Murder on the Orient Express

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Murder on the Orient Express
Murder on the Orient Express First Edition Cover 1934.jpg
Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
Author Agatha Christie
Cover artist Unknown
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Crime novel
Publisher Collins Crime Club
Publication date
1 January 1934
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 256 pp (first edition, hardcover)
Preceded by The Hound of Death
Followed by Unfinished Portrait

Murder on the Orient Express is a detective novel by Agatha Christie featuring the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. It was first published in the United Kingdom by the Collins Crime Club on 1 January 1934.[1] In the United States, it was published on 28 February 1934,[2]:213[3] under the title of Murder in the Calais Coach, by Dodd, Mead and Company.[4][5] The U.K. edition retailed at seven shillings and sixpence (7/6)[6] and the U.S. edition at $2.00.[5]

The U.S. title of Murder in the Calais Coach was used to avoid confusion with the 1932 Graham Greene novel Stamboul Train which had been published in the United States as Orient Express.[7]

Plot summary[edit]

Upon arriving at the Tokatlian Hotel in Istanbul, private detective Hercule Poirot receives a telegram prompting him to cancel his arrangements and return to London. He instructs the concierge to book a first-class compartment on the Orient Express leaving that night. However this becomes impossible when it is revealed that in an unusual occurrence for the time of year (December), the train is fully booked and Poirot only gets a second-class birth after the intervention of his friend M. Bouc who is a director of the train line Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits and is also boarding the train. After boarding, Poirot is approached by Mr Samuel Ratchett, a malevolent, elderly American he initially saw at the Tokatlian. Ratchett believes his life is being threatened and attempts to hire Poirot but, due to his distaste, Poirot refuses. "I do not like your face, Mr. Ratchett," he says.

On the second night of the journey, as he is only travelling to Italy M. Bouc gives up his first class-compartment to Poirot who is going to Calais and on to London (Bouc sleeps in the Pullman Coach which has only one other occupant, a Greek doctor named Constantine). This gives Poirot the compartment next to Mr. Ratchett. The train is stopped by a snowdrift near Vinkovci. Several events disturb Poirot's sleep, including a cry emanating from Ratchett's compartment. The next morning, M. Bouc informs him that Ratchett has been murdered and asks Poirot to investigate, in order to avoid complications and bureaucracy when the Yugoslav police arrive. Poirot accepts.

After Poirot and Dr. Constantine examining the body and Ratchett's compartment, Poirot ascertains Ratchett's real identity and possible motives for his murder. A few years before, in the United States, three-year-old heiress Daisy Armstrong was kidnapped by a man named Cassetti. Cassetti eventually killed the child, despite collecting the ransom from the wealthy Armstrong family. The shock devastated the family, leading to a number of deaths and suicides. Cassetti was caught, but fled the country after he was acquitted. It's suspected that Cassetti used his considerable resources to rig the trial. Poirot concludes that Ratchett was, in fact, Cassetti.

As Poirot pursues his investigation, he discovers that everyone in the coach had a connection to the Armstrong family and, therefore, had a motive to kill Ratchett. Poirot proposes two possible solutions, leaving it to Bouc to decide which solution to put forward to the authorities. The first solution is that a stranger boarded the train and murdered Ratchett. The second solution is that all 13 people in the coach were complicit in the murder, seeking the justice that Ratchett had averted in the United States. He concedes Countess Andrenyi didn't take part, so the murderers numbered 12, resembling a self-appointed jury. Mrs. Hubbard, revealed to be Linda Arden, Daisy Armstrong's grandmother, confesses that the second solution is the correct one.

Plot detail[edit]

The crime scene[edit]

Hercule Poirot, the internationally famous murder detective, boards the Orient Express (Simplon-Orient-Express) in Istanbul. The train is unusually crowded for the time of year. Poirot secures a berth only with the help of his friend Monsieur Bouc, a director of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits. When a Mr. Harris fails to show up, Poirot takes his place. On the second night, Poirot gets a compartment to himself.

Room 411 at the Pera Palace Hotel in İstanbul, where Agatha Christie allegedly wrote Murder on the Orient Express.

During the journey, Poirot is approached by one of the passengers, Mr. Ratchett, an American businessman, who claims his life is in danger. He produces a small gun that he carries at all times, saying he believes it is necessary. He wants to hire Poirot to discover who is threatening him. Despite offers of increasingly substantial sums of money, Poirot declines Ratchett's offer, saying, "I do not like your face".

That night, in Vinkovci, at about 23 minutes before 1:00 a.m., Poirot wakes to the sound of a scream. It seems to come from the compartment next to his, which is occupied by Mr. Ratchett. When Poirot peeks out his door, he sees the conductor knock on Mr. Ratchett's door and ask if he is all right. A man's voice replies in French, "Ce n'est rien. Je me suis trompé" ("It's nothing. I was mistaken"), and the conductor moves on to answer another bell further down the passage. Poirot decides to go back to bed but is disturbed by the fact that the train is unusually still.

As he lies awake, Poirot hears Mrs. Hubbard ringing the bell urgently. When he rings the conductor for a bottle of mineral water, Poirot learns that Mrs. Hubbard claimed that someone had been in her compartment, and that the train has stopped because a large snowdrift is blocking the track. He dismisses the conductor and tries to go back to sleep, only to be awakened again by a knock on his door. This time, when Poirot gets up and looks out his door, the passage outside his compartment is empty, except for a woman in a scarlet kimono retreating down the passage in the distance. The next day, he awakens to find that Ratchett is dead, having been stabbed 12 times in his sleep. Bouc suggests that Poirot take the case, as he is so experienced with similar mysteries. Nothing more is required than for Poirot to sit, think, and take in the available evidence.

The evidence[edit]

Contemporary view of one of the Orient Express' dining cars

The door to Ratchett's compartment was locked and chained. One of the windows is open. Some of the stab wounds are very deep, at least three are lethal, and some are glancing blows. Furthermore, some of the wounds appear to have been inflicted by a right-handed person and some by a left-handed person. The pistol Ratchett carried is discovered under his pillow, unfired. A glass on the nightstand is examined and revealed to be drugged. A small pocket watch is discovered in Ratchett's pajamas, broken and stopped at 1:15 a.m.

Poirot finds several more clues in the victim's cabin and on board the train, including a woman's linen handkerchief embroidered with the initial "H", a pipe cleaner, and a button from a conductor's uniform. All of these clues suggest that the murderer or murderers were somewhat sloppy. However, each clue seemingly points to different suspects, which suggests that some of the clues were planted.

By reconstructing parts of a burned letter, Poirot discovers that Ratchett was a notorious fugitive from the United States named Cassetti. Five years earlier, Cassetti kidnapped three-year-old American heiress Daisy Armstrong. Although the Armstrong family paid a large ransom, Cassetti murdered the little girl long before the ransom deadline and fled the country with the money. Daisy's mother, Sonia, was pregnant when she heard of Daisy's death. The shock sent her into premature labour, and both she and the baby died. Her husband, Colonel Armstrong, shot himself out of grief. Daisy's nursemaid, Susanne, was suspected of complicity in the crime by the police, despite her protests. She threw herself out of a window and died, although she was later proved innocent. Although Cassetti was caught, his resources allowed him to get himself acquitted on an unspecified technicality, although he still fled the country to escape further prosecution for the crime. As the evidence mounts, it continues to point in different directions, giving the appearance that Poirot is being challenged by a mastermind. A critical piece of missing evidence—the scarlet kimono worn the night of the murder by an unknown woman—turns up on top of Poirot's own luggage.

The solution[edit]

After meditating on the evidence, Poirot assembles Bouc and Dr. Constantine, along with the 13 suspects, in the restaurant car, and lays out two possible explanations of Ratchett's murder. The first explanation is that a stranger—some gangster enemy of Ratchett—boarded the train at Vinkovci, the last stop, murdered Ratchett for unknown reasons, then escaped unnoticed and it is possible that the man has already left Yugoslavia. The crime occurred an hour earlier than everyone thought, because the victim and several others failed to note that the train had just crossed into a different time zone. The other noises heard by Poirot on the coach that evening were unrelated to the murder. However, Dr. Constantine objects, saying that Poirot must surely be aware that this does not explain the circumstances of the case.

Poirot's second explanation is much longer and rather more sensational: all of the suspects are guilty. Poirot's suspicions were first aroused by the fact that all the passengers on the train were of so many different nationalities and social classes, and that only in the "melting pot" of the United States would a group of such different people form some connection with each other.

Poirot reveals that the 13 other passengers on the train, and the train conductor, were all connected to the Armstrong family in some way:

  • Hector Willard MacQueen, Ratchett/Cassetti's secretary was devoted to Sonia Armstrong. MacQueen's father was the district attorney for the kidnapping case. He knew from his father the details of Cassetti's escape from justice and intended to kill Ratchett.
  • Edward Henry Masterman, Ratchett/Cassetti's valet, was Colonel Armstrong's batman during the war, and later his valet, who also acted as butler to the Armstrong household.
  • Colonel Arbuthnot was Colonel Armstrong's comrade and best friend.
  • Mrs. Hubbard is, in actuality, Linda Arden (maiden name Goldenberg), the most famous tragic actress of the New York stage, and was Sonia Armstrong's mother and Daisy's grandmother.
  • Countess Andrenyi (née Helena Goldenberg) was Sonia Armstrong's sister.
  • Count Andrenyi was the husband of Helena Andrenyi.
  • Princess Natalia Dragomiroff was Sonia Armstrong's godmother, and a friend of her mother.
  • Miss Mary Debenham was Sonia Armstrong's secretary and Daisy Armstrong's governess.
  • Fräulein Hildegarde Schmidt was the Armstrong family's cook.
  • Antonio Foscarelli, a car salesman based in Chicago, was the Armstrong family's chauffeur.
  • Miss Greta Ohlsson, a Swedish missionary, was Daisy Armstrong's nurse.
  • Pierre Michel, the train conductor, was the father of Susanne, the Armstrong's nursemaid who committed suicide.
  • Cyrus Hardman, a private detective ostensibly retained as a bodyguard by Ratchett/Cassetti, was a policeman in love with Susanne.

All these friends and relations had been gravely affected by Daisy's murder, and outraged by Cassetti's subsequent escape. They took it into their own hands to serve as Cassetti's executioners, to avenge a crime the law was unable to punish. Each of the suspects stabbed Ratchett once, so that no one could know who delivered the fatal blow. Twelve of the conspirators participated to allow for a "12-person jury", with Countess Andrenyi taking no part in the crime as she would have been suspected the most, so her husband took her place. One extra berth was booked under a fictitious name – Harris – so that no one but the conspirators and the victim would be on board the coach, and this fictitious person would subsequently disappear and become the primary suspect in Ratchett's murder. (The only people not involved in the plot would be "M. Bouc," for whom the cabin next to Ratchett had already been reserved, and Dr Constantine.) The main inconvenience for the executioners was the snowstorm and the last minute, unwelcome presence of Poirot, which caused complications resulting in several crucial clues being left behind.

Poirot summarises that there was no other way the murder could have taken place, given the evidence. Several of the suspects have broken down in tears as he has revealed their connection to the Armstrong family, and Mrs. Hubbard/Linda Arden confesses that the second theory is correct, but begs Poirot to tell the authorities that she acted alone as Cassetti's murderess. The evidence could be skewed to implicate her and she declares she would gladly go to prison if it meant the other passengers were spared. She points out that everyone present has suffered because of Cassetti's misdeeds, that there would likely have been other victims like Daisy if Cassetti had gone unpunished, and that Colonel Arbuthnot and Mary Debenham are in love. Fully in sympathy with the Armstrong family, and feeling nothing but disgust for the victim, Bouc pronounces the first explanation as correct. Dr. Constantine agrees, saying he will edit his original report of the murder as he now "recognizes" some mistakes he has made, which clearly indicate that Poirot's first explanation was correct, after all. Poirot announces that he has "the honour to retire from the case".

Arrangement of the Calais Coach:

Pullman Coach Michel 16. Hardman 15. Arbuthnot 14. Dragomiroff 13. R. Andrenyi 12. H. Andrenyi 3. Hubbard 2. Ratchett 1. Poirot 10. Ohlsson
11. Debenham
8. Schmidt
6. MacQueen
4. Masterman
5. Foscarelli
Dining Car
  First-class compartment (1 person)
  Second-class compartment (2 people)
  Compartment where murder occurred (first class)


The Times Literary Supplement of 11 January 1934 outlined the plot and concluded that "The little grey cells solve once more the seemingly insoluble. Mrs. Christie makes an improbable tale very real, and keeps her readers enthralled and guessing to the end."[8]

In The New York Times Book Review of 4 March 1934, Isaac Anderson wrote, "The great Belgian detective's guesses are more than shrewd; they are positively miraculous. Although both the murder plot and the solution verge upon the impossible, Agatha Christie has contrived to make them appear quite convincing for the time being, and what more than that can a mystery addict desire?"[9]

The reviewer in The Guardian of 12 January 1934 noted that the murder would have been "perfect" (i.e. a perfect crime) had Poirot not been on the train and also overheard a conversation between Miss Debenham and Colonel Arbuthnot before he boarded; however, "The 'little grey cells' worked admirably, and the solution surprised their owner as much as it may well surprise the reader, for the secret is well kept and the manner of the telling is in Mrs. Christie's usual admirable manner."[10]

Robert Barnard: "The best of the railway stories. The Orient Express, snowed up in Yugoslavia, provides the ideal 'closed' set-up for a classic-style exercise in detection, as well as an excuse for an international cast-list. Contains my favourite line in all Christie: 'Poor creature, she's a Swede.' Impeccably clued, with a clever use of the Cyrillic script (cf. The Double Clue). The solution raised the ire of Raymond Chandler, but won't bother anyone who doesn't insist his detective fiction mirror real-life crime."[11] The reference is to Chandler's criticism of Christie in his essay The Simple Art of Murder.

In the "Binge!" article of Entertainment Weekly Issue #1343-44 (26 December 2014–3 January 2015), the writers picked Murder on the Orient Express as an "EW favorite" on the list of the "Nine Great Christie Novels".[12]

References and allusions[edit]

References to actual history, geography and current science[edit]

Main article: Lindbergh kidnapping

The Armstrong kidnapping case was based on the actual kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh's son in 1932, just before the book was written. An innocent, but perhaps loose-lipped, maid employed by Mrs. Lindbergh's parents was suspected of involvement in the crime. After being harshly interrogated by police, she committed suicide.[13]

Another, less-remembered, real-life event also helped inspire the novel. Agatha Christie first travelled on the Orient Express in the autumn of 1928. Just a few months later, in February 1929, an Orient Express train was trapped by a blizzard near Cherkeskoy, Turkey, remaining marooned for six days.[14]

Christie herself was involved in a similar incident in December 1931 while returning from a visit to her husband's archaeological dig at Nineveh. The Orient Express train she was on was stuck for 24 hours due to rainfall, flooding, and sections of the track being washed away. Her authorised biography quotes in full a letter to her husband detailing the event. The letter includes descriptions of some passengers on the train, who influenced the plot and characters of the book, particularly an American lady, Mrs. Hilton, who was the inspiration for Mrs. Hubbard.[15]



John Moffatt starred as Poirot in a five-part BBC Radio 4 adaptation by Michael Blakewell, directed by Enyd Williams, and originally broadcast from 28 December 1992 - 1 January 1993. André Maranne appeared as Bouc, Joss Ackland as Ratchett, Sylvia Syms as Mrs. Hubbard, Siân Phillips as Princess Dragomiroff, Francesca Annis as Mary Debenham, and Peter Polycarpou as Dr. Constantine.

Murder on the Orient Express (1974)[edit]

The book was made into a 1974 movie, which is considered one of the most successful cinematic adaptations of Christie's work ever. The film starred Albert Finney as Poirot, Martin Balsam as M. Bianchi, George Coulouris as Dr. Constantine, Richard Widmark as Ratchett, and an all-star cast of suspects including Sean Connery (Arbuthnot), Lauren Bacall (Mrs. Hubbard), Anthony Perkins (McQueen), John Gielgud (Beddoes), Michael York (Count Andrenyi), Jean-Pierre Cassel (Pierre Michel), Jacqueline Bisset (Countess Andrenyi), Wendy Hiller (Princess Dragomiroff), Vanessa Redgrave (Mary Debenham), Rachel Roberts (Hildegard Schmidt), Colin Blakely (Hardman), Denis Quilley (Foscarelli), and Ingrid Bergman, who won the 1974 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Greta Ohlsson.

Only minor changes were made for the film: Masterman was renamed Beddoes, the dead maid was named Paulette instead of Susanne, Helena Goldenberg became Helena Grünwald (which is German for "Greenwood"), Antonio Foscarelli became Gino Foscarelli, Caroline Martha Hubbard became Harriet Belinda Hubbard, and the train line's Belgian/Flemish director, Monsieur Bouc, became instead an Italian director, Signor Bianchi.[citation needed]

Murder on the Orient Express (2001)[edit]

A thoroughly modernised and poorly received made-for-TV version starring Alfred Molina as Poirot was presented by CBS in 2001. This version costarred Meredith Baxter as Mrs. Hubbard and Leslie Caron as the Princess Dragomiroff (renamed Señora Alvarado and portrayed as the widow of a South American Dictator). Poirot is portrayed as significantly younger and less eccentric than Christie's detective, and is given a subplot involving a romantic relationship with Vera Rosakoff, who is loosely based on an infrequently recurring character of the same name. The story is updated to a contemporary setting, and three of the suspects (Hildegard Schmidt, Cyrus Hardman and Greta Ohlssohn) are deleted, as is Dr. Constantine.[16]

Agatha Christie's Poirot: "Murder on the Orient Express" (2010)[edit]

David Suchet reprises the role of Hercule Poirot in "Murder on the Orient Express" (2010), an episode of the television series Agatha Christie's Poirot co-produced by ITV Studios and WGBH-TV, adapted for the screen by Stewart Harcourt. The original air date was 11 July 2010 in the United States, and it was aired on Christmas Day 2010 in the UK. The cast includes Dame Eileen Atkins as Princess Dragomiroff, Hugh Bonneville as Masterman, Jessica Chastain as Mary Debenham, Barbara Hershey as Mrs. Hubbard, Toby Jones as Rachett, and David Morrissey as Colonel Arbuthnot.

Generally faithful to the original story, it has a number of differences in the details. The film takes place in September 1938, just before the outbreak of World War II, instead of 1936 as in most of the other episodes of the TV series. Cyrus Hardman is omitted from the story, with Dr. Constantine taking his place among the "jury," with the motive that he was Mrs. Armstrong's American (rather than Greek) doctor who delivered Daisy Armstrong and the second (stillborn) child. Constantine's role in the investigation is enlarged to an extent, and he attempts to draw Poirot's attention to the clues that support the theory of a lone assassin. Antonio Foscarelli becomes the lover of the maid (whose name has changed from Susanne to Francoise), as well as being the chauffeur. Greta Ohlsson, middle-aged in the novel, is portrayed a woman in her 20s. Rachett's murder is made significantly more violent: Instead of being drugged unconscious as the other twelve passengers sneak into his room on separate occasions and stab him at random so that none of them can definitively say who killed him, the drug paralyzes him but leaves him fully conscious of his own execution as the twelve passengers come in and stab him one after the other in full light, while Princess Natalia Dragomiroff tells him exactly who they are and why they are delivering his punishment.

The atmosphere of this film is grimmer and darker than the other adaptations, with significant emphasis placed on the encroaching cold in the stranded train after it loses power and running water. The opening of the film expands on the case that has brought Poirot to Palestine, mentioned only briefly in the book. It finds him in the midst of presenting his summation of the case, accusing a married British Army officer of giving false information to the detectives to cover up his mistress' accidental death. The officer commits suicide in front of Poirot to avoid bringing disgrace upon his wife and his regiment. Other deviations from the novel include the portrayal of the stoning of an adulteress on the streets of Istanbul witnessed by Poirot, Arbuthnot and Mary Debenham. Mary is paralysed in her right arm and shoulder due to a brutal injury given to her by Ratchett during Daisy's kidnapping. It is revealed that Ratchett's connections threatened to kill MacQueen if his father did not rig the trial. Helena's maiden name, along with that of their mother, is changed from Goldenberg to Wasserstein (German for "water stone"), then anglicised to Waterston. (In the 1974 movie directed by Sidney Lumet, it had been Grünwald, German for "Greenwood"). Mrs. Hubbard/Linda Arden wears a black wig to hide her grey hair, as there was a danger of her being recognised.

Following a trend of religious elements introduced into the series after 2003 at the behest of star David Suchet, the script includes extended religious and moral dialogues, including Ratchett showing himself to be religious, telling Poirot that he wants to make amends for something unknown and feeling remorse for the evil he has done.[citation needed] The ending has a different character from that of the original story, with an emphasis on Poirot's moral dilemma and Poirot's reaction to the truth. In the novel, Poirot immediately agrees to protect the conspirators and cover up the crime out of disgust for what Ratchett did to the Armstrong family and for evading punishment. In this version, although Poirot is still revolted by Ratchet's actions and his escape from justice, he is enraged by what he sees as the conspirators taking the law into their own hands and will not listen to Mrs Hubbard's and Fraulein Schmidt's protests that they were betrayed by the law and were avenging their loved ones. Motivated by his strong Catholic beliefs, Poirot cannot bring himself to condone the killing and stubbornly refuses to acknowledge that justice has been done, and gives a fervent speech on the importance of the rule of law, warning that anarchy will prevail if individuals abandon it, apparently alluding to the crimes of the impending Second World War. Greta, whom Poirot admires for her good works and deep faith, firmly tells Poirot that Ratchett's escape from justice is what is wrong with Catholicism, which she says forgives crimes that God will never forgive, and claims she took part in the killing on Jesus's orders. This is followed by an argument between Poirot and Bouc, who is sympathetic to the conspirators' motives. Poirot's refusal to show mercy causes Colonel Arbuthnot to draw a pistol with the intent of killing Poirot and Bouc and blaming it on Ratchett's "assassin", but he is stopped by the others, who force him to see that murdering Poirot and Bouc would make them (the conspirators) no better than Ratchett. This, Poirot's attitude towards the Istanbul stoning, and a conversation with Mary Debenham, culminate in Poirot presenting the police with the false account of the lone assassin. However, he does so far more grudgingly and unwillingly than in the original novel and previous film and television adaptations. The conspirators are relieved, but Poirot continues to struggle with his decision, barely able to hold back his tears as he walks away from the train with a rosary in his hand.

The interior of the Orient Express was reproduced at Pinewood Studios in London, while other locations include the Freemason Hall, Nene Valley Railway, and a street in Malta (shot to represent Istanbul).[17]

Future adaptation[edit]

Publication history[edit]

  • 1934, Collins Crime Club (London), 1 January 1934, Hardcover, 256 pp.
  • 1934, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1934, Hardcover, 302 pp.
  • c.1934, Lawrence E. Spivak, Abridged edition, 126 pp.
  • 1940, Pocket Books (New York), Paperback, (Pocket number 79), 246 pp.
  • 1948, Penguin Books, Paperback, (Penguin number 689), 222 pp.
  • 1959, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 192 pp.
  • 1965, Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover, 253 pp. ISBN 0-7089-0188-3
  • 1968, Greenway edition of collected works (William Collins), Hardcover, 254 pp.
  • 1968, Greenway edition of collected works (Dodd Mead), Hardcover, 254 pp.
  • 1978, Pocket Books (New York), Paperback
  • 2006, Poirot Facsimile Edition (Facsimile of 1934 UK first edition), 4 September 2006, Hardcover, 256 pp. ISBN 0-00-723440-6

The story's first true publication was the US serialisation in six instalments in the Saturday Evening Post from 30 September to 4 November 1933 (Volume 206, Numbers 14 to 19). The title was Murder in the Calais Coach, and it was illustrated by William C. Hoople.[20]

The UK serialisation appeared after book publication, appearing in three instalments in the Grand Magazine, in March, April, and May 1934 (Issues 349 to 351). This version was abridged from the book version (losing some 25% of the text), was without chapter divisions, and named the Russian princess as Dragiloff instead of Dragomiroff. Advertisements in the back pages of the UK first editions of The Listerdale Mystery, Why Didn't They Ask Evans, and Parker Pyne Investigates claimed that Murder on the Orient Express had proven to be Christie's best-selling book to date and the best-selling book published in the Collins Crime Club series.

Book dedication[edit]

The dedication of the book reads:
"To M.E.L.M. Arpachiyah, 1933"

"M.E.L.M." is Christie's second husband, archaeologist Max Edgar Lucien Mallowan (1904–78). She dedicated four books to him, either singly or jointly, the others being The Sittaford Mystery (1931), Come Tell Me How You Live (1946), and Christie's final written work, Postern of Fate (1973).

Christie and Mallowan were married, after a short engagement, on 11 September 1930, followed by a honeymoon in Italy. After his final seasons working on someone else's dig (Reginald Campbell Thompson – see the dedication to Lord Edgware Dies), Max raised the funds to lead an expedition of his own. With sponsorship from the Trustees of the British Museum and the British School of Archeology in Iraq,[21] he set off in 1933 for a mound at Arpachiyah, north-west of Nineveh, where "after several anxious weeks... considerable quantities of beautifully decorated pottery and figures came to the surface."[22] A notable feature of this season is that, for the first time, Christie, the rank amateur, assisted the professionals in their work. She was responsible for keeping written records and proved highly adept at cleaning and re-assembling pottery fragments. As at Nineveh, she found the time to continue writing, with Orient Express, Why Didn't They Ask Evans, and Unfinished Portrait all being drafted at the dig[22] (although a claim has been made that Murder on the Orient Express was written in the Hotel Pera Palace in Istanbul – see External Links below). Despite this success, after 1933, Mallowan discontinued work in Iraq due to the worsening political situation, and moved on to Syria and later Lebanon.

Dust jacket blurb[edit]

The blurb on the inside flap of the dust jacket of the first edition (which is also repeated opposite the title page) reads:

The famous Orient Express, thundering along on its three-day journey across Europe, came to a sudden stop in the night. Snowdrifts blocked the line at a desolate spot somewhere in the Balkans. Everything was deathly quiet. "Decidedly I suffer from the nerves," murmured Hercule Poirot, and fell asleep again. He awoke to find himself very much wanted. For in the night murder had been committed. Mr. Ratchett, an American millionaire, was found lying dead in his berth – stabbed. The untrodden snow around the train proved that the murderer was still on board. Poirot investigates. He lies back and thinks – with his little grey cells...

Murder on the Orient Express must rank as one of the most ingenious stories ever devised. The solution is brilliant. One can but admire the amazing resource of Agatha Christie.

References in other works[edit]


  • While not a direct reference, the extras of the British action parody film Hot Fuzz (2007) stated that Murder on the Orient Express was the inspiration for more than one murderer was responsible for the murders committed during the film (before apologizing for the spoiler, but stating the film has been out for 33 years).




  • In an episode of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who titled "The Unicorn and the Wasp" (2008), the eponymous Doctor meets Christie in 1926 while she is staying at a country house, where a murder takes place. The Doctor's partner, Donna Noble (who also references other books written by Christie, giving her continual inspiration throughout the episode), suggests that everyone present is responsible for the murder, referencing Christie's own Murder on the Orient Express, albeit before she would have actually written it, as it was not published until 1934. Later in 2014, the eighth series episode "Mummy on the Orient Express" would have the Doctor take his companion Clara on an adventure on the Orient Express, albeit one in space.
  • An episode of Futurama is called "Murder on the Planet Express," though the episode itself has no similarities.
  • The episode "It's Never Too Late for Now" of the NBC television series 30 Rock is a parody of Murder on the Orient Express.
  • The episode "Next Stop Murder" of the ABC television series Moonlighting spoofs the novel.
  • In Muppets Tonight, episode 108, guest star Jason Alexander played Hercule Poirot in a sketch spoofing the novel called "Murder on the Disoriented Express," featuring Kermit the Frog as the conductor and Mr. Poodlepants as the victim. Other Muppets, including Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Bobo the Bear, also appear, and confuse Poirot with Hercules and then Superman.
  • The title of an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, "MMMystery on the Friendship Express", references the novel, as does the outcome of the case; every passenger is responsible for eating the desserts being entered into the National Dessert Competition (with Rarity, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy each taking a bite of the titular cake).
  • In the episode "Murder on the Halloween Express" of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Sabrina takes her mortal friends on a Halloween mystery train in the hopes of instilling some Halloween spirit in them, not knowing that the train is, in fact, an Other Realm Express. Sabrina's friends then transform into different characters in a murder case and Sabrina herself is left with investigating and solving the mystery ... or else they will never be able to leave the train.
  • Murder on the Orient Express was parodied on an episode of SCTV, in which the story has been turned into a B movie by William Castle, titled Death Takes No Holiday. John Candy plays Poirot, while Andrea Martin plays Agatha Christie. In the penultimate moment, when Poirot grills the suspect-passengers (floating the theory that perhaps the train itself is the murderer), the film cuts to William Castle, played by Dave Thomas, who tells the audience that he will let them select who is the murderer.
  • In an episode of NCIS when a murder of a marine happens on a ship, Anthony DiNozzo makes reference to the book and 1974 movie.


  1. ^ The Observer, 31 December 1933 (p.
  2. ^ United States, Dept. of the Treasury (1935). Catalog of Copyright Entries. New Series: 1934, Part 1, Volume 31. New Series. Washington D.C.: Copyright Office. p. 2344. Retrieved 23 Mar 2015. 
  3. ^ Coignard, Jerome (28 February 1934). "Books - and Their Makers". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, NY). p. 20. Retrieved 23 Mar 2015. 
  4. ^ John Cooper and B.A. Pyke. Detective Fiction – the collector's guide: Second Edition (pp. 82, 86) Scholar Press. 1994. ISBN 0-85967-991-8
  5. ^ a b Steve Marcum. "American Tribute to Agatha Christie". Retrieved 2014-08-08. 
  6. ^ Chris Peers, Ralph Spurrier and Jamie Sturgeon. Collins Crime Club – A checklist of First Editions. Dragonby Press (Second Edition) March 1999 (p. 14)
  7. ^ Vanessa Wagstaff and Stephen Poole, Agatha Christie: A Readers Companion (p. 88). Aurum Press Ltd, 2004. ISBN 1-84513-015-4
  8. ^ The Times Literary Supplement, 11 January 1934 (p. 29)
  9. ^ The New York Times Book Review, 4 March 1934 (p. 11)
  10. ^ The Guardian, 12 January 1934 (p. 5)
  11. ^ Barnard, Robert. A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie – Revised edition (pp. 199–200). Fontana Books, 1990. ISBN 0-00-637474-3
  12. ^ "Binge! Agatha Christie: Nine Great Christie Novels". Entertainment Weekly (1343-44): 32–33. 26 December 2014. 
  13. ^ Sanders, Dennis & Lovallo, Len (1984). The Agatha Christie Companion. Delacorte Press. pp. 105–08. 
  14. ^ Sanders, Dennis & Lovallo, Len (1984). The Agatha Christie Companion. Delacorte Press. pp. 105–08. 
  15. ^ Morgan, Janet. Agatha Christie, A Biography. 1984. pp. 201–04) Collins. ISBN 0-00-216330-6. 
  16. ^ IMDb profile,; accessed 31 January 2015.
  17. ^ "Murder on the Orient Express". Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  18. ^ Sneider, Jeff. "Kenneth Branagh in Talks to Direct Agatha Christie’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ (Exclusive)". TheWrap. Retrieved 2015-07-11. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Murder in the Calais Coach". EBSCOhost. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  21. ^ Morgan. (pp. 205–206)
  22. ^ a b Morgan. (p. 206)

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