Race finds Poirot still sitting in the saloon and reminds him that his interview with Pennington in the smoke room is in 10 minutes. Poirot asks Race to first get Fanthorp. Race does so. Poirot begins by talking to Fanthorp about Fanthorp’s “Old School Tie” and how it represents a uniquely English point of view, such as the inclination to avoid forcing oneself into someone else’s private conversation. Poirot goes on, however, to note that Fanthorp did in fact butt in on a conversation, when he saw Linnet signing documents, which is out of character for an “Old School Tie” sort of person. Fanthorp says Poirot is crazy and refuses to say more.
The book builds suspense before the big interview with Pennington by wrapping up a previously unresolved question about Fanthorp, implying that he is somehow involved with Linnet and her fortune. The information that Poirot points out doesn’t amount to an actual accusation, but his observations nonetheless reveal him to be a close examiner of human nature.
Poirot persists with Fanthorp: he notes that Fanthorp’s law firm isn’t far from Linnet’s home of Wode Hall. He believes that Fanthorp deliberately intervened to prevent Linnet from signing anything without reading it first. Poirot then reveals to Fanthorp that Pennington’s revolver was the murder weapon. Poirot asks why Fanthorp really came on the trip.
Poirot skillfully manipulates Fanthorp by revealing that there is evidence pointing toward Pennington. He suspects that Fanthorp and Pennington are rivals, and that Fanthorp will help him if he believes it hurts Pennington. In this way, Poirot is using the fact that most people are fundamentally self-interested to his advantage.
Fanthorp tells Poirot that his uncle Carmichael was Linnet’s lawyer and that, for various reasons, Carmichael suspected Pennington of being a crook. When his uncle received a letter that mentioned Linnet’s unexpected meeting with Pennington, he suspected that Pennington was trying to defraud her, so he sent Fanthorp to go monitor the situation. Fanthorp didn’t explain this to Linnet, but he believes his presence may have scared off Pennington from any “funny business.”
Persuaded by Poirot, Fanthorp reveals the truth (much of which was already hinted at in the first chapter of the novel). Though it’s Fanthorp’s word against Pennington’s, there’s ample evidence from Pennington’s prior suspicious actions to believe he really is involved in shady dealings.
Poirot then asks Fanthorp if he was trying to scam someone, who would he choose: Linnet or Simon. With a smile, Fanthorp says Simon, which Poirot agrees with—and notes that this fact gives Pennington a motive to kill Linnet. Fanthorp calls the theory interesting but says there’s no evidence. Race then says Pennington is coming in shortly, so Fanthorp leaves.
Fanthorp may dislike Pennington, but he knows if he goes too far, he’ll risk being seen as unreliable. As a lawyer, he is one of the more cunning people Poirot interviews, though that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s lying.
When Pennington arrives in the smoking room, he is smiling, with just a hint of guardedness. Poirot starts the interview by establishing that Pennington has known Linnet for a long time. Pennington confirms that he’s known her since she was a girl and that he was very close with her father. Because of this close relationship, Pennington became one of the trustees to the family fortune—two of the others are dead and Sterndale Rockford is the other remaining, living trustee.
Poirot knows a lot of incriminating things about Pennington, but he starts slowly, with comparatively innocuous questions, in order to build a rapport. Because he isn’t a traditional detective, he doesn’t need traditional evidence—this is part of why Poirot focuses so much on psychological profiles.
Poirot notes that Linnet was due to gain control of her fortune on her twenty-first birthday, but that her marriage changed things. Pennington recoils at this question and asks if it’s relevant. Poirot insists it may be relevant for the motive. Finally, Pennington reveals that Linnet’s father’s will said she would receive her fortune when she was 21 or when she married, with no other stipulations. Poirot wonders whether this marriage clause caused any difficulties in Pennington’s office. The question disturbs Pennington, who tries to leave before angrily saying that Linnet’s affairs are well ordered. He claims he didn’t even know about her marriage until he met her in Cairo.
Pennington persists in a lie that has already been well debunked—that he only learned of Linnet’s marriage in Egypt and that it was a coincidence he saw her. He is clearly desperate to hide something.
Poirot catches Pennington in a lie—the labels on his luggage say Normandie, not Carmanic, meaning he took a later boat and that he would’ve received Linnet’s letter mentioning her marriage after all. Pennington admits he lied, but claims he had good reason. He says he believed Linnet was being “swindled” by her British lawyer but wanted to get evidence for himself. He claims he lied about not receiving Linnet’s letter in order to appear less rude about butting in on her honeymoon. Poirot says he doesn’t believe anything about Pennington’s story.
Poirot cuts through Pennington’s flimsy lie. Pennington tries to put the blame onto Fanthorp—there could be something crooked about Fanthorp, but it seems just as likely that Pennington is just projecting himself onto Fanthorp.
Poirot suggests instead that Linnet’s sudden marriage caused a financial problem for Pennington. After failing to get her to sign the right documents, Pennington (according to Poirot) was walking along a cliff near the temple of Abu Simbel and actively pushed the boulder that fell and nearly killed Linnet. Pennington calls Poirot insane.
Poirot gets right to the heart of the matter and accuses Pennington outright—not only of financial crimes but also of attempted murder. Sometimes Poirot floats hypotheticals just to get a reaction, but in this section, he seems to be putting together a genuine theory.
Poirot goes further: he says Pennington again saw an opportunity on the boat to dispose of Linnet when the murder would be attributed to someone else. Pennington objects forcefully, arguing he wouldn’t even benefit: Simon would get her money. Race notes that because of Simon’s leg and because of witnesses, Simon couldn’t have killed Linnet or Louise, and especially not Mrs. Otterbourne. Pennington admits this but still insists he himself had no reason to want Linnet dead, while Simon did.
Poirot’s story is convincing—so convincing that it clearly unsettles Pennington. Still, Poirot is not necessarily accusing Pennington of murder yet. One of his techniques is to present to characters how they might have committed the murder, in order to get them to reveal things about other characters.
Poirot creates a hypothetical scenario for Pennington: if Linnet is dead, Simon would know nothing about how to manage her fortune and is a trusting, not-especially-bright person. It would be easier to manipulate him into signing things. Pennington still protests, but Poirot says, “Time will show!” Pennington’s shoulders droop, and Poirot knows that Pennington has lost and is aware of it.
It would be narratively unsatisfying in a whodunnit if the criminal was not fully identified, and this usually means a confession of some sort is necessary. Pennington’s awareness of having lost his argument with Poirot suggests that he’s on the verge of confessing to something.
Pennington confesses to the financial problems: he blames the recent financial slump and says that he and his partner were hoping to fix it by June. Poirot muses that Pennington’s murder attempt with the boulder was probably a sudden temptation, but Pennington claims, with a terrified look, that it was an accident. With a desperate “fighting spirit,” Pennington repeats that no one can ever pin him with a murder attempt and that everything was an accident. He leaves the room.
Though Pennington maintains his innocence, it’s clear that he’s guilty of both fraud and attempted murder. Since Pennington has already admitted defeat, it’s extremely unlikely that he will end up being involved in the murders on the Karnak—he has already confessed to all his crimes.