Murder on the Orient Express Part 1, Chapter 5 Summary

Agatha Christie

Part 1, Chapter 5 Summary

The Crime

Hercule Poirot cannot sleep after all the commotion and because the train has stopped moving. He hears Ratchett moving around next door, and someone, perhaps in slippers, shuffles down the corridor. It is only one fifteen and he goes to the door to ask the conductor for some water.

Poirot notices that someone else is impatiently ringing the bell and suddenly he hears a rush of footsteps and a knock on a nearby door. Poirot hears the apologetic conductor talking to Mrs. Hubbard, though she is doing nearly all the talking. When they finish, Poirot pushes his bell and the conductor arrives immediately. He tells Poirot that the American woman insists that she woke up to find a man in her compartment; however, her door was bolted from the inside and no one could have escaped or remained hidden in her compartment. The train has run into a snowdrift in Yugoslavia, and Poirot once more settles in to sleep.

A loud think wakes him. Poirot looks out into the corridor and only sees a woman in a scarlet kimono walking away from him; at the far end of the car, the conductor is doing paperwork. Otherwise, all is quiet. Poirot finally sleeps and eats a late breakfast in the dining car. Everyone is there except for the Hungarian couple, Bouc, Princess Dragomiroff, Ratchett, and his valet, and the German lady’s maid. Everyone is distraught at the delay.

A distraught Bouc, director of the train line, summons Poirot to his compartment and tells his friend that Ratchett has been stabbed ten or fifteen times in his berth. A small, dark man, Poirot’s car conductor (Michel), and the train’s officer are also in the room. The small man, Dr. Constantine, has ascertained that the murder occurred between midnight and two o’clock. Ratchett was alive at 12:40 when he spoke to the conductor.

Half an hour ago, Ratchett’s valet discovered Ratchett’s door was locked from the inside. Ratchett’s compartment window was open, but there were no footprints in the snow below. The officer is convinced the murder was committed by an angry woman, but the doctor explains that several of the blows were delivered with exceptional force while others seem rather haphazardly given. Poirot reveals that Ratchett told him yesterday that he felt his life was in danger. Bouc recalls a large, uncouth America man in berth sixteen, but the conductor is certain he would have seen him.

Bouc asks Poirot to oversee the investigation. He can interview and examine every clue, and Bouc knows Poirot will solve the case. Poirot accepts, certain this will make the time pass more quickly. He asks for a plan of the train and a list of passengers, as well as their passports and tickets. The murderer has to be on the Istanbul-Calais coach, the coach in which Poirot is traveling. No one could have left the train since twelve thirty last night, so the murderer is still aboard.