Murder on the Orient Express: Analysis Project MADY STARKE AND SOPHIE WHEELER
10 UNFAMILIAR WORDS FROM THE “Twenty rules for writing detective stories” by S.S. VAN DINe • Pretenses, noun; something false, or the act of pretending • Expenditure, noun; something that is used up • Camorras, noun; any similar group or society • Irremediably, adjective; not admitting or repair • Culpability, noun; guilt or blame that is deserved • Pseudo-science, noun; any numerous methods, theories, or systems considered as having no scientific basis • Cavorting, verb; behaving • Delineation, noun; a sketch or draft • Verisimilitude, noun; something with the appearance of truth • Hypodermic, adjective; stimulating or energizing
Twenty Rules For writing a detective story (our version) • 1. The clues must be described clearly so that the reader is engaged in solving the mystery. • 2. The author cannot lead the reader down the wrong path with false clues. • 3. The story can not be side tracked with a love a love interest; its a mystery not a romance novel. • 4. The protagonist should never be the bad guy, that would be playing a trick on the reader. • 5. The mystery must be solved by the reader figuring out the clues, not by confessions or accidents. • 6. The detective must talented in solving clues so that the reader may also reach similar conclusions. • 7. A true detective story must have a dead person to make it satisfying when you solve it. • 8. You can not use tricks to solve the mystery, the reader must use critical thinking skills. • 9.The story must have one detective, not a team, or else that would confuse the reader. • 10. The murderer must be an important person in the story, and not a small character.
Continued… • 11.) It would not be wise of the author to pick someone of lower status to be the culprit in his story. The servant is most always seen as a suspect. The murderer has to be someone that is the least likely to be suspected, someone who is interesting, someone who wouldn’t usually be considered as the culprit. • 12.) In the end, only one person can be accused as the main murderer, no matter how many people were killed. The culprit may have accomplices or helpers to carry out the murder, but the main killer must take all responsibility. • 13.) Secret groups should not be present in a murder story, because it gives the suspects some place to hide or something to cover up their wrong-doings. Murderers who have self-respect would not want that secret society to help them. These groups take away the fun and expose obvious relationships in a piece of literature. • 14.) The way the murder is gone about must be well thought out. Also, the way the detective tries to resolve the mystery should be based on scientific facts presented in the story, not based on assumptions and stereotypes. • 15.) The solution to the mystery should be fairly obvious throughout the story. The clues should be so out in the open that if the reader were to read the book once more, they would see all the clues pointing to the guilty suspect. • 16.) A novel that is solely based on a mystery should not have lengthy, excessively detailed paragraphs. The novel must be straight to the point, but without eliminating the necessary details. • 17.) The person whom you least expect in a story should be the experienced criminal, not someone who is known for their dark past. • 18.) Under no circumstances should the crime end up being a suicide or mistake. This is just like pulling the wool in front of the readers eyes. • 19.) The reason for the killing in all murder mysteries should be directly related to the culprits personal relationship with person who was murdered. It must give the reader something to relate to.
Continued… • 20.) Here are a list of multiple scenarios that the author should never include in their piece of literature: • The identity of the accused murderer should not be exposed by comparing items found at the crime scene with items that the culprit possesses. • The interrogation of the culprit until he or she confesses that they are guilty. • Fingerprints that are fake. • Providing a fairly dumb accomplice to provide an alibi for the murderer. • The placement of a dog who does not go crazy at the sight of the culprit, showing that the trespasser is recognizable. • The concluding accusation of the felony on a relative, twin, or someone who looks quite similar to the alleged criminal. • The needle the was found with the drugs needed in order to know someone out. • The completion of a murder following the arrival of the police. • The connection to words that the suspects may have. • The letter, which is written in such a way that not just anyone can read it. The detective then figures it out at solves the case.
Rule #1 • “The Classic List of Rules for the Detective Story” • “1. The reader must have equal opportunity with the detective for solving the mystery. All clues must be plainly stated and described.” (Van Dine) • Explanation: • Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express fits Van Dine’s set of rules in many ways, specifically number #1. It pretty much means all clues should be clearly laid out in a fashion that the reader can easily follow along without figuring out too much before the final revealing of the culprit! HerculePoirot is a good detective and the clues are described clearly, as if the reader was the detective seeing the actual clues. • Murder on the Orient Express: • “It was a very tiny scrap. Only three words and part of another showed. -Member Little Daisy Armstrong” (Christie 61).
Rule #10 • “The Classic List of Rules for the Detective Story” • “10. The culprit must turn out to be a person who has played a more or less prominent part in the story- that is, a person with whom the reader is familiar and in whom he takes an interest.” (Van Dine) • Explanation: • Murder on the Orient Express follows Rule #10 of Van Dine’s Classic List. Rule #10 means the murderer should be someone who is well known to the reader and well described. In Christie’s novel, the murder was not only a main character, but it was almost all of the characters. It was a plot twist not many were expecting. • Murder on the Orient Express: • “And then, Messieurs, I saw light. They were all in it. For so many people connected with the Armstrong case to be traveling by the same train through coincidence was not only unlikely: it was impossible” (Christie 239).
“The Classic List of Rules for the Detective Story” “11. A servant must not be chosen by the author as the culprit. This is begging a noble question. It is a too easy solution. The culprit must be a decidedly worth-while person- one that wouldn’t ordinarily come under suspicion.” Explanation: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie fits this rule extremely well.Not only did she make it seem as if all of the characters could be suspects, she also made it seem like only one or two could be culprits. She played clever tricks on your mind. She wonderfully went into great depth with each characters personalities so non-chalantly that you would miss every obvious clue whenever she dropped them. Murder on the Orient Express: “M. Bouc shook his head. “I think you are wrong, my friend. I do not see that young English girl as a criminal” “ (Christie 141). Rule #11
“The Classic List of Rules for the Detective Story” “17. A professional criminal must never be shouldered with the guilt of a crime in a detective story. Crimes by housebreakers and bandits are the province of the police departments – not of authors and brilliant amateur detectives. A really fascinating crime is one committed by a pillar of a church, or a spinster noted for her charities.” Explanation: Agatha Christie’s novel Murder on the Orient Express applies to rule #17 particularly. Rule #17 is essentially stating that the person you least expect to be the culprit is exactly who it turns out to be. In this book, it was anticipated that there would only be one or two perpetrators, but instead there were twelve. Murder on the Orient Express: “It was so arranged that, if suspicion should fall on any one person, the evidence of one or more of the others would clear the accused person and confuse the issue” (Christie 239). Rule #17
“The Classic List of Rules for the Detective Story” “19. The motives for all crimes in detective stories should be personal. International plottings and war politics belong in different category of fiction-in secret-service tales, for instance. But a murder story must be kept gemutlitch, so to speak.It must reflect the reader’s everyday experiences, and give him a certain outlet for his own repressed desires and emotions.” Explanation: All of the characters that turned out to be guilty in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express were all related through the Armstong case. All of these characters had the motivation to kill Ratchett because he was behind the abduction and murder of Daisy Armstrong. Murder on the Orient Express: “I would have stabbed that man twelve times willingly…. But it’s unnecessary to bring all these others into it” (Christie 245). Rule #19
Summary • Murder on the Orient Express does not fit in Van Dine’s criteria. Many of the rules that Van Dine came up with were broken in this novel, but it was in a logical way. The violation of these rules adds to the suspense in the story, making it worth-while to read. Many of Van Dine’s rules made sense, but the way they were used in this book contributed to the final outcome in a very positive way. Many people would not dare to stray from these rules, but Agatha Christie ensured that they played into the plot in a reasonable way.
Work Cited • Christie, Agatha. Murder on the Orient Express. Toronto: Bantam, • 1983. Print. • Van Dine, S.S. ""Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories"“ • American Magazine Sept. 1928: n. pag. Web.