Murder on the Orient Express: “It was five o’clock on a winter’s morning in Syria.”
Also Published as: Murder in the Calais Coach
Detective: Hercule Poirot
Published: January 1934
Length: 265 pages
Setting: Aleppo, Syria; Stamboul (Istanbul), Turkey; somewhere in Yugoslavia
In Murder on the Orient Express, after travelling from Aleppo to Istanbul, Hercule Poirot receives a telegram to return home and he books passage on The Orient Express, a well-known passenger train. Also onboard are:
- Monsieur Bouc, Poirot’s friend and the director of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagon-Lits
- Samual Ratchett, an American businessman
- Natalia Dragomiroff, a Russian princess
- Count Rudolph Andrenyi, an Hungarian nobleman
- Countess Elena Andrenyi, Rudolph’s wife
- John Arbuthnot, an English colonel
- Mary Debenham, an English governess
- Cyrus B. Hardman, an American salesman
- Caroline Hubbard, an American widow
- Stavros Constantine, a Greek doctor
- Greta Ohlsson, a Swedish missionary
- Antonio Foscarelli, an Italian-American auto salesman
- Henry MacQueen, Ratchett’s secretary
- Edward Henry Masterman, Ratchett’s valet
- Hildegarde Schmidt, Natalia’s German maid
Nowhere can Poirot escape his famour reputation and Samuel Ratchett attempts to engage him for protection as he feels that his life is in danger from death threats he has been receiving. Feeling rather repulsed by the man’s brash and selfish manner, Poirot refuses the engagement. However early in the morning he hears a cry from Ratchett’s compartment but before the conductor can enter, Ratchett calls that everything is alright. Yet Caroline Hubbard complains that a man ran through her compartment and next, lo and behold, the conductor informs Poirot that the train is stopped in a snowdrift.
When Ratchett turns up dead, Poirot has no choice but to investigate the matter and his questions lead him to a tragedy on another continent and perhaps a connection between travellers that was most unexpected.
With the help of Monsieur Bouc, Poirot races to the finish line of this mystery with a conundrum of gigantic proportions. With two separate explanations to the mystery, which will be chosen and why? When not only justice comes into play, but one’s conscience, the answer is not always easy to accept.
The Orient Express was a long-distance passenger train that travelled the length of continental Europe and into western Asian. Created in 1883, it continued to take passangers, with routes changing at times, until 2009 until it was shut down due to competition with high speed trains and cheap airlines. However, the Venice Simplon Orient Express is still run as a private venture, using original carriages from the 1920s & 1930s and covering routes including the original Paris-Istanbul route.