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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the 10th book in the “Hercule Poirot” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

In the dead of winter, investigator Hercule Poirot boards a train to Istanbul, Turkey, after solving a crime for an outpost of the French army stationed in Aleppo, Syria. Poirot reaches his hotel in Istanbul, only to receive a telegram instructing him to immediately return to London on that night’s train, the Simplon Orient Express.

Poirot runs into his old friend M. Bouc, director of the train company in charge of the Orient Express, who also happens to be boarding the same train. Poirot tries to buy a first-class ticket, only to discover that all the first-class compartments are sold out, which is very unusual for the wintertime when few people are traveling.

On the second day of travel, a wealthy American named Mr. Ratchett approaches Poirot. Mr. Ratchett suspects that someone will try to kill him soon, and he wants to hire Poirot to investigate that possibility, but Poirot refuses because he has a bad impression of Mr. Ratchett. M. Bouc switches compartments so that Poirot can rest in first class for the duration of the trip. Poirot is briefly woken in the night by a loud groan from the neighboring compartment, which happens to be Mr. Ratchett’s room.

The third day, Poirot finds that the Orient Express is stuck in a snowdrift and may be unable to move for days. After breakfast, he is summoned to talk with M. Bouc who informs him that Mr. Ratchett was murdered during the night. M. Bouc and the train’s physician, Dr. Constantine, ask Poirot to investigate the murder so that when the snow finally melts and the train arrives in the next city, they can present the case to the Yugoslavian police, already neatly solved.

A few facts are known: Mr. Ratchett was stabbed 12 times with a knife, some blows were delivered weakly and some with intense strength, some by a left-handed person and some by a right-handed person. This leads Poirot to believe that there must be two murderers. The door of Mr. Ratchett’s compartment was locked from the inside, but the window was left often, suggesting that the murderer escaped into the night. However, the snow shows no footprints, which means the culprit is probably still on the train.

Upon inspection of Mr. Ratchett’s room, Poirot discovers several clues, including a man’s pipe cleaner and a woman’s handkerchief imprinted with the letter H. He also finds a mostly-burned fragment of a threatening letter, reminding the dead man to remember a little girl called Daisy Armstrong.

Poirot recalls a famous American murder case from a few years prior where Daisy Armstrong, the 3-year-old daughter of a wealthy couple, was kidnapped and held for ransom. After the ransom was paid, her body was found, and the man in charge of her kidnapping, Mr. Cassetti, was tried in court but ultimately released.

The shock of such a tragedy caused Mrs. Armstrong to give birth prematurely to her stillborn second child. Mr. Armstrong then committed suicide, as did one of their household’s maids. Poirot determines that Ratchett is a false identity, and the murdered man is really Cassetti, who was killed to avenge the Armstrong family.

Poirot conducts a series of interviews with the first-class passengers to determine the facts of the case more clearly. A number of people reveal knowledge of or a connection to the Armstrong family. Mr. MacQueen, Mr. Ratchett’s young American secretary with whom he was traveling, is shocked to learn that his employer was Cassetti, because his father was the district attorney that handled the whole case.

The elderly Russian Princess Dragomiroff turns out to be Mrs. Armstrong’s godmother and the best friend of Mrs. Armstrong’s mother, the famous actress Linda Arden. However, every person in first class has an airtight alibi for their whereabouts during the time when the murder occurred.

After the interviews finish, Poirot, M. Bouc and Dr. Constantine all confer together in the dining car to consider the very confusing facts and testimonies which they have gathered. Poirot notes the unusual diversity of their train companions. At a time of year when few people choose to travel, the first-class car is full of people of all ages, nationalities and stations in life. He points out that such a diverse collection of people could rarely be found occurring naturally — except in the staff of a wealthy American household.

Poirot figures out the identity of several people onboard. Countess Andrenyi, supposedly a Hungarian, is actually the younger sister of the deceased Mrs. Armstrong, which she admits. The other passengers turn out to be members of the Armstrong household: the chauffeur, the cook, Colonel Armstrong’s best friend, Colonel Armstrong’s valet, Daisy’s nurse, etc. The hysterical-acting passenger named Mrs. Hubbard turns out to be Linda Arden, Daisy Armstrong’s grandmother.

Finally, Poirot gathers all the passengers, plus M. Bouc and Dr. Constantine, and proposes two possible solutions to the murder. Either an outsider snuck aboard the train, killed Ratchet and left, or all the first-class passengers carefully planned and executed Ratchett’s murder in order to avenge the Armstrong family. Linda Arden admits that the second scenario is true. Poirot asks M. Bouc and Dr. Constantine which solution they accept; both men choose the first solution to tell Yugoslavian police when their train finally reaches the next station.

Christian Beliefs

Greta Ohlsson, a Swedish woman, is a matron at a missionary school. When she is upset and crying about the train being stuck in the snow, she says that whatever happens is ultimately for the best. It is noted that the other passengers do not share her good attitude. Frau Schmidt says that God should not allow terrible events such as child murders to occur.

Other Belief Systems

None

Authority Roles

Poirot does his best to question all the witnesses fairly. He is courteous to everyone he deals with, even people for whom he feels distaste.

Profanity/Violence

Wop is pejorative term used to describe Italians. In the book, d--n is used once. For God’s sake is also mentioned.

No violence is shown, and the deceased body is not described in any detail.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Judging from his inner dialogue, Dr. Constantine seems to be having an extramarital affair, but he does not think about it in detail.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Racism and sexism: There is quite a bit of racism and sexism in the subtext of the characters’ attitudes toward each other. One character guesses that a woman killed Mr. Ratchett because only a woman could become so enraged and overcome by emotion that she would haphazardly stab a man 12 times. Others suggest that an Italian or someone of Latin descent committed the crime, because Latin people are prone to sudden fits of rage. Masterman is an English valet who has a low opinion of Americans; Mr. Foscarelli is an Italian who thinks English people are cold and unsympathetic; and Mrs. Hubbard expresses her unfavorable opinion of anyone who is not American.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

15 and up

Author

Agatha Christie

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

1934 by Collins Crime Club, 2011 by Harper Collins Publishers

Released

On Video

Year Published

1934

Awards

Unknown

Reviewer

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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