The Death on the Nile plot has all the sinister twists and turns to keep viewers hooked but there are some huge differences book fans will have spotted.
There’s nothing quite like a whodunit to get thriller fans eagerly looking out for tiny clues to get one step ahead of the main detective. With Agatha Christie’s classic Belgian sleuth, Hercule Poirot, involved in the Death on the Nile plot, discovering who dies in Death on the Nile before he reveals the complex truth isn’t easy. Fans of the dramatic performances of The Last Kingdom cast and the best historical fiction books will be swept away by the intriguing characters and stunning setting.
What starts as a romantic honeymoon for Linnet Ridgeway-Doyle and her husband Simon soon takes a dark turn as murder, mayhem, and betrayals come to light.
But what is the Death on the Nile plot in the movie, how is it different from Agatha Christie’s 1937 book, and who is the killer?
*Warning: major spoilers ahead!*
What is the Death on the Nile plot in the movie?
In Kenneth Branagh’s 2022 movie the Death on the Nile plot sees loved-up newlyweds Linnet Ridgeway-Doyle and Simon Doyle as they celebrate their marriage in Egypt. Heiress Linnet swooped in and captivated Simon, who was in love with her childhood friend Jacqueline ‘Jackie’ de Bellefort. This left Jackie heartbroken and determined to spoil things between the couple by stalking them wherever they go.
Coming across his old friend Bouc (a familiar face if you enjoyed Murder on the Orient Express) and his artist mother Euphemia, Poirot is invited to join them for the celebrations. Once the guests and hosts move the honeymoon aboard the S.S. Karnak Linnet confesses to Poirot that she doesn’t trust a single one of them and fears what Jackie might do.
After a temple visit in Abu Simbel nearly sees Linnet killed, her fears are intensified and she returns to discover Jackie has joined them on the boat. That night after Linnet goes to bed Jackie furiously confronts Simon and shoots him in the leg, before turning hysterical. He is treated and insists Jackie isn’t left alone in this state.
The next morning, Linnet is discovered dead with her immensely valuable necklace stolen and Poirot is thrown in at the deep end as he attempts to uncover who could be responsible. During the investigation, Linnet’s maid Louise, who had wanted to leave her mistress to get married before the heiress put a stop to it, is found dead alongside money.
The Belgian sleuth soon deduces she was blackmailing the killer and knew more than she let on. But sadly, the one person who witnessed Louise’s murder, none other than his friend Bouc, who had stolen the necklace, is also killed.
Along the way, it emerges that Bouc’s mother Euphemia had hired Poirot behind her son’s back to discover the worthiness of his love interest, Rosalie, who is a former classmate of Linnet and another passenger on the S.S. Karnak. Ultimately, as the detective uncovers the truth, it seems Linnet should have been looking a little closer to home when she was concerned about attempts on her life...
How is the Death on the Nile plot different in the book?
Even the best book-to-movie adaptations have their fair share of changes and in many ways, the Death on the Nile plot is incredibly different from Agatha Christie’s original Poirot mystery. For a start, in the Death on the Nile book, the passengers of the S.S. Karnak aren’t invited to join Linnet and Simon’s honeymoon.
Instead, whilst some like Jackie, maid Louise and Andrew Pennington (Andrew Katchadourian in the movie) do genuinely know the newlyweds, the others are simply on holiday. Of course, Linnet’s fame as a beautiful heiress precedes her and many of the passengers do recognize her, but they are not specially invited to celebrate her marriage.
Far from it as Linnet and Simon board the ship in an attempt to escape Jackie and want privacy. In the books, there are also several characters that are missing from the Death in the Nile plot in the movie that play a major role.
This most notably includes Dr Bessner (instead Linnet has an ex-partner Linus Windlesham who is a doctor) and Marie Van Schuyler’s cousin Cornelia Robson who becomes engaged to Dr Bessner, much to her rich cousin’s horror.
Meanwhile, Bouc doesn’t appear in the Death on the Nile plot in the book and his place is taken by the character of Tim Allerton, who is Rosalie’s love interest. Tim has a huge subplot in the books that isn’t brought into the film and Poirot also isn’t hired by Tim’s mother as he is Bouc’s in the movie, and is simply on holiday.
In Agatha Christie’s original tale, Tim has teamed up with his distant cousin Joanna Southwood (who is mentioned but doesn’t appear on the S.S. Kanak) to substitute fake pearls that Joanna has had made for Linnet’s hugely valuable necklace. He manages to pull off the switch (not realizing she’s lying dead in her bed) but Poirot isn’t fooled so easily.
Confronting Tim he exposes his crime but agrees the matter won’t go further if he returns Linnet’s pearls. The pearls are also important for Marie Van Schuyler who lives with Kleptomania and had stolen the fake pearls before Cornelia returned them, casting suspicion on Marie twice as her stole had been found in the Nile with an incriminating pistol wrapped inside it.
Another huge difference between the Death on the Nile plot in the book and the movie is the introduction of Poirot developing romantic feelings for jazz singer (and romance author in the book) Salome Otterbourne in the movie and a backstory with his fiancée named Katherine during the war. Book-Poirot couldn’t be more disinterested in Salome and his romantic life is left much more of a mystery…
When it comes to who dies there is also a huge change, swapping the final murder from Salome to Bouc. In the Kenneth Branagh movie, Bouc had attempted to steal Linnet’s pearls to become financially independent from his mother in a move that is in some way similar to the book and he was silenced before he could reveal who killed Louise.
There are also some more minor changes as the Death on the Nile movie races to its conclusion. This includes the use of Bouc’s mother Euphemia’s artist paint to appear like blood in a faked accident whereas in the book nail polish is used. Though these are far less noticeable to book fans perhaps than the more substantial Death on the Nile plot differences.
Regardless of the changes, however, both the Death on the Nile movie and book have gripping storylines packed full of intriguing suspects for Poirot to expertly interrogate. And if you haven’t enjoyed both, there’s plenty of time to get reading and watching!
Who did it in Death on the Nile? The Killer's identity explained
Despite making several huge changes to the Death on the Nile plot generally, when it comes to who did it in the movie, the identity of the killer remains the same. Or should we say, the *killers* as Jackie and Simon are both revealed to have been behind the three murders of Linnet, Louise and Bouc.
In the Agatha Christie novel Salome is killed instead of Bouc though the motivation and planning hasn’t been changed. Despite Simon appearing to be swayed away from his former lover Jackie to Linnet, his feelings never changed. He and Jackie are very much still in love and he only married Linnet for the money, planning to kill her and inherit her fortune.
On the night Linnet died, Jackie never really shot Simon at all but wanted to create the impression he was unable to walk to give him an alibi for the murder. In the book she shot the bullet into the table near his leg but in the movie she merely fired a blank that appeared to be a real bullet. He clasped a handkerchief stained already with nail polish (paint in the movie) to give the appearance of blood.
Whilst Jackie is being looked after by Mrs Bowers and Simon is waiting for medical help to be called, he’s left alone. The ruthless new husband then runs to his wife’s cabin and kills her, before returning and actually shooting himself in the leg so that when he’s examined the doctor can back up what everyone else believes to have happened earlier.
He wrapped the gun in Marie Van Schuyler’s scarf and threw it out of the window, now in genuine agony. All seemed to have gone to plan until Louise dropped her heavy hints that she saw him kill her mistress, hoping for a huge pay-out.
A panicked Simon finds the time to tell Jackie about Louise's threat in a rare private moment while she pretends to apologise for shooting him. Reacting quickly, his lover proceeds to eliminate their blackmailer. Unfortunately for the ruthless couple, Jackie is seen doing so by Bouc and she is forced to hurriedly kill him too before he can reveal the truth to his detective friend.
When Poirot does eventually uncover the truth, the ever-pragmatic Jackie who cool-headedly planned the original murder of Linnet ready for man-of-action Simon to carry it out, realizes there’s no way out.
In a shocking move in both the Death on the Nile book and movie, Jackie takes her own life and that of Simon to escape punishment for their crimes.
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Discussing the changes, Death on the Nile screen writer Michael Green has opened up RadioTimes.com about moving away from replicating Agatha Christie's story.
"What you want to do is to honour it, but you have to give yourself the permission to break and restructure in order to honour it," he said. "Because whenever you adapt anything, you have to find what you love about it. And at the expense of a lot of other things you have to make sure that what you love about it comes through.
"And sometimes you have to undo some beautiful things in the book or some delicate things in the book, or even some interesting things in the book in order to make room for what has to happen," he declared.
Death on the Nile is available to watch on Hulu and HBO Max in the US and Disney+ in Europe.
Emma is a Senior Lifestyle Writer with six years of experience working in digital publishing. Her specialist areas including literature, the British Royal Family and knowing all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and every streaming service out there. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, you can find Emma cooking and watching yet more crime dramas.
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