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Book Club Kits: Murder on the Orient Express

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Book Summary

Travelling on the Orient Express, Poirot is approached by a desperate American named Ratchett. Afraid that someone plans to kill him, Ratchett asks Poirot for help. Sadly the very next day Ratchett's worst fears become reality, when he is found dead in his cabin, a victim of multiple stab wounds. With nothing but a scrap of paper to go on, Poirot must piece together Ratchett’s identity before he can establish which of his fellow passengers murdered him.

Discussion Questions

  • The fellow travelers in Murder on the Orient Express represent a wide range of nationalities, classes, and personalities. To what extent is the cast of characters representative of a particular time and place? Does it also reflect human society in a more general, universal sense? If so, how does Christie achieve this?

  • How does the unusual setting of Murder on the Orient Express shape the structure of Poirot’s investigation? What advantages does it give him? What challenges does it present that makes it more complicated than other cases with which he has been involved?

  • Poirot recounts what he knows about each of the passengers (pp. 184-187) and makes a list of “things needing explanation” (p. 189-90). In addition to clarifying the facts, what other purpose do these summaries serve? What do they reveal about Poirot’s methods? What elements of his personality—good and bad—come into focus in his discussions with M. Bouc and Dr. Constantine?
  • Discuss the individual interviews Poirot conducts with the passengers. Does his approach differ according to the class, gender, background, or profession of the interviewees? As you accumulate information about circumstances surrounding the crime and learn more about the identities of the passengers, which characters emerge as the most likely suspects?
  • In writing Murder on the Orient Express, Christie was clearly inspired by the most sensational crime of the period—the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh’s son on March 1, 1932 and the discovery of his body ten weeks later. Does the connection to this famous, real-life tragedy enhance the power of the novel? What can a fictionalized version of a crime provide that contemporaneous reporting or historical accounts cannot? Is Christie’s “resolution” more satisfying than what actually occurred in the Lindbergh case?