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Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express & Van Dine’s “Classic List of Rules for the Detective Story” . By: Cameron Smith and Jalen Hutchinson. Van Dine’s Detective Story Vocabulary. Credo – a statement of the beliefs or aims that guide’s someone’s actions

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Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express &Van Dine’s “Classic List of Rules for the Detective Story”

By: Cameron Smith and Jalen Hutchinson

van dine s detective story vocabulary
Van Dine’s Detective Story Vocabulary
  • Credo – a statement of the beliefs or aims that guide’s someone’s actions
  • Hymeneal – adjective poetic/literary of or concerning marriage
  • Latter – belonging to the final stages of something, recent
  • Spinster – an unmarried woman, typically an older woman beyond the usual age for marriage
  • Sleuth or sleuthing – a detective or detecting
m ore vocabulary
more vocabulary…
  • Gemutlich – German word meaning pleasant or cheerful
  • Avail – to use or take advantage of
  • Ineptitude – having or showing no skill
  • Hypodermic – of or relating to the region directly beneath the skin
  • Cipher – a secret or disguised way of writing, a code
the classic list of rules for a detective story
“The Classic List of Rules for a Detective Story”

   1. The reader must have equal opportunity with the detective for solving the mystery.

   2. No deceptions may be placed on the reader other than those played legitimately by the criminal on the detective himself.

   3. There must be no love interest.

   4. The detective himself, or one of the official investigators, should never turn out to be the criminal.

   5. The criminal must be determined by logical inferences, not by accident or coincidence or unmotivated confession.

   6. The detective novel must have a detective in it

more rules
More Rules….

   7. There simply must be a corpse in a detective novel

   8. The problem of the crime must he solved by strictly natural means.

   9. There must be but one detective

   10. The culprit must turn out to be a person who has played a more or less prominent part in the story

   11. A servant must not be chosen by the author as the culprit.

   12. There must be but one culprit, no matter how many murders are committed.

   13. Secret societies, camorras, mafias have no place in a detective story.

and more rules
And More Rules…

   14. The method of murder, and the means of detecting it, must be be sensible and scientific.

   15. The truth of the problem must at all times be apparent

   16. A detective novel should contain no long descriptive passages, no literary dallying with side-issues, no faintly worked-out character analyses, no "distinctive" preoccupations.

   17. A professional criminal must never be shouldered with the guilt of a crime in a detective story.

   18. A crime in a detective story must never turn out to be an accident or a suicide.

   19. The motives for all crimes in detective stories should be personal.

   20. (a) Determining the identity of the culprit by comparing the butt of a cigarette left at the scene of the crime with the brand smoked by a suspect. (b) The bogus spiritualistic se'ance to frighten the culprit into giving himself away. (c) Forged fingerprints. (d) The dummy-figure alibi. (e) The dog that does not bark and thereby reveals the fact that the intruder is familiar. (f)The final pinning of the crime on a twin, or a relative who looks exactly like the suspected, but innocent, person. (g) The hypodermic syringe and the knockout drops. (h) The commission of the murder in a locked room after the police have actually broken in. (i) The word association test for guilt. (j) The cipher, or code letter, which is eventually unraveled by the sleuth.

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Rule #12

“The Classic List of Rules for the Detective Story”

“12. There must be but one culprit, no matter how many murders are committed. The culprit may, of course, have a minor helper or co-plotter, but the entire onus must rest on one pair of shoulders: the entire indignation of the reader must be permitted to concentrate on a single black nature” (Van Dine).

Explanation:

In Christies Murder on the Orient Express, she leads you to believe that there is only one killer or maybe a single murderer and his accomplice but as you come to the final stages of the novel Poirot states that there is not only one killer but twelve of them. In fact he states it was all twelve passengers involved, substituting Countess Adrenyi for Pierre Michel. This contradicts Van Dine’s 12th rule because there was more than one person involved in the murdering of Ratchet (Cassetti) aboard the train.

Murder on the Orient Express:

“For so many people connected to the Armstrong case to be traveling by the same train through coincidence was not only unlikely: it was impossible. It must be not chance, but design. I remembered a remark of Colonel Arbuthnot’s about trial by jury. A jury is composed of twelve people-----there were twelve passengers-----Ratchet was stabbed twelve times. And the thing that had worried me all along----the extraordinary crowd traveling in the Stamboul-Calais coach at a slack time of year----this was explained.” (Christie 239).

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Rule #18

“The Classic List of Rules for the Detective Story”

“18. A crime in a detective story must never turn out to be an accident or a suicide. To end an odyssey of sleuthing with such an anti-climax is to hoodwink the trusting and kid-hearted reader” (Van Dine).

Explanation:

In the Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie does a great job telling the reader and ruling out early in the story that suicide or accidental killing should be ruled out. Agatha Christie does this to tell that this was not a suicide or accidental but a specific motive and murder that someone else carried out.

Murder on the Orient Express:

“ The door was locked and chained on the inside,” said Poirot thoughtfully. “ It was not suicide- eh?” The Greek doctor gave a sardonic laugh. “ Does a man who commits suicide stab himself ten-twelve-fifteen places” (Christie 41).

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Rule #13

“The Classic List of Rules for the Detective Story”

“13. Secret societies, camorras, mafias, et al., have no place in a detective story. A fascinating and truly beautiful murder is irremediably spoiled by any such wholesale culpability. To be sure, the murderer in a detective novel should be given a supporting chance; but it is going to far to grant him a secret society to fall back on. No high-class, self-respecting murderer would want such odds.” (Van Dine).

Explanation:

When the body is discovered and Ratchets room is searched for evidence, a small burnt piece of paper is found which, after Poirot deciphers the almost unreadable writing with a hatbox and a lighter, read “aisy Arms.” Poirot saw through this and completed the phrase stating that the paper had once read Daisy Armstrong; the child who was murdered in a case Poirot had been a part of in America. This is an example of how Murder on the Orient Express does not support Van Dine’s 13th rule because the criminal involved in the Armstrong case was part of a gang and was also the victim when aboard the Orient Express. This all means that the influence of secret societies influence the stories plot therefore contradicting Van Dine’s 13th rule.

Murder on the Orient Express:

“About six months later, this man Cassetti was arrested as the head of the gang who had kidnapped the child” (Christie 41).

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Rule #9

“The Classic List of Rules for the Detective Story”

“9. There must be one detective- that is, but one protagonist of deduction- one deus ex machina. To bring the minds of three or four, or sometimes a gang of detective to bear on a problem, is not only to disperse the interest and break the direct thread of logic, but to take an unfair advantage of the reader run a race with a relay team.

Explanation:

When the Ratchett is murdered the following morning M. Bouc ask Poirot if he would take the case because he knows of Poirot’s abilities and how he can solve a case. He also knows that Poirot is the only detective on board and tries to persuade Poirot to take the case by telling him this would be an easy case to solve. Only having one detective is truly following the rules set by Van Dine in the rule that he sated as number 9.

Murder on the Orient Express:

“Come my friend, “ said M. Bouc. “ you comprehend what I am about to ask of you. I know your powers. Take command of this investigation”……… “ Your faith touches me, my friend, “ said Poirot emotionally. “ As you say, this cannot be a difficult case……” C’est entendu. You place the matter in my hands” (Christie 41 & 42).

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Rule #7

“The Classic List of Rules for the Detective Story”

“7. There simply must be a corpse in a detective novel, and the deader the corpse the better. No lesser crime than murder will suffice. Three hundred pages is far too much pother for a crime other than murder. After all, the reader's trouble and expenditure of energy must be rewarded.

Explanation:

this rule by Agatha Christie is extremely prevalent in her novel Murder on the Orient Express. This rule is prevalent in this novel because there was one victim who was murder. This rule also says the deader the corpse the better and this fits the story also because the victim Ratchett was stabbed twelve times.

Murder on the Orient Express:

“ And now a passenger lies dead in his berth-stabbed”(Christie 39).

does murder on the orient express fit in with the pattern laid out by van dine
Does Murder on The Orient Express fit in with the pattern laid out by Van Dine?

The murder in the Orient Express fits very well with Van dines twenty rules for writing a detective story because many of the characteristics and rules set fourth by van dine. Some of those rules that are in the story include there only being one detective, there must be a corpse in the story, and the motives for the crime must be personal. Even though of the many rules that do conquer with the story there are some that do not. Those rules include there only be one criminal and there should be no love interest. I believe that this story follows many of van dines rules because of the vast amount of rules that Agatha Christie portrayed in her novel. This following quote shows a great example of rule number twelve that Agatha Christie portrayed in her novel which was…”A jury is composed of twelve people-----there were twelve passengers-----Ratchet was stabbed twelve times”(Christie 239).

works cited
Works Cited

Christie, Agatha. Murder on the Orient Express. Toronto: Bantam, 1983. Print.

Dine, S.S Van. ""Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories." American Magazine Sept. 1928: n. pag. Web.