Murder on The Orient Express by Agatha Christie – Book Summary & Ending Explained

Murder on the Orient Express

The story begins when the famous detective Hercule Poirot boards the Orient Express in Istanbul. During the journey, an American businessman named Ratchett is found stabbed to death in his locked compartment.

We soon discover Ratchett was actually a gangster named Cassetti, who had escaped punishment for a kidnapping and murder years earlier. 

Poirot interviews all the suspects and examines the clues with the help of his friend M. Bouc, who is the director of the train line. The evidence seems to point in many directions at once. A handkerchief with the initial ‘H’, a pipe cleaner, a broken watch, and a burned note with the name ‘Armstrong’ are all found in the dead man’s compartment.

With Poirot’s masterful detective work, the pieces of the puzzle start coming together. But the solution he finds is not one that can be revealed to the authorities. Poirot presents two possible explanations – one that protects the guilty party, and another that satisfies the law. His friend Bouc must decide which version will become the official solution.

Hercule Poirot Investigates the Passengers

As the train speeds along, Poirot interviews each passenger in turn. He discovers a complex web of connections between many of them. First, there’s the victim himself, Ratchett. A shady character, to say the least. Poirot learns Ratchett was involved in the kidnapping and murder of a child years earlier. Nearly every passenger has a connection to the case and a reason to want the man dead.

There’s the Russian princess Dragomiroff and her maid, Hildegarde Schmidt. The princess’s son was executed for the child’s murder, though she believes him innocent. There’s also Colonel Arbuthnot, a British officer, and his friend Captain MacQueen. Arbuthnot was the presiding judge in the trial.

Then there’s the Italian Antonio Foscarelli, a car salesman embroiled in a lawsuit with Ratchett. We also meet the widow Mrs Hubbard, whose daughter disappeared. Cyrus Hardman, a private detective, was hired by Mrs Hubbard to find the girl. And finally, there’s the mysterious Swedish woman, Greta Ohlsson, a missionary.

 Poirot is determined to find the truth

The connections seem endless. Nearly everyone has a motive for wanting Ratchett dead. Poirot realizes this won’t be an easy case to crack. But with his little grey cells in full force, he’s determined to uncover the truth behind this murder on the Orient Express.

The ending of Murder on the Orient Express will likely surprise most readers. As Poirot interviews all the passengers and staff on the train, the web of connections between everyone grows increasingly complex. By the final chapters, Poirot has figured out the truth behind the murder of Ratchett.

Shocking Revelation

It turns out that every person on the train had a connection to the Armstrong kidnapping case, and each wanted their own form of justice against Ratchett. Acting together in secret, they devised an elaborate plan to murder Ratchett and get away with it.

On the fateful night, nearly everyone participated in some way. They drugged Ratchett to keep him unconscious, then each stabbed him once so no single person could be blamed. They also manipulated the physical evidence to cast suspicion on outsiders.

Poirot is torn on what to do with this information. He wrestles with his duty as a detective versus his sympathy for the murderers and their motives. In the end, he decides that justice has already been served. Ratchett paid the ultimate price for his terrible crime. Poirot chooses not to reveal the truth to the police, allowing the conspirators to get away with their sinister act of vengeance.

What does the ending mean?

The ending highlights the moral complexities in the story and in the justice system itself. While murder is never justified, Ratchett’s heinous actions and lack of remorse make the conspirators somewhat excusable. The ending leaves the reader with as many questions as answers about ethics, morality and the proper administration of justice. Overall, the surprising solution in Murder on the Orient Express provides a thought-provoking finish to a masterful mystery tale.


Read More: Best Books by Agatha Christie

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