

Another ingredient in Christie’s books was her influences. This is seen in her basing Marple on her grandmother. It was Christie’s mother and friend, Eden Philpotts, who had encouraged her to devote herself to writing in the first place.

Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple have both been featured in film and television. Marple’s first appearance was in an adaptation of the 1957 novel ‘4:50 From Paddington’. ‘Murder She Said’ was released in 1961 and stared Margaret Rutherford. The most notable of the film adaptations was ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ being made in 1974. Sidney Lument directed it and Albert Finney played Poirot.

Christie also, among other things, wrote plays. ‘The Mousetrap’ was based on ‘Three Blind Mice’ and was produced in Nottingham and London in 1952. It is the longest running play of all time with 8 862 performances at the Ambassadors theatre in London having run for over 30 years. During World War II Christie continued to write while she worked in London in the dispensary of University College Hospital.

Today the fecund writer Christie is in the Guinness book or records as the best selling writer of fiction of all time. In 56 years she had 80 Mystery novels published and 22 collections of short stories. In 1971 the deservedly ‘Queen of Crime Fiction’ was made a Dame of the British Empire. Christie died on the 12th January 1976 in Cholsey, Oxfordshire.

The Context Of The Setting:

Hercule Poirot presents his observational, analytical and intelligent mind of wisdom behind his can’t-be-taken-seriously look in Christie’s two-solution, improbable but perfectly probable, crime-fiction novel ‘Murder on the Orient Express’. This was first publish in 1934 and is a ‘cozy’ school of Crime Fiction under The Golden Age.

In the novel the murder takes place on the Simplon Orient Express (As explained above). They run into a snow drift meaning the crime was in a closed circle. In the 1930s the Simplon Orient Express was one of the three parallel services that also included the Orient Express and the Arlberg Orient Express. The Orient Express had a reputation of luxury that preceded it and each of the services had incorporated sleeping cars. This was necessary on a trip across Europe that could take, as in the novel, up to and around 3 days.

The snowdrift they ran into stopped the train in Yugoslavia. At this time Yugoslavia was under the power of King Alexander I. Unlike Italy, Germany and the Soviet Union who were all Fascists and Nazis, Yugoslavia had banned all national political policies. This gives reason for a particular alibi of the murders. They claim they saw a dark man on the train. With the rise of the Nazi’s this would have been accepted by Nazi police easily. Because they were not certain if they would stop, or be stopped, the criminals had the whole story sorted. The non-existent murderer being dark was merely a form of persuasion if a Fascist officer was to question them.

Characters:

In The Intuitionists texts, the characters are stereotyped and repeated. The underlined characters are those who actually stabbed the victim.

Hercule Poirot:

We first meet M. Hercule Poirot boarding the Taurus Express to Stamboul in part 1 chapter 1. He is a small man from Belgium who had a big curly mustache. From Mary Debenham’s point of view he looked like a man that could never be taken seriously. His life had been saved by Lieutenant Dubosc’s general and has thought to have returned the favor. He is the detective of the novel.

Each of the suspects are connected by an American household. The Armstrong household.

Ratchett/Cassetti:

Respectably dressed but with an ugly face. A cruel face that could only be worn by an evil. The murderer of the Armstrong baby (Daisy Armstrong) and the victim of the Armstrongs. The plot is based around the murder of Cassetti.

MaQueen:

An American, quite young, who worked for Ratchett as a secretary so he could set up the murder. He acted more as a translator and this fact helps unravel the crime because the voice issuing from Ratchett’s cabin on the murder night was French. American man, the victim's secretary and translator.

 

Conductor Named Pierre Michel:

Father of the French, dead, nursery-maid.

Lady in a Dragon Gown:

The actor dressed up to provide a red herring.

Madame La Princesse Dragomiroff:

‘I knew him slightly [Colonel Armstrong]; but his wife, Sonia Armstrong, was my god-daughter. I was on terms of friendship with her mother, the actress, Linda Arden.’ - Page 155.

Edward Henry Masterman:

Acted as the victims valet. He is British.

The Italian Antonio Fosearelli:

The chauffeur in the Armstrong household.

American lady Caroline Martha Hubbard:

Linda Arden, the actress. Only she could pull off such a character as Mrs. Hubbard.

The Swedish lady Greta Ohlsson:

Nurse in the Armstrong household.

Mr. Bouc:

‘M. Bouc was a Belgian, a director of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons Lits, and his acquaintance with the former star of the Belgian Police Force dated back many years.’ - Page 26

Count and Countess Andrenyi (Elena is really Helena):

Countess Andrenyi was Mrs Armstrong’s young sister. The count is the husband. He swore that she didn’t kill Ratchett and this was true, pointing to the conductor as the 12th murderer to complete the jury.

Cyrus Bethman Hardman:

‘Big Flamboyant American’ - Page 179. Pretended to be a detective protecting Ratchett and working out of McNeil’s Detective Agency. In love with the French nursery maid, For a tear rose to his eye when Poirot mentioned the charm of foreign women.

A Small Dark Man With a High Pitched Voice:

Another red herring created to take the blame of the murder. He is apart of the first solution, the solution everyone agrees is the most just.

Hildegarde Schmidt (The German Lady’s Maid):

Cook, for Poirot laid a trap where she admitted to being told she was a good cook but under her alias she would never know.

Dr Constantine:

The doctor who examines the body.

Mary Debenham:

Tutored Countess Andrenyi in New York.

Colonel Arbuthnot:

Friend of the Armstrongs, for they had probably been through war together.

M. Harris:

An invention by the murderers to avoid suspicion. A red herring.

Each of the twelve involved stabbed Ratchett once. They all had an alibi for each other. They were all from different parts of the world and could only be connected by an American household. Poirot saw natural justice served and saw little reason to punish the twelve victims of the Armstrong case and so agreed to his first solution (As described below).

Values and Themes:

Agatha Christie wrote ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ in 1934. The ideas presented through The Intuitionists sub-genre are subtle yet profound. The detective holds the view of natural justice and they have their moral code based on this notion. Although Christie is much different from Poirot, she holds the common value of justice being served.

The victim in an Intuitionist text is often hated by all and has little sympathy from the reader. Ratchett was no exception. The reason people hated Ratchett when learning (although they new) of his identity was because of the cruel act he had done in the past. He killed an innocent child and by doing so drove the child’s parents and aunt to suicide.

Before he is murdered he looked like a respectable man. Respectably dressed but with an ugly face. A cruel face that could only be worn by an evil. One of the values communicated is that you cannot judge a book by its cover. The man was dressed normally but was ugly beneath. The idea that you can judge who to trust and interact with is also strong in the book. There is a gray area in this approach. If Christie communicates that we cannot judge a book by its cover, then why were people right to assume his evil by the look of his face and eyes?

The answer is intuition. Although intuition plays a smaller role in the stories of Poirot than it does with Miss Marple, it is still valued. Poirot being very well off and retired meant that he was able to accept or reject cases on the basic of ‘interest’. As a detective one must analyze a number of people and in analyzing Ratchett, Poirot simply felt an ugliness from within the mans sole. The eyes being the gateway to the sole was all he could consider when looking at the tearless checks of the disturbing M. Ratchett.

Ratchett approached Poirot for protection but Poirot saw nothing to save. When Ratchett wanted an explanation Poirot simply said “If you will forgive me for being personal – I do not like your face, M. Ratchett”.

The real solution to the crime is that the 12 Simplon Orient Express riders each stabbed Ratchett once. This is because the little girl Ratchett had killed was in their diverse American household and was one who they all loved. The ending suggests that whilst Poirot doesn’t agree with what they have done, he sees justice being served.

Firstly, this idea says that anyone is capable of murder, just like every man has his price. Christie and other ‘cozy’ school Crime Fiction writers use the same set of stereotyped characters in different books. This also says that anyone and everyone is capable of murder. What sets the sleuth apart is his or her moral barriers, although this area is quite gray. Poirot had an opportunity to save Ratchett but he acted in omission. There is little difference between killing someone and allowing someone to be killed.

It’s a melodrama. The basic thematic message is good overcoming evil. This is done and effectively there was no need for an investigation for the ‘jury of 12’ had their alibis covered. The social threat was removed and so society was restored again for a short period of time. For the 12, they were fulfilled. If the law was ineffective they had to grasp its ineffectiveness and use it to fight. They tried this but failed on account of Poirot. They were ‘set free’ however by Poirot’s solution the 12 wished him, and any other authority; to believe was brought forward through Poirot’s thought of justice being done.

Something Christie doesn’t put much value on is realism. She creates great puzzles for the detective and the reader to solve simultaneously. The Intuitionists and The Realists each value their writing style over the others. Christie values the reader having an active part instead of merely watching the detective work.

Agatha Christie chose to write in this genre to comment on the fact that the justice system isn’t flawless and that murder can be justified. This was not out of context for her since the death penalty was still a punishment in Britain. ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ holds value underneath its tightly constructed form of the Golden Age Crime Fiction Texts. Poirot’s moral code is the most valuable convention in the text. If this were not so then there would be one solution, and not two.

Chapter Summaries including Crimes and Clues, Investigation, Solution and Denouement:

Crimes and Clues

Part 1 – The Facts:

In chapter 1 the reader is given subtle clues that may well be misleading. The first is the relationship between Mary Debenham and Colonel Arbuthnot. Mary wants (as it appears) to get closer to the Colonel when it is behind them (whatever that is). The second clue is Debenham’s need to board the Simplon Orient Express at nine o’clock.

In chapter 2 there is an absence of a M. Harris and the Americans.

Chapter 3 arouses suspicion to the reader when an American named Ratchett offers Poirot big money to take on a protective case for him.

In chapter 4 the clues given to the reader are a cry in the night at 12:50am. It didn’t come from Ratchett’s cabin although it was the first the conductor went to.

In chapter 5 the reader is told that the crime is M. Ratchett’s murder in his cabin. He was stabbed 10-15 times in an unscientific/random fashion. The clues include the time of death between 12am and 2am. There are powerful wounds on his body. The window was open and the cabin was locked from the inside.

In chapter 6 the reader is told many clues through MaQueen who was the young American secretary of Ratchett and often acted as his translator. MaQueen thought he was hiding from someone. Ratchett never spoke of himself or America. Ratchett received two threatening letters that, as Poirot explained, were written by two or more people. One letter said that Ratchett double-crossed the writer. The crime was thought to have been done by someone very enraged or done by a woman.

In chapter 7 the clues include A woman’s handkerchief and a man’s pipe cleaner. Each could be a false lead. A match of a different kind to what Ratchett used was found. The match was thought to have been used to burn a revealing note. A burnt note revealed ‘-member little Daisy Armstrong’ through a clever chemical procedure. Ratchett is believed to be Cassetti by Poirot. The mineral water was drugged providing an explanation to his silent death. Window was ajar but there were no snow marks (for the train was not moving because it was snowed in). The corridor was locked and chained from the inside. The door to the other compartment was locked from the other side.

In chapter 8 we are told the background of the Armstrong case (which will be discussed in the investigation section).

Investigation

The rest of the clues are brought out through the investigation process and so they will be in this section. The investigation started with the interview or MaQueen. It then moved on to physical evidence inside the dead mans compartment. With the discovery of the burnt note’s message it began the interviews with the knowledge of the Ratchett’s true identity.

The Armstrong case was about a baby that was kidnapped and held for ransom. Cassetti (Ratchett) killed the baby and as a result the mother and father died. Cassetti was the gang leader and because he was so powerful he got let off and ‘double crossed’ his gang and has been running and hiding ever since. The first question was weather it was a rival gang or a personal murder on Ratchett.

Part 2 – The Evidence

In chapter 1 the investigation had moved to interviews with people on the train. The first was with the conductor named Pierre Michel. He rang his bell at about 12:40am. He saw a lady in a dragon gown go to the bathroom. No later that 2am he was making the bed in MaQueen’s room where the English Colonel was also present. The bell that rang straight after Ratchett’s was the bell of Madame La Princesse Dragomiroff who had wanted her maid.

In chapter 2 MaQueen saw the silk of a woman passing but not returning. He was talking with Colonel Arbuthnot. He went out side the train and returned leaving it unlocked. He was happy for his murder when learning of his death.

In chapter three the reader is told the Edward Henry Masterman was in his room with the Italian basically through the whole tragedy. He was with Ratchet as his valet for nine months.

In chapter 4 the American lady Caroline Martha Hubbard was eager to give evidence. Claims that the murderer was in her room though she had her eyes shut. She rang for the conductor but none came. When she heard him running to her the man had gone. A button off a conductor’s uniform was found on the windowsill. Her door needed to be re-bolted and she heard loud snoring and a woman’s voice from Ratchett’s cabin that was next to hers. The gown and handkerchief didn’t belong to her.

In Chapter 5 the Swedish lady Greta Ohlsson says she saw Ratchett at 10:40pm reading a book. She doesn’t own the gown.

Poirot draws up a timeline of events so far:

About 10:00pm – MaQueen leaves Ratchett

About 10:40pm – Greta Ohlsson sees Ratchett (last seen alive). Note: He was awake reading a book.

12:10am – Train leaves Vincovci (late)

12:30am – Train runs into snowdrift.

12:37am – Ratchett’s bell rings. Conductor answers it. Ratchett says, “Ce n’est rien. Fe me suis tromp\ ’.

About 1:17am – Mrs. Hubbard thinks man is in her carriage and rings for conductor.

Mr. Bouc presents his solution so far. He believes the Italian man from America did it because he was ‘double crossed’ and the weapon of the Italian is the knife.

In chapter 6 the Russian Princess Natalia Dragomiroff says she was the godmother of Sonia Armstrong and was good friend with the mother of her who was an actress. Sonia was the mother of the Armstrong baby. Cannot remember Sonia’s sisters name or circumstance.

In chapter 7 the Count and Countess Andrenyi saw nothing for they were sleeping. They had been married one year and there was a grease spot on the Hungarian diplomatic passport.

In chapter 8 Colonel Arbuthnot says he knew of Colonel Armstrong. He smokes a pipe and he saw a man peering from number 16. Left the cabin at 1:15am and remembers a woman passing with a thick fruity scent.

In chapter 9 Cyrus Bethman Hardman claims to be a detective that was protecting Ratchett. He was told by Ratchett that his enemy was a small dark man with a high pitched voice.

Chapter 10 interviews the Italian Antonio Fosearelli. He loved America and was a salesman. He was in his cabin sleeping. Says the American doesn’t talk.

In chapter 11 Mary Debenham says that when the train stopped she saw someone in the dragon gown way down the corridor.

In chapter 12 the German lady’s maid saw the black girl/boy dressed as a conductor pass her coming out of a carriage near the German lady’s. It wasn’t her handkerchief and she added that it was made in Paris.

In chapter 13 they agree that the black girl/boy existed and the dragon gown woman existed and that it may be one person. The knife was found in Mrs. Hubbard’s sponge-bag.

If Schmidt is guilty the uniform may be in her room, but if she is innocent it certainly will be.

In chapter 14 the Swedish lady may have made a mistake by thinking the door to Mr. Ratchett’s cabin was locked when it was locked only from the other side. The investigation moved to a luggage search.

In chapter 15 the uniform was found in the Swedish lady’s room and the gown in Poirot’s room. Debenham withheld information.

Part 3 – Hercule Poirot Sits Back and thinks.

In chapter one the investigation has a break as the pieces are brought together. MaQueen had said that Ratchett spoke no other language and yet the voice that uttered from his cabin was fluent French. The kill could also have set the watch a 1:15am as a specific time so that they could have an alibi for that time. Poirot draws up a summery sheet of Alibis, times and motives.

In chapter 2 they basically agree that there are two killers, one before and one after 1:15am. They say the ‘H’ labeled handkerchief could belong to Debenham or Hubbard. The only people who could fit the conductor’s uniform were the valet, Debenham, Dragomiroff and Countess Andrenyi.

In chapter 3 there is reason to believe that Elena is really Helena and owned the Handkerchief. She was the younger sister of the Armstrong mother and this explains Dragomiroff’s vagueness in this matter and her lying to cover it up.

In chapter 4 the handkerchief didn’t belong to Helena but they admitted to the name alteration. She recognized no one other on the train.

In chapter 5 Dragomiroff claims the handkerchief and her maid lied about it out of loyalty.

In chapter 6 the Colonel’s lips are sealed with regard to Debenham. Either he didn’t know her connection to the case or there was none.

Chapter 7 tells us that Mary Debenham was the governess of Helena. She lied because the publicity would deny her further success. Helena described a totally opposite person named Freebody because but her invented name connected with the shop ‘Debenham and Freebody’ and so was obvious to Poirot.

In Chapter 8 most of the people come clean to being involved in the Armstrong case and Poirot reveals that he knew who the killer was already.

Announcement of the solution

In Chapter 9 Poirot gives two solutions. The first is that a dark man in a woman’s voice boarded the train and killed Ratchett before getting off before the train reached the snowdrift. The second was that all twelve were involved in the murder of Ratchett.

Explanation of the Solution and Denouement

Solution 1: Mr. Ratchett’s enemy that he had described to Hardman joined the train at Belgrade, or possibly at Vincovci, by the door left open by MaQueen. He grabbed a uniform and key. He killed Ratchett with great force, went through Hubbard’s room dumping the knife in he bag, loses a button, throws uniform in an empty compartment and leaves the train before it starts off again.

Solution 2: When Mr. Bouc commented on the diverse lunch carriage, it caused Poirot to wonder. He thought where such a composition of people would meet under different conditions. ‘Only in America.’ Such as an American household consisting of ‘an Italian chauffeur, and English governess, a Swedish nurse, a French lady’s maid and so on.’

Poirot then guessed who’d play whom if he were to cast an Armstrong drama. He got good results. When Poirot first mentioned the Armstrong case to MaQueen in his second interview MaQueen replied with “but surely –“ meaning to say “But surely that was burnt!” which would pin him as the murder or an accomplice.

Poirot then explained how the Valet was wrong in saying that Ratchett would have taken a sleeping pill on the night of his murder as sheer routine. This was because his life was in danger and kept a gun under his pillow. He would hardly want to sleep. Therefor the Valet gave another narcotic sneakily.

Hardman had closed the circle by saying he kept watch all night and therefor the murderer was not of their carriage. Poirot put it aside for the moment to think. He observed Debenham and Arbuthnot’s relationship despite them pretending to be strangers. He also heard Debenham use the term ‘long distance’ for a telephone call yet she claimed to have never been in the states.

Mrs. Hubbard made an error in saying she could not see weather her door was bolted or not. If she was in an even number this was true but she was not. Poirot concluded she invented an incident that never occurred.

Poirot also concluded that the crime did not occur at 1:15am because no man wears his watch to bead in his breast pocket, a very uncomfortable place, when there is a watch hook on the end of the bed.

The cry in the night at twenty-three minutes to one was staged because Ratchett could speak no French and wouldn’t anyway because he was drugged.

Each person provided alibis for the least likely counter part. They couldn’t all be involved in the Armstrong case and be on the Express by coincidence. They were all in it. All twelve. Twelve people are in a jury, there was twelve stab wounds and it explained why the train was so packed at the insignificant time of year. The whole thing was planned. They planned the red herring of the small dark man with the womanish voice. This could fit man or woman.

The solution fits all problems. It explains why the 12 wounds vary in strength and the source of the letters that were written by 2 or more, and in this case 12, people. They confused the issue with fake clues but were out of luck by the snowdrift. The second bit of bad luck was Countess Andrenyi had her passport altered when hearing that Poirot knew of the Armstrong case. Countess Andrenyi didn’t take part in the murder, which made room for Pierre Michel.

Poirot then labeled the remaining people by interviewing them cleverly:

Colonel Arbuthnot: Friend of the Armstrongs, for they had probably been through war together.

Hildegarde Schmidt: Cook, for Poirot laid a trap where she admitted to being told she was a good cook but under her alias she would never know.

Hardman: In love with the French nursery maid, For a tear rose to his eye when Poirot mentioned the charm of foreign women.

Mrs. Hubbard: Linda Arden, the actress. Only she could pull off such a character as Mrs. Hubbard.

Each of the twelve involved stabbed Ratchett once. They all had an alibi for each other. They were all from different parts of the world and could only be connected by an American household. Poirot saw natural justice served and saw little reason to punish the twelve victims of the Armstrong case and so agreed to his first solution.

How It Adheres to the Conventions of Crime Fiction

‘Murder on the Orient Express’ in an Intuitionist text of the Golden Age of Crime Fiction. It has a tight construction and closely follows the conventions of the sub genre. The conventions that it holds are as follows:

Firstly, there is a detective (Poirot) a criminal (the twelve) and a victim (Ratchett).

Secondly, there is a rational explanation explaining the murder. It was not by chance that there was a carriage of people all connected by the Armstrong case, it was impossible. It was by design.

Thirdly, there is no descriptive passages or psychological analysis. There are accusations with the base being stereotypes and race (e.g. When Bouc claims the Italian is the murderer because the Italians’ weapon is the knife).

Fourthly, there is no place for love for the detective.

Fifthly, the audience is actively involved in solving the crime with the detective.

Sixthly, it is in a classic closed circle, cut off by the snow drift with a pretend detective watching the corridor to isolate the carriage.

Seventhly, the crime is a murder.

Eighthly, The victim was hated and seemed to have deserved what he got.

Ninthly, order is restored with a clean denouement.

Tenthly, there is on average, two interviews per suspect.

How It Diverts from the Conventions of Crime Fiction

‘Murder on the Orient Express’ is very conventional with few differences from other tightly constructed Intuitionists texts. Here are the differences I picked up:

The culprit must not be a professional criminal but the job was professionally done. If the only bit of evidence that pointed to the Armstrong case was burnt properly then they would have succeeded. Even a professional job has its flaws.

The culprit should have a certain importance in life, but none of them really were that important. They were only important because they were important in the child’s in one way or another.

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