At dawn, the Karnak pulls into Shellal. Race says he’s made arrangements to have Richetti, the agitator, taken ashore first. Race goes on to mention that they’ll need a stretcher for Simon, whom Race calls a “cold-blooded scoundrel,” although he feels sorry for Jacqueline. Poirot muses that the popular saying about love justifying everything isn’t true.
The Richetti subplot is being wrapped up. Race reinforces the idea that of the two murderers, Jacqueline had much more sympathetic motivations. Poirot, meanwhile, touches on the idea that being in love isn’t a noble excuse for hurting people or acting selfishly.
Cornelia comes up to Race and Poirot, telling them that she’s been with Jacqueline to keep her company. When Miss Van Schuyler comes along to scold Cornelia once more and threatens to bring her back home to New York, Cornelia replies that she can’t come because she’s getting married to Dr. Bessner. Ferguson overhears and reacts in disbelief, and angrily asks if Cornelia is just marrying Dr. Bessner because he’s rich. Cornelia responds that she’s marrying Bessner because she likes him, and because he’s kind, and she shares his interests, and because he’s reliable. Though he’s nearly 50, Cornelia maintains that he’s not that old, and that looks don’t matter to her anyway. She leaves. Ferguson incredulously asks Poirot if he thinks Cornelia really prefers the old Bessner over Ferguson himself. Poirot replies, “Undoubtedly.”
Another subplot wraps up: Cornelia decides to accept Dr. Bessner’s marriage proposal instead of Ferguson’s. Though none of these characters end up being especially important to the plot, they are an interesting way for the book to explore love and relationships beyond the central Linnet-Jacqueline-Simon love triangle. In this case, the impending marriage between Cornelia and Bessner is at least partially out of convenience—Bessner is older, not especially attractive, and interested in boring archaeology books. But he’s also the only character who treats Cornelia with respect, which ends up being the most important thing—he is, in essence, her escape from Miss Van Schuyler.
The passengers are asked to wait before departing the boat. First, a sullen-looking Richetti is escorted off the boat. Soon after is brought a defeated-looking Simon on a stretcher. Then comes Jacqueline, pale but otherwise normal-looking. She greets Simon, who gets a little of his old spirit back and apologizes. She smiles and says it’s okay. Then she pulls a gun out of her shoe and shoots Simon dead. She smiles at Poirot, and Race leaps to intervene, but she shoots herself in the heart before they reach her.
Though Jacqueline’s shooting of Simon and then herself is a shocking twist, it’s also a logical way to end the novel. A lengthy trial would be an anticlimactic ending, so some immediate retribution for the killers makes more narrative sense. The fact that Jacqueline gets to go out on her own terms reinforces the idea that she is one of the more sympathetic villains in Christie’s books (since wholly evil characters tend to get the worst deaths). Her choice to kill Simon before killing herself again shows how love can become prevented into a dangerous obsession.
Mrs. Allerton quietly asks Poirot if he knew about the pistol. He did—he realized Jacqueline had a pair ever since a similar gun was found in Rosalie’s handbag. Jacqueline was the one who planted it there, though later she retrieved it from Rosalie’s cabin (after she and her cabin had already been searched). Mrs. Allerton asks if this outcome is what Poirot wanted, and Poirot says it is. He says Simon got an easier death than he deserved and that most great love stories are tragedies. As they see Rosalie and Tim standing together in the sun, however, they are thankful that there are still some happy stories.
Poirot’s tacit approval of Jacqueline’s murder-suicide might seem wildly out of character for him (since he hates murder so much), but it’s important to remember that Jacqueline and Simon would likely have been headed for the death penalty at the time the novel was written. Perhaps Poirot didn’t see the point of going through the whole legal process if the outcome was the same, or perhaps he felt that Jacqueline should be allowed to make her own decision, since she confessed to him.
The bodies of Louise, Mrs. Otterbourne, and Linnet are brought ashore. Linnet’s body in particular causes a sensation. News of her death quickly reaches such distant people as Sir George Wode in London, Sterndale Rockford in New York, and Joanna Southwood in Switzerland. It’s also discussed at the bar of the Three Crowns in Malton-under-Wode. “Well, it doesn’t seem to have done her much good, poor lass,” says Mr. Burnaby. But he and the other bar patrons soon move on to other things, and start talking about the Grand National (a major horse race). For as Ferguson was saying at just that moment in Luxor, Egypt, what happened in the past is less important than what will happen in the future.
The novel ends on a darkly comic note. Linnet, who had seemed so important in her life, ends up being little more than a talking point in the local pub before everyone moves on to talking about horse racing. Horse racing—which can encourage greed and lead to sudden wins or losses of fortune—is a fitting final image, since much of the novel was dedicated to various characters jockeying to try to control Linnet’s fortune. The idea that only the future is important sums up the attitude of the patrons in the pub, which mirrors the get-rich-quick attitudes that motivated (and doomed) many of the other characters in the story.