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by Agatha Christie

Chapter 1 - An Important Passenger on the Taurus Express
Chapter 2 - The Tokatlian Hotel
Match the 16 images with the 16 characters
Chapter 7 - The Body
Video extracts - The Body
Chapter 8 - The Armstrong Kidnapping Case
Video extracts - interrogations
Feedback by the students
Selection of links

School Year 2004-2005 4ème Européenne
The class studied extracts from :
the novel, a strip cartoon and the film (by Sidney Lumet)
They learnt their parts and shot videos.

Chapter 1 - An Important Passenger on the Taurus Express

It was five o'clock on a winter's morning in Syria. Alongside the platform (1) at Aleppo stood the train grandly designed in Railway guides as the Taurus Express. It consisted of a kitchen and dining-car, a sleeping-car and two local coaches.

And then there had come this Belgian stranger - all the way from England.

"You have saved us, mon cher", said the General emotionally.

To which the stranger (by name M. Hercule Poirot) had made a fitting reply including the phrase :

"But indeed do I not remember that once you saved my life?"
"Today is Sunday", said Lieutenant Dubosc.
"Tomorrow, Monday evening, you will be in Stamboul (2)".
"That is so", agreed M. Poirot.
"And you intend to remain there a few days, I think?"
"Mais oui. Stamboul, it is a city I have never visited. It would be a pity (3) to pass through it - comme ça."

Mary Debenham had had little sleep since she left Baghdad on the preceding Thursday. Two men below her window were talking French. One was a French officer, the other was a little man with enormous moustaches.
The Wagon Lit conductor (4) had come up to the two men. The train was about to depart, he said. The little man removed his hat. What an egg-shaped head he had. In spite of (5) her preoccupations Mary Debenham smiled. A ridiculous-looking little man. The sort of little man one could never take seriously.

"En voiture, Monsieur", said the Wagon Lit conductor.
"There are not many people travelling, I imagine", Poirot said to the conductor.
"No, Monsieur. I have only two other passengers - both English. A Colonel from India, and a young English lady from Baghdad."

She was tall, slim and dark - perhaps twenty-eight years of age. M. Hercule Poirot, having nothing better to do, amused himself by studying her without appearing to do so. She had poise (6) and efficiency.
Presently (7) another person entered the restaurant-car. This was a tall man of between forty and fifty, lean of figure (8), brown of skin, with hair slightly grizzled around the temples. The newcomer gave a little bow to the girl.

"Morning, Miss Debenham."
"Good-morning, Colonel Arbuthnot."

The Colonel was standing with a hand on the chair opposite her.

"Any objection?", he asked.
"Of course not. Sit down"

True to their nationality, the two English people were not chatty (9). They exchanged a few brief remarks.
At lunch time the other two again shared a table.
Their conversation was more animated than at breakfast. The Colonel inquired if she was going straight through (10) to England or if she was stopping in Stamboul.

"No, I'm going straight on."
"Oh, I see. Well, I may say I'm very glad you are going straight, because I am."


(1) platform : quai
(2) Stamboul : Istanbul (la ville d')
(3) it would be a pity : ce serait dommage
(4) conductor : chef de train
(5) in spite of : malgré
(6) poise : port, assurance
(7) presently : bientôt
(8) lean of figure : mince
(9) chatty : bavard
(10) straight through : directement


1 Where does the scene take place ? (country and town)
2 When does the scene take place ? (season and precise day)
3 What is the equipment on the train ? (rooms)
4 Why is there a sleeping-car ?

5 What's the name of the Belgian stranger ?
6 Find other details about this man.
7 Why was he in the East ? (remember his job)
8 What is he going to do now ?
9 Who are the two other main characters ?
10 Read the description of Poirot : is it the narrator's point of view ?


Taurus Express information
Middle East map
map game test your knowledge !

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Chapter 2 - The Tokatlian Hotel

The Taurus Express arrived at 7.00 pm at Haydapassar near the Strait of the Bosphorus.

The Bosphorus was rough (1) and M. Poirot didn't enjoy the crossing. On arrival at the Galata Bridge he drove straight to the Tokatlian Hotel.
At the Tokatlian Hotel, Hercule Poirot asked for a room with bath. Then he stepped over the concierge's desk and inquired for letters. There were three and a telegram. He opened it in his usual neat, unhurried fashion :

"Development you predicted in Kassner case has come unexpectedly.
Please return immediately."

"Voilà ce qui est embêtant, " muttered (2) Poirot.
"I shall have to leave tonight. At what time does the Simplon Orient leave, Monsieur?"
"At nine o'clock, Monsieur." "Can you get me a sleeper (3)?"
"Assuredly, Monsieur. There is no difficulty this time of the year. The trains are almost empty (4). How far are you going?"
"To London."
"Bien, Monsieur, I'll get you a ticket to London and reserve your sleeping-car accommodation in the Stamboul-Calais coach."
"I have time to dine?"
"But assuredly, Monsieur."
As he was giving his order to the waiter, a hand was placed on his shoulder.

"Ah, mon vieux!" said a voice behind him. The speaker was a short, elderly (5) man, his hair cut en brosse.
"M. Bouc!"
"M. Poirot!"

M. Bouc was a Belgian, a director of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons Lits, and his acquaintance (6) with the former star of the Belgian police force dated back many years.

"You return home - when?"
"Splendid! I, too. That is to say, I go as far as Lausanne."
"We will meet later," said M. Bouc.

M. Poirot addressed himself to the task of keeping his moustaches out of his soup.
He was looking at two American people in the restaurant. The younger was a likeable-looking man but the other - between sixty and seventy - produced an unpleasant impression on Poirot.

"I had a curious impression. It was as if a wild (7) animal had passed by me," he told M. Bouc in the lounge.

The concierge came towards them and said :

"There is not one first-class sleeping berth."
"Comment?" cried M. Bouc. "At this time of year ?"
"Well, well...have no fear (8), my friend. We will arrange something."
Finally M. Hercule Poirot was given a second-class sleeping berth in No.7. He shared (9) the cabin with MacQueen.
Outside a voice shouted : "En voiture!"
The Orient Express had started on its three-day journey across Europe.


(1) rough sea : mer agitée
(2) to mutter : marmonner
(3) sleeper
= berth : couchette
(4) empty
: vide
(5) elderly
= old
(6) acquaintance : connaissance, amitié
(7) wild
: sauvage
(8) have no fear !
= don't be afraid ! : n'ayez crainte!
(9) to share
: partager


Activity 1 True or False? - Quote the text
1 M. Poirot loved his journey all the way from Aleppo to Stamboul.
2 On his arrival at the Tokatlian Hotel, he intended to stay in Stamboul a few days.
3 In winter the trains are usually full of passengers.
4 M. Bouc sounded enthusiastic to travel with M. Poirot.
5 M. Bouc was sorry because he can't find a free sleeper for his old friend.

Activity 2 Put into the chronological order
A An unexpected telegram arrived from London for M. Poirot.
B M. Bouc and M. Poirot unexpectedly met in the restaurant.
C M. Poirot crossed the Strait of the Bosphorus.
D A strange American sttracted the detective's attention.
E The Orient Express left Stamboul.
F M. Poirot asked for a first-class sleeper on the Orient Express.
G MacQueen and M. Poirot became roommates.

.pdf format extract and activities


Strait of the Bosphorus information

Click to enlarge

of the page

Match the 16 pictures with the 16 characters

16 pictures

Here are the names of the 16 characters :

(The characters you haven't met yet are described below)

M. Hercule Poirot
M. Bouc
Hector MacQueen
M. Ratchett
Mrs Hubbard
Princess Dragomiroff
Colonel Arbuthnot and Mary Debenham
Prince Andrenyi : Hungarian / blond-haired / moustache
Dr Constantine : doctor on the train / quite old / thinks the victim was poisoned
Foscarelli :Italian businessman / exuberant / wearing glasses
Mr Hardman : American salesman / old / quite fat
Princess Andrenyi : Hungarian / smart / blond-haired /young
Mr Masterman : British / the victim's secretary / tall / old / long nose
Miss Ohlsson : Swedish / middle-aged / slim / smart

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Chapter 7 - The Body

Followed by Dr. Constantine, Poirot made his way to the compartment of the murdered man.

"Brrr," observed Poirot.
Poirot examined the window carefully.
"Possibly the open window was intended to suggest that somebody left the carriage this way. Criminals do not make mistakes of that kind nowadays (1)."

"The body is not pretty," he said.
"Someone must have stood there and stabbed again and again. How many wounds are there exactly?"
"I make it twelve. One or two slight (2). On the other hand, at least (3) three would be capable of causing death. Great strength (4) was needed for those blows (5). They could not have been delivered by a woman."

They looked round them : Ratchett's day clothing... an ashtray (6) containing the butt of a cigar and charred (7) fragments of paper. Poirot's eyes looked round. Nothing could escape their scrutiny. He picked up something from the floor. It was a small piece of cambric (8) with an embroidered initial - H.

"A woman's handkerchief," said the doctor.
"There is a woman concerned in this."

Poirot also found a pipe-cleaner on the floor and a gold watch saying a quarter past one.

"One cannot complain of having no clues in this case. There are clues here in abundance! How many women are there in this coach?"
"Six, Monsieur. The old American lady, a Swedish lady, the young English lady, the Countess Andrenyi and Madame la Princesse Dragomiroff and her maid."


(1) nowadays
: de nos jours
(2) slight : léger, superficiel
(3) at least : au moins
(4) strength : force
(5) blow : coup
(6) ashtray : cendrier (ash : cendre)
(7) charred : carbonisé
(8) cambric : une batiste (toile de lin très fine)


1 Poirot concluded that the killer :
A escaped through the window.
B left the window open by mistake.
C was still on the train.

2 Dr Constantine said :
A all the wounds were serious.
B a few wounds were serious.
C the wounds were all slight.

3 The Doctor thinks :
A the murderer can't be a man.
B the murderer can't be a woman.
C the murderer was very strong.

4 According to Poirot, finding plenty of clues is :
A a lucky situation.
B rather strange and confusing.
C exceptional.

5 Poirot wants to question the women about :
A the handkerchief.
B the open window.
C the charred fragments of paper.

Bonus : what do you think about the charred fragments of paper?
(what sort of paper can Mr Ratchett have received before his death? What about?)

.pdf format extract and activities

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Video extracts - The Body

1 M. Poirot and MacQueen
MacQueen looks and sounds ...
How many years did he work for M. Ratchett?
What is he showing M. Poirot?
What messages are written on them ?

2 M. Poirot and the charred fragments of paper
Under M. Ratchett's pillow (1), M. Poirot dicovers a ... .
Dr Constantine finds a ... with the letter "H".
M. Poirot doesn't know if the "H" is for a ... or a ... .
He is using a hatbox (2) to ... .
What can he read?

3 M. Poirot and M. Bouc
What do you learn about M. Ratchett's real identity?
What is the complete name written on the charred fragments of paper?
What do you learn about her?
What about her father? Her mother? Her nursemaid?


(1) pillow
: oreiller
(2) hatbox : carton à chapeaux


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Chapter 8 - The Armstrong Kidnapping Case

M. Poirot and M. Bouc are discussing the discovery

"I have dicovered the identity of the victim. I know why he had to leave America", said Poirot.
"Who was he?"

"Do you remember reading of the Armstrong baby? This is the man who murdered little ... Armstrong. Cassetti."
"I recall
(1) it now. A shocking affair - though (2) I cannot remember the details."

"Colonel Armstrong was an Englishman, he was half American. He married the daughter of Linda Arden, the most famous tragic American actress of her day. They lived in ... and had one child - a girl whom they idolized
(3). When she was ... years old, she was kidnapped, and an impossibly high sum (4) demanded as the price of her return. After her parents had paid over the enormous sum of two hundred thousand ...., the child's dead body was discovered. And there was worse than that. Mrs Armstrong was expecting (5) another ... . Following the shock of the discovery she gave birth (6) prematurely to a dead child, and herself died. Her broken-hearted .... shot himself (7)."

"Mon Dieu, what a tragedy, I remember now," said M. Bouc.
"There was another death if I remember righly?"

"Yes, an unfortunate French or Swiss nursemaid. The police were convinced that she had some knowledge
(8) of the crime. They refused to believe in her hysterical denials. Finally, in a fit of despair (9) the poor girl threw ... from a window and was killed. It was proved afterwards that she had been absolutely innocent."
"It is not good to think of," said M. Bouc.

"After six months this man Cassetti was arrested. But because he was rich, he was acquitted. He changed his ... and left America. Since then he has been a gentleman travelling abroad and living on his rentes."
"Ah, quel animal!", M. Bouc said.

"The question now is : is this murder the work of some rival gang or is it an act of private vengeance ?"
"Are there any members of the Armstrong family living?," asked M. Bouc.
"That, ..., I do not know," M. Poirot answered.


(1) recall = remember : se rappeler
(2) though = although : bien que
(3) idolize : adorer
(4) sum : somme d'argent
(5) expect : attendre (un enfant)
(6) give (gave-given) birth to : donner naissance à
(7) shoot (shot-shot) oneself : se tuer avec une arme
(8) knowlegde : connaissance

(9) a fit of despair : un accès de rage


Complete the text with these words :

unfortunately - herself - three - Daisy - dollars - husband
name - baby - America

Match the two parts of the sentences :

Find 9 adjectives in the word square and match them to their opposites in the list :

.pdf format extract and activities

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Video extracts - interrogations


- What questions is M. Poirot going to ask?
- Who is he going to ask these questions?
- Write 3 questions in reported speech (1).

Interrogation 1
Personal information about his wife? their daughter?
Information about the passengers : How many did he see?
What do Dr Constantine and M. Bouc think?

Interrogation 2
Reaction about Ratchett's real identity :
sad? surprised? relieved? (2) indifferent ?
Personal information : His ... was the district attorney who handled the case.
Who did he greatly admire?
Who's asking questions?
What does M. Bouc think?
Does M. Constantine agree with him?

Interrogation 3
What time did he last see Mr Ratchett ?
Who was M. Masterman's roommate?
Did he have a good sleep?
Reaction about Ratchett's real identity :
sad? - surprised? - understands his temper better now?
What does M. Bouc think?

Interrogation 4
Complete name?
How does she behave?
calm? nervous? provocative? respectful? quick-witted? (3)
What does he she want to show M. Poirot?

Interrogation 5

Could they refuse the interrogation?
What surprises M. Poirot about her passport?
What is Countess Andrenyi's complete name?
Have they ever lived in America?

Interrogation 6
What is Hildegarde doing when M. Poirot and M. Bouc come in?
Princess Dragomiroff was ...'s godmother (4).
She and Linda Arden were very good friends.
Linda Arden was Daisy's ...
What was Linda Arden famous for?
Is she still alive?
Has she got other relatives?


(1) reported speech : discours indirect
(2) to snore : ronfler
(3) quick-witted : vif d'esprit
(4) godmother : marraine

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Each page includes :
- the dialogue
- stressed syllable help
- .pdf format sketch to be used in class

Sketch 01 Poirot - MacQueen - Bouc (first interrogation)
Sketch 02 Poirot - Bouc (discovery of Mr Ratchett's real identity)
Sketch 03 MacQueen - Poirot - Bouc - Doctor Constantine
Sketch 04 Poirot - Mrs Hubbard
Sketch 05 Poirot - Dragomiroff - Hildegarde

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Selection of links

plot, character list, quotations, key facts... sparknotes.com

cast and photos imdb.com

notes & Lindbergh kidnapping answers.com

official site of the luxury train orientexpress.com

the truth behind the legend seat61.com

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