Samuel Ratchett, whose true identity is that of the murderous Cassetti, only appears in the novel for three chapters before his death, yet his character has a profound impact on the text’s primary themes. From the moment Poirot lays eyes on Ratchett, he senses something off-putting about the mysterious man that becomes increasingly apparent as the truth of his identity emerges. The inherent darkness of Ratchett’s character, however, does not readily present itself through his outward appearance. Beyond his “deep set and crafty” eyes, which serve as a window into his true nature, Ratchett appears to Poirot as a rather bland, elderly man. The drastic difference between Ratchett’s exterior façade and his interior essence positions the concept of identity as one of the novel’s key preoccupations. Neither he nor any of his killers are who they initially present themselves to be, a fact that challenges the reader to question their assumptions about others.

When Poirot finally interacts with Ratchett, he quickly learns that he has an obsession with money and believes that his wealth will enable him to escape trouble. Of course, this is the exact strategy Ratchett uses to evade punishment for the kidnapping and murder of Daisy Armstrong, so he assumes that Poirot will acquiesce to his request for help once enough money is on the table. Ratchett’s millionaire status and the influential power he gains from it during his time in the United States allows his character to function as a critique of capitalistic greed. He represents a vision of America in which money takes precedence over both legal and moral standards, rendering any notion of justice completely corrupt. The fact that his wealth comes in part from horrific crimes like Daisy Armstrong’s kidnapping adds to the dark connotation that Christie attributes to money, rendering her criticisms of the American justice system even more harsh. 

More than anything, however, Ratchett appears as an embodiment of pure evil who, ironically, ends up being the novel’s primary victim. Part of what makes Murder on the Orient Express such an engaging work is the way in which Christie completely turns the traditional structure of a murder mystery on its head, a move which reorients the characters in order to offer an alternative view of justice. Christie spares no effort in depicting Ratchett as an abominable man by emphasizing Daisy’s innocence and the brutality of his crime. At the same time, however, he becomes a victim of murder himself, and this position invites both the reader and the characters to consider whether or not his death warrants a legal conviction. Emphasizing the evilness of Ratchett’s character offers a clear moral answer to this question, allowing Christie to advocate for a morally-based understanding of justice.