The Purloined Letter

I saw “Murder on the Orient Express” recently.

This 2017 mystery/drama/comedy, adapted from Agatha Christie’s book of the same title, has been produced many times. So many that Christie’s world-renowned detective, Hercule Poirot, has been played by 21 actors, some of whom you might recognize over the decades: Charles Laughton, Orson Welles, Jose Ferrer, Tony Randall, Albert Finney, Peter Ustinov, Ian Holm, John Moffatt, Alfred Molina, and this year, Kenneth Branaugh.

The film is in the fourth adaptation of her novel, and the story line reveals that this acclaimed detective seeks to solve a murder on the famous European train in the 1930s. Poirot is a Belgian former police officer, now a private investigator. Christie’s inspiration of his creation was the stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In “An Autobiography,” Christie states, “I was still writing in the Sherlock Holmes tradition – eccentric detective, stooge assistant, with an Inspector-Lestrade-type Scotland Yard detective…” For his part, Conan Doyle acknowledged basing his detective stories on the model of Edgar Allan Poe‘s sleuth.


Poe’s “The Purloined Letter” is an American short story and the third of his three detective stories featuring the fictional C. Auguste Dupin. These stories of 1844 are considered to be important early forerunners of the modern detective story. Do you like mysteries? I do, and my mother needed a private-eye to figure out a letter she received from my father during WWII. Let’s see if you can solve her dilemma.

Here are the facts:

1. Woman – my mother – is in her small town working as a teacher. Her husband – my father – is in the Navy on a destroyer outside of Italy during World War II.

2. Only form of communication between them is letter writing.

3. Mail is not fast communication.

4. They write letters religiously back and forth.

5. My father could not relay information in his letters about his naval activities or his locations because of the tempestuous war situation.

6. The war office read the outgoing letters being sent back home to the United States to make sure the correspondence mailed from the young servicemen did not carry any information in them which could be intercepted and used against our country in the war if intercepted by the enemy.

7. There was a saying at that time, “Loose lips sink ships.”

8. Mother received a letter from Father that started in the normal way, “Dearest Darling,”

9. The entire body/middle part of the letter was totally cut out.

10. The letter was signed, “Your Loving Husband”.

11. In other words, Mother received a mailed document with an empty-rectangle-shaped cut-out in the middle.

12. Mother asked herself, “What did he say? Did he write secrets that should not have been revealed? Will he get into trouble if so?”

13. My worried Mother wrote back to my Father to determine what happened.


14. Weeks passed.

15. The next letter that she received relinquished the secret of the letter’s missing body content.

What do you think happened?

Read below for answer, written backwards. You must decipher it, because, after all, it is a mystery.

In Mother’s own words:

“siH rewsna tuoba eht suoiverp tuo-tuc rettel saw taht eh dewo em a rettel, saw oot derit ot etirw, dna detnaw tsuj ot tel em wonk eh saw evila.”

Good luck!

P.S. This is a true story. My Daddy – that prankster!



I’ll get it started for you: “His answer about the previous cut-out…”