I'm a rich man, Mr. Poirot. I have enemies, but I need to get to Calais. You start now.
~ Ratchet (Cassetti) tried to convince Poirot to protect him

Lanfranco Cassetti (also known as Samuel Ratchet) is the main antagonist of Agatha Chrsitie's 1934 Hercule Poirot novel Murder on the Orient Express and its adaptations.

Initially, Cassetti/Ratchett appeared as the story's victim. However, he was soon revealed to be a notorious kidnapper and child murderer and was killed by the victim's relatives and friends (thirteen people in total on the same train).

Portrayals

Biography

Cassetti was the leader of a gang which kidnapped people for ransom. According to Poirot, their method was well-known to the American police. After a kidnapping, if the police appeared to be closing in on them, they would kill their victim, while continuing to extract as much money as possible before the crime was discovered.

Some years before the events on the Orient Express, Cassetti and his gang had kidnapped Daisy Armstrong, the daughter of Colonel Armstrong. Following their usual method, their collected the ransom of $200,000. After the ransom was paid, the dead body of Daisy was discovered, having been dead at least a fortnight, suggesting that they killed her before collecting the ransom, conforming to their usual methods.

In this case, however, there were four more deaths: after the shock of the Body's discovery, Daisy's Mother Sonia, at six months pregnant gave premature birth and she and the baby both died in the process, the heartbroken Colonel fatally shot himself, and Susanne Michel, Daisy's French Nursemaid who wrongly came under suspicion of complicity, threw herself out of her bedroom window, only to be found innocent afterwards. In the 1974 movie, Sonia's baby was Stillborn, while Susanne's name was Paulette and was Sonia's personal maid.

Cassetti was arrested for the crime and put on trial, but by means of the wealth he had accumulated and the "secret hold over various people" he managed to have himself acquitted over some technical inaccuracy. In the 1974 movie, he had an accomplice to help him kidnap and Murder Daisy, but then betrayed him by leaving him to be arrested, tried, convicted and executed while he disappeared with the Ransom money.

In the 2017 film, Cassetti's first name is John and he committed the crimes by himself two years earlier. In both movies, there was no trial for him as he fled the country before he could be arrested.

In Europe

To avoid further prosecution, Cassetti left America by way of travelling through Mexico and Brazil, changed his name to Samuel Edward Ratchett, and lived in the 10th Arrondisment of Paris, France.

While in Paris, he worked as a financier. He lived off his rentes, or interests paid by the French government.

A connoisseur of classical art and antiquities, Cassetti became an art dealer, and would sell art to different parties.

The art that attracted his attention the most was 13th-century Oriental pottery, such as ancient urns, frescoes, and statues. He was also attracted by Oriental rugs and carpets, and Kashan silk scarves.

To make even more money, he would create perfect forgeries of the antiquities and sell them for higher prices the antiquities true value. One notable case was in Milan, Italy, when he forged Oriental carpets, and sold them for thousands of dollars.

Cassetti spent the rest of his life travelling to the Middle East to steal these relics and antiquities from archaeological sites, return to Paris, forge them, and sell them for prices higher than their actual price value.

On January 7, 1934, Cassetti hired a bankrupt oil broker named Hector MacQueen- the son of the District Attorney at his trial - to be his secretary and courier. Since Cassetti didn't know any other languages other than English, and had even forgotten his original Italian language, MacQueen acted as his translator.

In March 1935, Cassetti hired Edward Masterman - the former butler of the Armstrongs, and the batman of Colonel Armstrong - to be his valet.

Around this time, Cassetti recieved anonymously-written threatening letters, actually written by MacQueen and Masterman as warning notes.

Death

During the journey to Western Europe on the Orient Express, Cassetti approaches Belgian Detective Hercule Poirot, who is onboard the Train with his friend and railway director M. Bouc, or Senor Bianchi in the 1974 movie. Cassetti says his life is in danger and he produces a small gun that he carries at all times, believing it's necessary. He wants to hire Poirot to discover who is threatening him. Despite offers of increasingly substantial sums of money, Poirot declines his offer.

That night Bouc/Bianchi gives Poirot his compartment while he goes to sleep in another one. In Vinkovci, at about 23 minutes before 1:00 a.m., Poirot wakes to the sound of a scream. It seems to come from the compartment next to his, which is occupied Cassetti. When Poirot peeks out his door, he sees the conductor Pierre Michelle knock on Cassetti's door and ask if he is all right. A man's voice replies in French, "Ce n'est rien. Je me suis trompé" ("It's nothing. I was mistaken"), and the conductor moves on to answer another bell further down the passage. Poirot decides to go back to bed, but is disturbed by the fact that the train is unusually still.

As he lies awake, Poirot hears Mrs. Caroline Hubbard (Harriet in 1974), ringing the bell urgently. When he rings the conductor for a bottle of mineral water, Poirot learns that Mrs. Hubbard claimed that someone had been in her compartment and the train has stopped because a large snowdrift is blocking the track. He dismisses the conductor and tries to go back to sleep, only to be awakened again by a knock on his door. This time, when Poirot gets up and looks out his door, the passage outside his compartment is empty, except for a woman in a scarlet kimono retreating down the passage in the distance. The next day, he awakens to find that Cassetti is dead, having been stabbed 12 times in his sleep. Bouc/Bianchi suggests that Poirot take the case, as he is so experienced with similar mysteries. Poirot also enlists the help of Stavros Constantine, a Greek Medical Doctor. Nothing more is required than for Poirot to sit, think, and take in the available evidence.

The door to Cassetti's compartment was locked and chained. One of the windows is open. Some of the stab wounds are very deep, at least three are lethal, some are mere scratches. Furthermore, some of the wounds appear to have been inflicted by a right-handed person and some by a left-handed one. The pistol Cassetti carried is discovered under his pillow, unfired. A glass on the nightstand is examined and revealed to be drugged. A small pocket watch is discovered in Cassetti's pajamas, broken and stopped at 1:15 a.m.

Poirot finds several more clues in the victim's cabin and on board the train, including a woman's linen handkerchief embroidered with the initial "H", a pipe cleaner, and a button from a conductor's uniform. All of these clues suggest that the murderer or murderers were somewhat sloppy. However, each clue seemingly points to different suspects, which suggests that some of the clues were planted.

By reconstructing parts of a burned letter, Poirot discovers that "Ratchett" was Cassetti. As the evidence mounts, it continues to point in different directions, giving the appearance that Poirot is being challenged by a mastermind. A critical piece of missing evidence—the scarlet kimono worn the night of the murder by an unknown woman—turns up on top of Poirot's own luggage.

The Solution

After meditating on the evidence, Poirot assembles Bouc and Dr. Constantine, along with the 13 suspects, in the restaurant car, and lays out two possible explanations of Cassetti's murder. The first is that a stranger—some gangster enemy of Cassetti—boarded the train at Vinkovci, the previous stop, murdered Cassetti for reasons unknown, then escaped unnoticed and its possible that the man has already left Yugoslavia. The crime occurred an hour earlier than everyone thought, because the victim and several others failed to note that the train had just crossed into a different time zone. The other noises heard by Poirot on the coach that evening were unrelated to the murder. However, Dr. Constantine objects, saying that Poirot must surely be aware that this doesn't explain the circumstances of the case.

Poirot's second explanation is much longer and rather more sensational: all of the suspects are guilty. Poirot's suspicions were first aroused by the fact that all the passengers on the train and the conductor were of so many different nationalities and social classes, and that only in the "melting pot" of the United States would a group of such different people form some connection with each other.

Poirot reveals that the 12 other passengers on the train, and Pierre, were all connected to the Armstrong family in some way:

  • Hector Willard MacQueen, Cassetti's secretary was devoted to Sonia Armstrong. MacQueen's father was the district attorney for the kidnapping case. He knew from his father the details of Cassetti's escape from justice and intended to kill Cassetti. In the book, MacQueen's father failed at getting Cassetti convicted, while in the 1974 movie, managed to get Cassetti's accomplice sentenced to death. In both the book and the 1974 film, Hector's father had known that Susanne/Paulette was never involved In the kidnapping while in the 2017 movie, his father, under pressure, prosecuted her and had her sent to prison, with his career being destroyed when the truth was discovered after her suicide.
  • Edward Henry Masterman, Cassetti's valet, was Colonel Armstrong's batman during the war, and later his valet, who also acted as butler to the Armstrong household. In the 1974 film, his last name is Beddoes. In the 2017 release he has his original last name and is terminally ill.
  • Colonel John Arbuthnot was Colonel Armstrong's comrade and best friend. In the 2017 movie, he was black and a Doctor, filling in Constantine's role.
  • Mrs. Hubbard is, in actuality, Linda Arden (real married last name Goldenberg), the most famous tragic actress of the New York stage, and was Sonia Armstrong's mother and Daisy's grandmother.
  • Countess Elena Andrenyi (née Helena Goldenberg) was Sonia Armstrong's sister.
  • Count Rudolph Andrenyi is the husband of Helena Andrenyi.
  • Princess Natalia Dragomiroff was Sonia Armstrong's godmother, and is a friend of her mother.
  • Miss Mary Debenham was Sonia Armstrong's secretary and Daisy Armstrong's governess.
  • Fräulein Hildegarde Schmidt was the Armstrong family's cook.
  • Antonio "Gino" Foscarelli, an Italian-American car salesman based in Chicago, was the Armstrong family's chauffeur. In the 2017, he's Cuban and his name is Biniamino Marquez.
  • Miss Greta Ohlsson, a Swedish missionary, was Daisy Armstrong's nurse. In the 2017 release, she was Spanish and named Pilar Estravados, referencing a character from Hercule Poirot's Christmas.
  • Pierre Michel, the train's conductor, was the father of Susanne/Paulette, the Armstrong's nursemaid who committed suicide. In the 2017 movie, he was Susanne's brother.
  • Cyrus Hardman, a private detective ostensibly retained as a bodyguard by Cassetti, was a policeman in love with Susanne/Paulette. In the 1974 film, he is a Pinkerton detective hired to guard Cassetti while masquerading as a theatrical agent. In the 2017 version he pretends to be an Austrian Professor who makes rather prejudiced remarks. In the Poirot episode, He's replaced by Dr. Constantine, who was the OB/GYN to Sonia at the time of her death.

All of these friends and relations had been gravely affected by the Armstongs' and Susanne/Paulette's deaths and were outraged by Cassetti's subsequent escape. They took it into their own hands to serve as Cassetti's executioners, to avenge a crime the law was unable to punish. Each of the suspects stabbed Cassetti once, so that no one could know who delivered the fatal blow. Twelve of the conspirators participated to allow for a "12-person jury", with Countess Andrenyi taking no part in the crime as she would have been suspected the most, so her husband took her place, while in the 1974 movie, they both stabbed Cassetti, with Helena holding the dagger and Rudolph helping her plunge it down. One extra berth was booked under a fictitious name – Harris – so that no one but the conspirators and the victim would be on board the coach, and this fictitious person would subsequently disappear and become the primary suspect in Cassetti's murder. The only people not involved in the plot would be Bouc/Bianchi and Dr. Constantine, both having slept in the other coach. The main inconvenience for the executioners was the snowstorm and the last minute, unwelcome presence of Poirot, which caused complications resulting in several crucial clues being left behind.

Poirot summarizes that there was no other way the murder could have taken place, given the evidence. Several of the suspects have broken down in tears as he has revealed their connection to the Armstrong family and/or Susanne/Paulette, and Arden confesses that the second theory is correct, but begs Poirot to tell the authorities that she acted alone as Cassetti's murderess. The evidence could be skewed to implicate her and she declares she would gladly go to prison if it meant the other passengers and Michel were spared. She points out that everyone present has suffered because of Cassetti's actions, that there would likely have been other victims if Cassetti had gone unpunished and that Colonel Arbuthnot and Mary Debenham are in love.

Fully in sympathy with the Armstrong family and feeling nothing but contempt for the victim, Bouc/Bianchi pronounces the first explanation as correct. Dr. Constantine agrees, saying he will edit his original report of the murder as he now "recognizes" some mistakes he has made, which clearly indicate that Poirot's first explanation was correct after all. Poirot announces that he has "the honor to retire from the case". Therefore, all the suspects were spared.

In Agatha Christie's Poirot

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In the episode adpated from the novel, included in the twelfth season of Agatha Christie's Poirot, Cassetti was portrayed by Toby Jones, who also played Arnim Zola, Culverton Smith and Dream Lord.

Cassetti was a mafia henchman operating out of Chicago, Illinois. In 1933, he kidnapped a three-year old girl named Daisy Armstrong from her Long Island estate Edenfield, and sent her parents a ransom demand of $200,000. Even though it was paid, Cassetti had already killed Daisy, less than an hour after she was kidnapped.

Daisy's pregnant mother Sonia was so shocked by the report of Daisy's death that she went into premature labor and miscarriaged; she later died from the complications. Her husband, Colonel Armstrong, unable to face another day, committed suicide by gunshot. Françoise, the Armstrongs' housemaid, was arrested on suspicion of aiding the kidnapper, and hanged herself in her jail cell. Though she had in fact casually told Cassetti a few things about the family and the house - namely when she would and wouldn't be there - she was completely unaware as to who he was and what he was planning.

Cassetti was arrested, but his mafia associates had leverage on members of the legal system, and in addition, they threatened D.A. MacQueen with the death of his son Hector MacQueen if he did not comply to their intentions. The evidence was "misplaced", and Cassetti went free. He took the ransom money, adopted a new identity as "Samuel Ratchett", and went on the run.

5 years later, in September 1938, the Armstrongs' former professional governess Mary Debenham organised a meeting of all those he had wronged. They gathered on the Orient Express where Cassetti was travelling. He had received threatening messages, telling him to return the $200,000 to a lockbox at Calais-Maritime Station. Ratchett correctly deduced that his life was in danger and asked the detective Hercule Poirot for help; Poirot refused his offer. That night, Cassetti was drugged, and the drugs paralyzed him while he tried to sleep, keeping him awake while the following events would unfold. The twelve people gathered by Debenham entered Cassetti's lodging on the train. Each one of them took a turn in stabbing him, ensuring that none of them knew for sure who delivered the killing blow.

After solving the crime, Poirot was outraged that the suspects took the law into their own hands, but eventually let them go as they had killed an evil man.

Trivia

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Agatha Christie's Poirot (title card).png Villains

Murderers
Novels
Alfred Inglethorp | Alistair Ravenscroft | Ann Shapland | Anne Meredith | Bella Tanios | Claude Darrell | David Hunter | Dorothea Jarrow | Dr. Geoffrey Roberts | Dr. James Sheppard | Elsa Greer | Evelyn Howard | Franklin Clarke | Gerda Christow | Jacqueline de Bellefort | Jane Wilkinson | Jessie Hopkins | Josiah Bland | Katherine Martindale | Lady Westholme | Lanfranco Cassetti | Marthe Daubreuil | Martin Alistair Blunt | Michael Garfield | Miss Chadwick | Miss Gilchrist | Nick Buckley | Nigel Chapman | Norman Gale | Patrick Redfern | Rowena Drake | Simon Doyle | Sir Charles Cartwright | Stephen Norton | Superintendent Sugden
Short Stories
Marrascaud | Nurse Harris | Roger Havering | Zoe Havering

Villainous Victims
Abandoned Accomplices
Anne Morisot | Carlotta Adams | Eileen Corrigan | Leslie Ferrier
Abusers
Lady Boynton | Lord Edgware | Simeon Lee
Blackmailers
Angèle Blanche | Charles Trenton | Henry Reedburn | Leopold Reynolds | Louise Bourget | Madame Giselle
Killers
Lanfranco Cassetti | Mrs. Lorrimer | Paul Déroulard | Stephen Norton
Unscrupulous
John Christow | Linnet Doyle | Millicent Pebmarsh | Mrs. Clapperton | Paul Renauld | Sir Reuben Astwell

Accomplices & Others
Alice Cunningham | Anne Morisot | Big Four | Carlotta Adams | Christine Redfern | Countess Vera Rosakoff | The Crofts | Eileen Corrigan | Frances Cloade | Freddie Rice's husband | George Challenger | Henrietta Savernake | Hilde Martindale | Leslie Ferrier | Madame Daubreuil | Merlina Rival | Miss Van Schuyler | Rowley Cloade |

Sophie Hannah's Continuations
The Monogram Murders (2014): Jennie Hobbs | Nancy Ducane | Samuel Kidd

Adaptational, Homage & Non-Canonical
Agatha Christie's Poirot: Grace Springer | Harrington Pace | Marie McDermott | Sister Agnieszka |

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