Part one. Data
The express train to Istanbul leaves from the Syrian city of Aleppo. One of the passengers of the express is detective Hercule Poirot. In addition to him, Colonel Arbatnot, traveling from India to England, travels in the car, and a young Englishwoman from Baghdad, Miss Mary Debenham, who works as a governess there. During the journey between the colonel and the girl, friendly relations are established. Suddenly, the express stops because of a trivial breakdown. It is quickly eliminated, but the express loses its time. Miss Mary is very worried: if she does not come in time, she’ll be late for the Orient Express, and she really needs to get on him.
In Istanbul, Poirot stops at the hotel. There he notices the old American Mr. Ratchett, accompanied by secretary Mr. McQueen. Unexpectedly, Poirot receives a telegram stating that he needs to urgently leave for London. He decides to use the “Orient Express”, but in spite of the winter dead season, all seats are occupied. Suddenly it turns out that one of the passengers did not show up, and the detective is given a vacant seat in the Istanbul-Kale train. Neighbor Poirot on the coupe is Mr. McQueen. The train departs for a three-day trip through Europe.
A famous detective is studying fellow passengers in his car. There are thirteen people: the Italian Antonio Foscarelli, the American Mr. Hardman, the Russian princess Dragomirova, the elderly American Mrs. Hubbard, who talks all the time about her daughter and grandchildren, the middle-aged Swede Greta Olson, the German maid Princess Hildegarde Schmidt, Count and Countess Andreni from Hungary. Poirot also sees among fellow travelers Colonel Arbethnot, Mary Debenham and Mr. Ratchett with Secretary McQueen and Servant Masterman. The detective seems strange that people of different classes and nationalities gathered in one place.
Express arrives in Belgrade. They add a new car, and Poirot occupies the vacant coupe. After two days of traveling, at night, a terrible scream is heard. Poirot looks at his watch and sees that they show at twenty in the morning. He looks out into the corridor and notices how the conductor knocks at the neighboring compartment, which Ratchett occupies. Someone responds in French and the conductor goes to another compartment, because there the light bulb was lit.
Poirot can not fall asleep for a long time. He hears someone calling the conductor, then the voice of Mrs. Hubbard
reaches him. The conductor, who was called Poirot, complains that the American amused, as if she had a man in the compartment. Suddenly, it seems to the detective that something heavy has knocked against the door. Poirot looks out into the corridor and sees a conductor seated in his place and a woman in a red kimono embroidered with dragons.
In the morning it turns out that the train stopped. They were in a drift strip, and now it is not known when the journey will continue. At noon, Poirot is called in the train’s chief’s compartment. The help of the famous detective Mr. Ratchett was found in the compartment. Seeing that the passenger does not go out and does not respond to the knock, the conductor decided to open the door with his key, but it was locked inside and closed on a chain. Entering the compartment, he saw that the window was open, and the passenger was killed by a dozen knife strikes. After examining the corpse, the doctor came to the conclusion that the blows were not applied by a professional. Some are left-handed, others are right, some were made when Mr. Ratchett was already dead. Because of the heavy snowfall, nobody could leave the car, hence the killer is on the train.
Poirot talks with Secretary Mr. McQueen. The young man worked for the dead for about a year. He can not give any information about his master, only that recently someone sent letters threatening him.
Together with the doctor, the detective examined the compartment. No one could leave it through the window. The murdered man lies on his back, under his pillow he has a pistol. After examining a glass of water, and finding a sleeping pill in it, they come to the conclusion that they sacrificed the victim. In the ashtray lie burnt matches of different shapes and charred scrap of paper. In the corner of the compartment is a fragment of a cambric with the letter “H”. The clock on the dead man’s chest shows half past one. The attention of the detective is attracted by the scorched paper, on which it is possible to read: “..my little Daisy Armstrong”. Now Poirot understands who really was killed.
English colonel Armstrong married the daughter of the famous American actress Linda Arden, and they had a girl named Daisy. When the girl was three years old, she was kidnapped with the demand for a huge ransom. When his parents paid him, it turned out that the girl was already dead. Being pregnant, Mrs. Armstrong gave birth to a dead child from shock and died in childbirth. Colonel from the grief shot himself. The abduction was accused of a nanny Daisy, a Frenchwoman. She denied everything and committed suicide. Then it turned out that she was innocent. The kidnapper and murderer of the girl, a certain Cassetti left retribution and lived under the name Ratchett.
A famous detective is studying facts.
Part two. Testimony of witnesses
Poirot interrogates the witnesses.
The conductor Pierre Michel. The conductor has served for many years, he has an impeccable reputation. He knocked on Ratchett’s door, he was answered, then he went to another compartment, then went to another car. Returning, the conductor went to Mrs. Hubbard, who claimed that there was a man in her compartment, then looked to Poirot. All the rest of the time he sat in his place and saw a woman in a red kimono, embroidered with dragons, which passed through the corridor at night.
Secretary Hector McQueen. The young man did not know that his master was the murderer Daisy Armstrong. Hector’s father was a prosecutor who was leading the process and he would rather have his right hand cut off than working with the killer. Ratchett, the young man, mainly served as an interpreter, because he did not speak foreign languages.
After supper, Hector glanced at his master, then talked with Colonel Arbethnot until two o’clock in the morning. At night, the secretary saw both the conductor and the woman in a red kimono. McQueen is surprised that the note was not destroyed until the end, although Poirot did not mention it
Servant Masterman. Masterment cleaned up Ratchett’s clothes, prepared sleeping pills for him at night, and went into his compartment, where he stayed all night. About the fact that his master was a kidnapper, he did not know anything.
Mrs. Hubbard. Mrs. Hubbard went to bed and felt that there was a man in her compartment. She called the conductor, but he did not find anyone in the compartment. He closed the door to the adjoining Ratchett coupe, but did not go to the window, but in the morning she found a button near his window from his jacket.
The door to the next compartment, on the assurances of the lady, was locked. In the evening, Mrs. Hubbard went to get the aspirin of Greta Olson, having confused the ladies’ coupe with the Ratchett coupe. The handbag in which the aspirin was lying hung on the door and obscured the bolt. Taking the medicine, Olson checked the bolt and said that it was locked. Only Ratchet could speak to Mrs. Hubbard from snoring. She certainly knew about Daisy’s murder, but she was not acquainted with anyone from the Armstrong family. On the question of Poirot about the red kimono, Mrs. Hubbard replies that she does not have such clothes. During the conversation the American constantly remembers her daughter and grandchildren.
Greta Olson. Since the Swede speaks French, Poirot talks to her in French. She accidentally opened the door to Ratchett’s compartment, then went to Mrs. Hubbard for aspirin, checked to see if the bolt was locked, and returned to her compartment. She does not know anything about the abduction and murder of Daisy.
Princess Dragomirova. The Princess did not leave her compartment all night. About an hour the maid came, gave her a massage and left. With the family of Armstrong she was familiar – Linda Arden was her close friend. The actress had one more daughter, but the princess does not know anything about her. There is no red kimono for Drahomirova.
Count and Countess Andreni. The count slept at night and did not hear anything, he did not know the Armstrong family. In the passport of the count on the name of his wife – Elena Goldenberg – a fat stain was found, evidently a trace from the finger of an untidy official.
The countess also did not hear anything about what had happened, since she took sleeping pills for the night and slept. She does not have a red kimono either.
Colonel Arbathnot. Colonel confirms that he was talking with McQueen. He did not know the family of Armstrong.
Mr. Hardman. Mr. Hardman said that he works as a salesman, he travels from Istanbul to Paris on business matters and does not know anything about what happened. But soon it turns out that he is a private detective, whom Ratchett hired. The victim was afraid of a short dark-haired man with a squeaky voice. Who really was his client, Hardman did not know.
Mr. Antonio Foscarelli. Foscarelli does not know anything about it, his neighbor Masterman did not come out of the coupe, and Armstrong Antonio is not familiar with the family.
Miss Mary Debenham. Mary goes to London from Baghdad, where she served as a governess. After waking up at five in the morning, she looked out into the corridor and saw a figure in a red kimono. Who it could be, she does not know.
Hildegard Schmidt. The maid was with the princess, then returned to her compartment and knows nothing about the murder, or about the red robe. Leaving her hostess, she saw a guide, a short dark-haired man with a squeaky voice.
After listening to the passengers, Poirot sums up the results. Apparently, the crime was committed at a quarter of the second, as the killed man’s clock shows, but then the killer could not leave the train. Also there were two mysterious characters: a guide who is not in the state, and a woman in a red kimono, which is not found in any of the passengers.
Suddenly, Mrs. Hubbard rushes in, revealing a huge bloody knife in her purse. Poirot examines her compartment. He restores the picture of last night. The door to the next compartment was closed, the bolt was hidden under the purse. Olson could push the door, and decide that she was locked on the bolt, although the bolt was raised and the door was closed on the other side. Opening the door, the assassin entered Mrs. Hubbard’s compartment.
Poirot examines the passengers’ luggage. His attention is drawn to a fresh sticker on the suitcase of Countess Andreeni. In the luggage of the maid Schmidt the detective finds the form of a conductor. Nemka assures us that this thing does not belong to her. Trying to reassure the woman, Poirot says that he believes her. There were no buttons on the form, but in the pocket there was a universal key from all the express compartment. The stranger, dressed in the shape of a conductor, could open the door to Mrs. Hubbard’s compartment with such a key.
In his suitcase, Poirot finds a red kimono. The famous detective accepts the challenge.
Part Three. Poirot settles down and ponders
First of all, the famous detective draws attention to the fact that the killed man did not speak any foreign languages, and the conductor was answered in French. Consequently, at night in the Coupe Ratchett was a man who speaks French. All passengers have a solid alibi and no motive for committing a murder. But the famous detective Hercule Poirot notices even trifles. Why on Countess Andrani’s passport there is a fresh fat stain and a fresh sticker on the suitcase? Yes, because her name is not Elena, but Helena and she wants to hide it.
The killer planned to break into the train, changing into a conductor’s uniform, committing a murder and getting out at the station. The corpse was to be found only by the morning, when it would be far away, but the plans of the killer were violated by a snowdrift. Waiting in the compartment of the dead train departure, he decides to burn the note, but mistakes the second time and burns it not to the end. Destroy the paper was due to the presence on the express train of a person so close to the Armstrong family that suspicion immediately fell on him.
Another clue is a handkerchief with the letter “H”. Judging by the expensive fabric, the scarf can belong only to Princess Dragomirova, who is called Natalya, or Countess Andreni. The name of Mrs. Armstrong’s mother was Goldenberg, as did the maiden name of Countess Andreni, hence the countess is the younger sister of Mrs. Armstrong. The countess confirms the conclusions of Poirot, but denies his involvement in the murder. In conversation, she mentions the governess who was with her as a child. Her name she does not remember, but Poirot realizes that it’s Mary Debenham. She recognizes his rightness, and the princess recognizes her handkerchief. But could she kill?
Foscarelli admits Poirot that he worked as a chauffeur from the Armstrongs, Greta Olson was the babysitter of the little Daisy, Masterman served as the orderly of Colonel Armstrong.
Poirot collects passengers in a restaurant car and offers two versions of the murder. According to the doctor, death occurred between twelve and two o’clock. In the first half of the night skids began and it was impossible to leave the train, especially since the last compartment, Mr. Hardman, claims that no one left. Therefore, the killer is in the car. But there is another version: the killer in the form of a conductor made his way to the car, went into Ratchett’s compartment, killed him, through an unlocked door, penetrated into the adjacent compartment of Mrs. Hubbard, slipped the knife into her handbag, threw the uniform into the first compartment and left the train in front of him departure. But what about the clock that showed the second half? The fact is that the train crossed the time zone, but Ratchett forgot to move the arrows, then the murder took place an hour earlier – at half-past one.
Surprised by such a motley company, gathered in the same train during the dead season, Poirot decides to find out what each of the passengers has to do with the Armstrong family. He analyzes their testimony. McQueen was surprised that the note was not burned, therefore, he knew about it, then he is a murderer or his accomplice. Masterman says that he gave the owner sleeping a night off. But the person who hides the weapon under the pillow is clearly going to stay awake. Hardman was going to guard Ratchett, so why did not he spend the night in his compartment? Mrs. Hubbard asked Greta Olson to see if the bolt was closed, which is located so that the bag can not obscure it.
The testimonies of these people reinforce each other. The famous detective concludes: everyone is involved in the crime, including the conductor. When the skid interfered in their plans, they came up with a story with a conductor and a woman in a red kimono. Instead of Countess Andreny, a close relative of the Armstrong family, her husband participated in the murder. The conductor Pierre Michelle was the father of an unfortunate girl who committed suicide, Hartmann – her fiance, and Colonel Arbatnot – a friend of the family. Schmidt worked at the house of the Armstrong maid, and Mrs. Hubbard was the mother of Mrs. Armstrong and Elena Andreeni, the famous tragic actress Linda Arden. They all loved the baby Daisy, and everyone was shocked by her terrible death. Having agreed, they sentenced Cassetti to death, and each of them struck him, because all the blows were different.
Guess the famous detective and the mutual love between Mary Debenham and Colonel Arbatnot.
Having solved this puzzle, the famous detective bowes away, proposing to leave the police version with the killer in the form of a conductor.