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I just saw the new version of Murder on the Orient Express. At the very beginning of the film, Hercules Poirot manages to get a seat on the train because someone did not check in on time. Near the end of the film we learn that

all of the passengers on the train knew each other and were gathering to kill Cassetti.

It would then make sense that the missing passenger was also a member of this group. This would also explain why MacQueen seemed so surprised by Poirot's arrival.

Do we know who this missing person was, either from the book, previous film, or interviews?

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In most versions of Murder on the Orient Express, a director of the train train company (M. Bouc) gives up his 1st class accomodation to Hercule Poirot as he is alighting in Italy.

The wikipedia entry for this movie does not explicity cover this but when combined with the entry for the novel it seems clear.

Movie 2017

Receiving a telegram from London about an impending case, Poirot must return home, with Bouc offering him a place onboard the fully booked Express.

Novel

On the second night of the journey, as he is only travelling to Italy, M. Bouc gives up his first class-compartment to Poirot, who is going to Calais. This gives Poirot the compartment next to Mr. Ratchett.

In the novel a "A.M.Harris" is listed but does not arrive.

“No. 7 berth—a second-class. The gentleman has not yet come, and it is four minutes to nine.”

“Who is it?”

“An Englishman,” the conductor consulted his list. “A M. Harris.”

“A name of good omen,” said Poirot. “I read my Dickens. M. Harris he will not arrive.”

“Put Monsieur’s luggage in No. 7,” said M. Bouc. “If this M. Harris arrives we will tell him that he is too late—that berths cannot be retained so long—we will arrange the matter one way or another. What do I care for a M. Harris?”

From the novel it seems that Harris was, in fact, non-existent. MacQueen attempts to protest when Poirot is assigned the compartment but the conductor is forced to confirm....

Poirot noticed the apology in his tone with some amusement. Doubtless the man had been promised a good tip if he could keep the compartment for the sole use of the other traveller. However, even the most munificent of tips lose their effect when a Director of the Company is on board and issues his orders.

  • So what of the passenger who was supposed to be sharing a berth with MacQueen? Was that Buoc, or does the movie differ from the book on where Poirot's original compartment was? – David K Nov 20 '17 at 14:59
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    I've added something to that effect. MacQueen (in the novel) had bribed the conductor to not assign the other berth. – Paulie_D Nov 20 '17 at 15:17
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Christie was a voracious reader and enjoyed Dickens. In the book MOTOE, Poirot says "M. Harris will not arrive. I read my Dickens." The implication is that Harris is like Mrs. Harris in "Martin Chuzzlewit," a made-up character, and Poirot has intuited this person is not real because he is a reader of Dickens. Of course This is Christie giving us a clue. It was a fake booking to ensure the train was only filled with Ratchett, our victim, and the murderers.

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