Study Guide

Murder on the Orient Express Part 1, Chapter 5

By Agatha Christie

Part 1, Chapter 5

The Crime

  • Poirot is having a hard time sleeping, and he does hear Ratchett moving around next door. He also hears people ringing for the conductor.
  • Poirot hears Mrs. Hubbard ring for the conductor and some kind of long fuss ensues. Poirot then rings for a bottle of mineral water.
  • The conductor mentions that he is exasperated with Mrs. Hubbard. She claims a man was in her room. The conductor told her that was impossible. That's what the fuss was about.
  • The conductor mentions that the train is stuck in a snowdrift, and that's why it's not moving.
  • Poirot drops off to sleep, but he wakes up again when he hears a thud against the door. He gets up and looks in the hallway. He sees nothing but a woman in a red kimono walking away, and the conductor at the other end of the car.
  • When Poirot wakes up again, it's morning (phew), but the train is still stuck (bummer). He goes to the dining car, where everybody's complaining. People are panicking.
  • Actually, Mary Debenham isn't panicking. She's definitely not as anxious as she was back on the other train.
  • The crowd continues to fuss. They conclude that they are in Yugo-Slavia.
  • Poirot tells Mary that she is the only patient one. She is detached. She tells Poirot that there is among them a "stronger" character than her (1.5.65).
  • Um, what? Mary comes to herself and says she means the old lady, the Princess. Ah. Sure.
  • Later in the morning, Poirot is summoned by M. Bouc to come to a large empty train compartment.
  • M. Bouc says they are in need of Poirot's assistance. Why? Because a passenger has been stabbed to death in his compartment! (Dun dun dun…)
  • The passenger? Ratchett, of course. M. Bouc would like Poirot to help, since they are at a standstill and there are no police are on board the train.
  • M. Bouc introduces Poirot to Dr. Constantine, the Greek doctor who was in a different train car last night with M. Bouc. The doctor says the death definitely occurred sometime between midnight and 2 a.m., maybe around 1 a.m.
  • Ratchett was last seen alive at twenty to one when he spoke to conductor, as Poirot confirms.
  • The window of his compartment was left open, though they think that's a red herring (a misleading clue) since there were no traces in the snow.
  • Michel, the conductor, discovered the body around 11 a.m. this morning when he went to see if Mr. Ratchett would take lunch.
  • We learn that the body was stabbed in many different places.
  • The chef de train says that "only a woman would stab like that" (1.5.123). Nice.
  • Dr. Constantine says that some blows were random, but others not so much. Some were powerful, others weak.
  • Poirot tells the men that there was a threat against Ratchett's life. Could it have been a gangster? There's an unseemly American on the train in No. 16, but it couldn't have been him. The conductor would have seen him – or so he thinks.
  • M. Bouc urges Poirot to take the case and use his "little grey cells of the mind" to help solve it (1.5.141).
  • Poirot accepts and asks for a plan of the Istanbul-Calais coach (all others were locked), a passenger list, passports, and tickets of all involved.
  • They realize the murderer must still be on the train with them.

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