Study Guide

Murder on the Orient Express Part 1, Chapter 7

By Agatha Christie

Part 1, Chapter 7

The Body

  • Next up are inspections of the body and of Ratchett's compartment with Dr. Constantine.
  • Poirot notes that the window is open. He checks it out, but finds no fingerprints.
  • As for the body, we learn it had twelve stab wounds. Two are very slight and three are severe.
  • Something strikes the doctor as odd: some of the wounds appear not to have bled. That means they must have been made much later than the others.
  • One of the wounds was made by a left-handed person, and some of the others by a right-handed person.
  • Poirot murmurs: two people? He checks the switches on the bed light and the overhead light. Both are off.
  • Poirot proposes a scenario: one murderer comes in, stabs, and turns off the light. The second comes in and does not see that Ratchett is dead. The second murderer stabs the body again.
  • That would also make sense, because then we could say that one person was a man (the strong stabs) and one was a woman (the weak stabs).
  • But why didn't Ratchett defend himself? He had a gun under his pillow, after all. Constantine picks up the victim's empty glass and confirms that the man was drugged.
  • Another clue: Poirot finds two matches in the ashtray and some burnt paper scraps. There are two different kinds of matches: one kind is Ratchett's, and one kind is from the train.
  • Two more clues: a piece of dainty fabric with an initial "H" on it, and a pipe cleaner. That means there's one clue for a woman and one for a man. Poirot is getting suspicious. The clues are a little too perfect, dropped "most conveniently" (1.7.85).
  • We discover the murder weapon has not been left behind. Also, the doctor pulls Ratchett's watch from his breast pocket. It's dented, and the hour reads 1:15 a.m.
  • The doctor thinks this clue cements the time of death, but, again, Poirot is not so sure. The clues are all too perfect.
  • How to proceed? Ah, yes, the paper scraps. But they're charred. Poirot, though, has an ingenious scientific way to read them.
  • The train match, he believes, is a clue the murderer didn't want us to see.
  • He has someone get some mesh hat wire from one of the woman passengers, and, along with a small stove and moustache curling tongs, he uses it to light up the paper and illuminate the letters.
  • The scraps read: "member little Daisy Armstrong" (1.7.123).
  • With that, Poirot knows who Ratchett really is – a man named Cassetti – and why he had to leave America.
  • Poirot finishes the investigation as the two men wonder how the murderer(s) escaped, since it clearly wasn't through the open window (which appears to be a red herring). How is the trick done?

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