Murder on the Orient Express | Study Guide

Agatha Christie

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Murder on the Orient Express | Part 2, Chapter 3 : The Evidence (The Evidence of the Valet) | Summary

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Summary

Hercule Poirot interviews Edward Masterman, Samuel Ratchett's English valet, who has worked for Ratchett for about nine months. After preliminary questioning, Poirot asks Masterman to describe the last time he saw Ratchett. Masterman describes his actions of the night before and explains that Ratchett was his usual self, other than being upset about a letter left in his compartment. One point of interest is that Masterman knew Ratchett had enemies because he overheard his employer talking to MacQueen. Another is that Masterman informed Macqueen that Ratchett wanted to see him after he finished his duties.

Masterman reveals he did not like Ratchett even though he was a generous employer; Masterman says he simply does not like Americans—although he has never been to America. He also details his actions after he last saw Ratchett. He went to his sleeping compartment, which he shares with the Italian man, and read for a while. He then tried to fall asleep but couldn't because he had a toothache; he applied a salve and stayed up until about 4:00 a.m. reading. The Italian was in the compartment all night, snoring, and Masterman did not hear anything unusual. Poirot asks him for his prior work history, and Masterman provides the name of his ex-employer and says he stopped working for him because the man was moving to East Asia. Poirot asks him if he smokes a pipe, and he says he does not. After Masterman tells Poirot the American woman is "in a state" and claims "she knows all about the murder," Poirot tells him to have her come to him next.

Analysis

Hercule Poirot's interviewing technique with Edward Masterman is similar to the one he used with Pierre Michel. He starts by asking routine questions to put the valet at ease. He then asks Michel about the last time he saw the murder victim and what he did afterward. This information helps Poirot to mentally reconstruct the prior evening, much as modern-day specialists would reconstruct an accident scene to determine the sequence of events. It also provides information, if verified, providing alibis for Masterman and the Italian man.

Masterman reveals his dislike for Americans and Italians. He disparages Antonio Foscarelli, the Italian, for speaking a "kind of English" based on an American accent rather than the Queen's English. The narrator portrays Masterman as a "gentleman's gentleman" who prefers to read rather than talk with others, who does not display his emotions, and who has impeccable manners. Twice, though, his facial expressions reveal his emotions. When Poirot asks him if he had affection for his employer, his face becomes "even more inexpressive" than normal, showing he is carefully controlling—and concealing—his emotion. When Poirot informs him Samuel Ratchett was the principal instigator in the Daisy Armstrong kidnapping case, Masterman replies in a tone filled with "warmth and feeling for the first time." Readers wonder: Why does Masterman now show emotion? Is his reaction consistent with what any reasonable person would have, even someone very reserved and expressionless, about a child's kidnapping and murder?

Masterman is not quite as one-faceted as his descriptions suggest. He is reading a popular novel, rather than proper literature. The title, Love's Captive, suggests it is a racy, or sensational, romance. Is Masterman what he seems? He may indeed be repressed, reading romances as an outlet for emotions he cannot act on in real life. Or he may be concealing aspects of his character and is not who he seems to be.

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