Murder on the Orient Express
Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
|Publisher||Collins Crime Club|
|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. In the United States, it was published on 28 February 1934, under the title of Murder in the Calais Coach, by Dodd, Mead and Company. The U.K. edition retailed at seven shillings and sixpence (7/6) and the U.S. edition at $2.00.
- 1 Plot summary
- 2 Plot detail
- 3 Reception
- 4 References and allusions
- 5 Adaptations
- 6 Publication history
- 7 References
- 8 External links
After catching the Taurus Express from Aleppo in Syria and traveling to Istanbul, private detective Hercule Poirot arrives at the Tokatlian Hotel. Once there, Poirot receives a telegram prompting him to return to London. He instructs the concierge to book a first-class compartment on the Simplon-Orient Express leaving that night. However, the train is fully booked, and Poirot only gets a second-class berth after the intervention of his friend M. Bouc, a fellow Belgian 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. Ratchett believes his life is being threatened and attempts to hire Poirot but, due to his distaste, Poirot refuses.
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. This gives Poirot the compartment next to Mr. Ratchett. The train is stopped by a snowdrift near Vinkovci (spelled Vincovci in the book). 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.
After Poirot and Dr. Constantine examine Ratchett's compartment, Poirot finds a note with the words '-member little Daisy Armstrong' on it, which causes him to ascertain Ratchett's real identity. A few years before, three-year-old heiress Daisy Armstrong was kidnapped by a man named Lanfranco Cassetti, who collected a ransom and killed the child. Cassetti was caught but fled the country after he was acquitted. Poirot concludes that Ratchett was Cassetti.
Poirot discovers that everyone in the coach had a connection to the Armstrong family and a motive to kill Cassetti. He proposes two possible solutions. The first solution is that a stranger boarded the train and murdered Cassetti. The second one is that all of the passengers conspired to murder Cassetti. Mrs. Hubbard, revealed to be the famous actress Linda Arden, Daisy Armstrong's grandmother, confesses that the second solution is the correct one. M. Bouc and Dr. Constantine choose to present the first theory to the Yugoslavian police.
The crime scene
Hercule Poirot, the internationally famous 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.
During the journey, Poirot is approached by one of the passengers, Mr. Samuel 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's 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.
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 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 one. 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 Lanfranco Cassetti. Five years earlier, Cassetti kidnapped three-year-old American heiress Daisy Armstrong from her home in Long Island, New York. 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, only to be found innocent afterwards. 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.
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 Cassetti's murder. The first explanation is that a stranger — some gangster enemy of Cassetti — boarded the train at Vinkovci, the last stop, murdered Cassetti for unknown reasons, then escaped unnoticed and it's 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, 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 Cassetti.
- Edward Henry Masterman, Cassetti's valet, was Colonel Armstrong's batman during the war, and later his valet, who also served as butler to the Armstrong household.
- Colonel John Arbuthnot was Colonel Armstrong's comrade and best friend.
- Mrs. Caroline Martha 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 Helena Andrenyi (née Goldenberg) was Sonia Armstrong's sister and Daisy's aunt.
- Count Ruldoph Andrenyi is 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 Armstrong family's governess.
- Fräulein Hildegarde Schmidt was the Armstrong family's cook.
- Antonio Foscarelli, an Italy-born 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 Armstrongs' nursemaid who committed suicide.
- Cyrus Hardman, a private detective ostensibly retained as a bodyguard by 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 Cassetti once, so that no one could know who delivered the fatal blow. Twelve of the conspirators participated to allow for a "12-person jury": Countess Andrenyi took 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 Cassetti's murder, a man who was 'dark' and had a 'womanish' voice. (The only people not involved in the plot would be Bouc, for whom the cabin next to Cassetti 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 concurs, 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, while Poirot simply 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. Cassetti||1. Poirot||10. Ohlsson
|6. MacQueen 7.
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."
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?"
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."
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." 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".
References and allusions
References to actual history, geography and current science
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.
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.
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.
References in other works
In Death on the Nile, Poirot muses that searching for evidence of murder aboard the enclosed space of a ship is similar to his search for evidence aboard a train: "Once, on the Orient Express, I investigated a murder. There was a little matter of a scarlet kimono. It had disappeared, and yet it must be on the train. I found it--where do you think? In my own locked suitcase! Ah! it was an impertinence, that!" Enid Blyton's Famous Five book Five Run Away Together also involves the kidnapping of a girl called Armstrong, possibly inspired by Christie. Although this kidnap has a happier ending with the girl found alive.
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 Cassetti, Sylvia Syms as Mrs. Hubbard, Siân Phillips as Princess Dragomiroff, Francesca Annis as Mary Debenham, and Peter Polycarpou as Dr. Constantine.
In 2017, the streaming service Audible released another radio adaptation that featured Tom Conti as the voice of Poirot. The voice cast also featured Sophie Okonedo as Mary Debenham, Eddie Marsan as Cassetti, and narration from Art Malik.
Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
The book was made into a 1974 movie directed by Sidney Lumet and produced by John Brabourne and Richard B. Goodwin; it was a critical and commercial hit and is now considered one of the best 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 Cassetti, and a 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.
Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
On 16 June 2015, 20th Century Fox hired Kenneth Branagh to direct and star as Poirot in a new film adaptation of the story. The film was released on 3 November 2017. On 29 September 2016, the studio released a press release announcing much of the cast, including Johnny Depp as Mr. Ratchett, Michelle Pfeiffer as Mrs. Hubbard, Penélope Cruz as Pilar Estravados (a Hispanic version of Greta Ohlsson, the name coming from a character in Hercule Poirot's Christmas), Dame Judi Dench as Princess Dragomiroff, Sir Derek Jacobi as Masterman, Leslie Odom Jr. as Dr. Arbuthnot, Daisy Ridley as Mary Debenham, Lucy Boynton as Countess Andrenyi, Tom Bateman as M. Bouc, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Biniamino Marquez (a Cuban version of Antonio Foscarelli), Josh Gad as Hector MacQueen, Marwan Kenzari as Pierre Michel, Sergei Polunin as Count Andrenyi, Willem Dafoe as Gerhard Hardman, and Olivia Colman as Hildegarde Schmidt. Greta Ohlsson is renamed to Pilar Estravados; the character of Colonel Arbuthnot is combined with the doctor to create Doctor Arbuthnot, a sniper who served under Colonel Armstrong in the war and had his medical school paid for by Armstrong; and M. Bouc is changed from the old director of the line to the director's younger son. Added was a direct link for Poirot to the Armstrong kidnapping -- before Sonia's death, John Armstrong wrote to Poirot for help. Also unlike the book, the kidnapping did not take place on Long Island but in New Jersey, where the Lindbergh Kidnapping took place. Susanne Michel is switched from Pierre Michel's daughter to his sister. Cyrus Hardman poses as an Austrian scientist for part of the film. The last scene also sets up the possibility of Death on the Nile as a sequel.
Murder on the Orient Express (2001)
A thoroughly modernised and poorly received made-for-TV version starring Alfred Molina as Poirot was presented by CBS in 2001. This version co-starred 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 four of the suspects (Hildegard Schmidt, Cyrus Hardman, Edward Masterman and Greta Ohlssohn) are deleted, as is Dr. Constantine.
Agatha Christie's Poirot: "Murder on the Orient Express" (2010)
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 Cassetti, and David Morrissey as Colonel Arbuthnot.
The adaptation features a number of differences in the details. The film takes place in September 1938, instead of 1936 as in most of the other episodes of the TV series. Cyrus Hardman is omitted from the story, with Antonio Foscarelli replacing him as the lover of the maid who killed herself, renamed from Susanne to Francoise, and Dr. Constantine (now the doctor who delivered Daisy Armstrong and the second, stillborn child) replaces him on the jury. Constantine's role in the investigation is thus enlarged to an extent, and he attempts to draw Poirot's attention to the clues that support the theory of a lone assassin. Greta Ohlsson, middle-aged in the novel, is portrayed as a woman in her twenties. Cassetti'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 in the dark so that none of them can definitively say who killed him, the drug leaves him paralyzed and fully conscious of his own execution as the twelve passengers come in and stab him one after the other in full light, while Princess Dragomiroff tells him exactly who they are and why they are delivering his punishment.
The atmosphere of this episode 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 episode 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's 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, paralleling Cassetti's murder later in the story. Mary's right arm and shoulder are paralyzed due to a brutal injury inflicted upon her by Cassetti during Daisy's kidnapping. It is revealed that Cassetti'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 Anglicized 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 recognized. In this version, it is Princess Dragomiroff instead of Linda Arden who offers to take the blame for Cassetti's murder.
Following a trend of religious elements introduced in the series after 2003 at the behest of star David Suchet, the ending of this adaptation was significantly altered from the original novel. In the original novel, Poirot's sympathies are with the conspirators and he allows them to go free; whereas in the adaptation, while Poirot recognizes the conspirators' grief and trauma, he is adamant about presenting the truth to the authorities and refuses to let the conspirators go free, admonishing them for taking justice into their own hands and delivering a fervent speech on the importance of law, referring to them as a "kangaroo court" and accusing them of anarchy. Greta Ohlsson, who has already clashed with Poirot for her dismissive statements towards Catholicism, attempts to convince Poirot that the "forgiveness" of Catholicism is fallacious, and M. Bouc attempts to convince Poirot to go with the assassin solution, but Poirot's refusal forces Arbuthnot to draw a pistol with the intention of killing Poirot and Bouc and blaming it on Cassetti's "assassin" until Mary Debenham convinces him that such actions would only reduce all of them to Cassetti's level. These events, in conjunction with the Istanbul stoning, results in Poirot giving the Yugoslav police the description of the lone assassin: however, he does so with far more reluctance than any other adaptation of the novel, and the final scene shows the conspirators apparently relieved, while Poirot is barely able to contain his grief as he walks away from the train, with tears in his eyes and 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).
Japanese TV adaptation (2015)
A Japanese adaptation was broadcast over two nights in January 2015 on Fuji Television. The title was Orient Kyuukou Satsujin Jiken (オリエント急行殺人事件), and it featured several famous actors, including Ninomiya Kazunari (二宮和也), Matsushima Nanako (松嶋菜々子), Tamaki Hiroshi (玉木宏), Kichise Michiko (吉瀬美智子), Nishida Toshiyuki (西田敏行), and Sawamura Ikki (沢村一樹). The main character, Suguro Takeru (勝呂武尊), modeled on Hercule Poirot, was played by actor Nomura Mansai (野村萬斎).
The first night featured a storyline true to the original text, but set in Japan in 1933. In this version, the train was called Orient Kyuukou (オリエント急行), and ran from the western city of Shimonoseki (下関) to Tokyo (東京), with the train stopped by a small avalanche near Sekigahara (関ヶ原) in Gifu Prefecture(岐阜県).
The second night was an original story.
Point and click computer game Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express was released in November 2006 for Windows and expanded on Agatha Christie's original story with a new playable central character as Hercule Poirot (voiced by David Suchet) is ill and recovering in his train compartment.
Another, less obvious reference to the story was made in the Nintendo GameCube game Paper Mario and the Thousand Year Door. In one chapter of the story, Mario rides a train to a very posh village, on which he has to solve several little mysteries, mostly by interrogating the few passengers on the train. He is assisted by a penguin who happens to be a detective. Murder, however, is not one of the mysteries.
- 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
- 2011, William Morrow (HarperCollins), Paperback, 265 pp.
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.
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.
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, 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." 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 (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
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
- 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 the murderers in the movie. There is another film planned for 14 March 2017.
- Randall Garrett's fictional detective Lord Darcy is forced to solve a murder aboard a train in "The Napoli Express" (first published in Lord Darcy Investigates) in an alternate history poke at the original Christie tale.
- In palaeontology, the theory that multiple factors led to the Permian-Triassic extinction event, the largest mass extinction in Earth's history, is called the Murder on the Orient Express Model (a term first used by Douglas Erwin in 1993).
- 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, this before she would have actually written it, as it was not published until 1934. The implication is that Donna's remark influenced or even inspired the novel. Later in 2014, in the eighth series episode "Mummy on the Orient Express", the Doctor takes his companion Clara on an adventure on the Orient Express, albeit one in space.
- A jocular reference is made in the Red Dwarf episode "Confidence and Paranoia"; while reading Agatha Christie's novels, the ship's computer, Holly, when asked what's going on in the current situation, replies "Hercule Poirot's just stepped off the train. And if you want my opinion, I think they all did it" (although he clearly cannot be reading Orient Express as Poirot never got off a train after the crime was committed).
- 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.
- It was referenced in the Family Guy episode Dammit Janet
- The Observer, 31 December 1933 (p.
- 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. 213. Retrieved 23 Mar 2015.
- Coignard, Jerome (28 February 1934). "Books – and Their Makers". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Brooklyn, NY. p. 20. Retrieved 23 Mar 2015.
- 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
- Steve Marcum. "American Tribute to Agatha Christie". Home.insightbb.com. Retrieved 2014-08-08.
- Chris Peers, Ralph Spurrier and Jamie Sturgeon. Collins Crime Club – A checklist of First Editions. Dragonby Press (Second Edition) March 1999 (p. 14)
- Vanessa Wagstaff and Stephen Poole, Agatha Christie: A Readers Companion (p. 88). Aurum Press Ltd, 2004. ISBN 1-84513-015-4
- The Times Literary Supplement, 11 January 1934 (p. 29)
- The New York Times Book Review, 4 March 1934 (p. 11)
- The Guardian, 12 January 1934 (p. 5)
- Barnard, Robert. A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie – Revised edition (pp. 199–200). Fontana Books, 1990. ISBN 0-00-637474-3
- "Binge! Agatha Christie: Nine Great Christie Novels". Entertainment Weekly (1343–44): 32–33. 26 December 2014.
- Sanders, Dennis & Lovallo, Len (1984). The Agatha Christie Companion. Delacorte Press. pp. 105–08.
- Morgan, Janet. Agatha Christie, A Biography. 1984. pp. 201–04) Collins. ISBN 0-00-216330-6.
- Geier, Thom (16 June 2015). "Kenneth Branagh in Talks to Direct Agatha Christie's 'Murder on the Orient Express' (Exclusive)". TheWrap. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
- "The Full 'Murder on the Orient Express' Cast Includes Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer, More (UPDATE)". Moviefone. 29 September 2016. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
- Busch, Anita; Fleming Jr, Mike (11 November 2016). "Penelope Cruz Joins 'Murder On The Orient Express'". Deadline.com. Retrieved 11 November 2016.
- Bamigboye, Baz (3 May 2017). "All back on the Orient Express! Remake of the classic has a stellar cast including Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dame Judi Dench and Sir Kenneth Branagh". Mail Online. Retrieved 4 May 2017.
- Fleming, Jr., Mike (29 September 2016). "Johnny Depp To Star in 'Murder On The Orient Express' At Fox'". Deadline. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
- N'Duka, Amanda (25 January 2017). "Manuel Garcia-Rulfo Boards 'Murder On The Orient Express'; Vivica A. Fox Joins 'The Mafia Aint Dead'". Deadline.com. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
- Hipes, Patrick (20 October 2016). "Josh Gad Boards Fox's 'Murder On The Orient Express'". Deadline. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
- Kit, Borys (27 October 2016). "'Mummy' Actor Marwan Kenzari Joins Johnny Depp in 'Murder on the Orient Express' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 27 October 2016.
- Ritman, Alex (5 December 2016). "Ballet Star Sergei Polunin Lands Roles in 'Murder on the Orient Express,' 'Red Sparrow' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
- "Willem Dafoe is latest addition to 'Murder on the Orient Express' all-star cast". AFP Relax. 6 January 2017. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
- Busch, Anita (5 January 2017). "Willem Dafoe Joins Ensemble Cast Of Fox's 'Murder On The Orient Express'". Deadline.com. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
- "Olivia Colman 'gutted' to miss Globes ceremony". BBC News. 9 January 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
- IMDb profile, imdb.com; accessed 31 January 2015.
- "Murder on the Orient Express". AgathaChristie.com. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
- "オリエント急行殺人事件 – フジテレビ". フジテレビ. Retrieved 2016-03-10.
- "Murder in the Calais Coach". EBSCOhost. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
- Morgan. (pp. 205–206)
- Morgan. (p. 206)
- Murder on the Orient Express at the official Agatha Christie website
- Murder on the Orient Express (1974) on IMDb
- Murder on the Orient Express (2010) on IMDb
- British Museum webpage on the Mallowans' work at Arpachiyah
- Venice-Simplon Orient Express The train using original carriages from the Orient Express that Christie based her novel on
- Hotel Pera Palace where Christie supposedly wrote the novel, although this is not stated in either her official biography or her own Autobiography