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Murder on the Orient Express

Agatha Christie

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Murder on the Orient Express | Part 1, Chapter 8 : The Facts (The Armstrong Kidnapping Case) | Summary



Dr. Constantine and Hercule Poirot join M. Bouc for lunch in his compartment while waiting for the passengers to finish lunch in the restaurant car. Poirot informs Bouc he has learned Samuel Ratchett's true identity and why Ratchett had to leave America. He explains Ratchett is a fake name adopted by a murderer named Cassetti, the head of a kidnapping gang that abducted and then killed a three-year-old girl, Daisy Armstrong, after demanding and receiving ransom. After the child's body was found, her pregnant mother, Sonia Armstrong, miscarried and died. The heartbroken father, Colonel Armstrong, shot himself. A French or Swiss nursemaid under police suspicion committed suicide.

Six months after the murder, police arrested Cassetti; he was brought to trial but acquitted on a technicality. Public animosity to Cassetti was extremely high, and, Poirot notes, he evidently changed his name, left America, and traveled abroad.

Both Bouc and Poirot express no regrets about Cassetti's death; Bouc is only sorry he was killed on the Orient Express. Now knowing the victim's true identity, Poirot points out the key question: was he killed by a rival gang he double-crossed, or was he killed by someone seeking private vengeance? Neither man knows if any Armstrong family members are still alive, although Poirot thinks the toddler's aunt, Mrs. Armstrong's younger sister, may be.

Poirot mentions the broken watch. Bouc is heartened by the news, saying it seems to give the exact time of the murder. Poirot remarks it is convenient, but his tone implies he isn't buying it. Bouc points out Poirot had heard Ratchett speak to the conductor at 12:40 a.m. Poirot describes what had happened and gives the exact time as 12:37 a.m., to which Bouc replies they have one fact: Ratchett was alive at 12:37 a.m. Rather than concurring, Poirot says nothing and "looks thoughtfully in front of him." The three men leave for the restaurant car.


The Daisy Armstrong case bears a striking resemblance to the "Lindbergh baby" kidnapping case of 1932. It attracted wide attention because of the international fame of the baby's father, aviator Charles Lindbergh. Christie's readers would have been familiar with the case, making one motive for the murder—revenge—instantly viable.

M. Bouc and Dr. Constantine accept much of what they hear as facts, but Poirot does not. Unlike the other men, he is unwilling to accept anything at face value; he must scrutinize and verify every detail. Poirot's tenacity and refusal to rely on circumstantial evidence set him apart from the typical law enforcement officer and from both Bouc and Constantine.

When Bouc expresses disappointment about the crime happening on the Orient Express, he reveals his somewhat obsessive desire to control publicity. He fears news of the murder will hurt the train company's reputation, and he wants to minimize any harm by solving the crime as quickly as possible—or at least wrapping up the investigation and calling the case closed.

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