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Murder on the Orient Express

Agatha Christie

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Murder on the Orient Express | Part 2, Chapter 7 : The Evidence (The Evidence of Count and Countess Andrenyi) | Summary



Hercule Poirot next calls for Count and Countess Andrenyi to come to the dining car, but only the count appears. He is a fine-looking man wearing a well-cut English suit and sporting a not-so-English-looking long mustache. The count agrees to answer questions but says neither he nor his wife heard anything. Poirot begins by asking if he has learned who the murder victim was, and the count says he has. The count, however, does not know Ratchett's real identity, nor is he familiar with the Daisy Armstrong kidnapping case. Although he has been in America many times, he says he has met so many people that he does not recall whether he has met anyone in the Armstrong family. When Poirot explains who Samuel Ratchett really is, the count comments what "an extraordinary country" America is.

The count details the movements of himself and his wife from the night before. They played piquet, a card game, in compartment No. 13 until about 11:00 p.m. His wife then retired to her compartment, No. 12, and both went to bed. His wife took sleeping medicine as was her custom when traveling by train, and neither were aware the train had stopped while they slept. Poirot asks the count to write his name and address, and he complies, mentioning the difficulty of his country estate's spelling. Poirot insists he needs to speak to the countess.

While waiting for the countess to appear, Poirot examines the count's Hungarian diplomatic passport. It says he is accompanied by his wife and gives her Christian and maiden names, Elena Maria Goldenberg, and her age, 20. The passport is soiled with a spot of grease right at the start of her Christian, or first, name. The countess is timid and charming when she arrives. She says she heard nothing, not even in Mrs. Hubbard's compartment next door to hers, because she had taken sleeping medicine. Poirot asks her to sign a memorandum stating what she has said, and she agrees, signing with a "graceful slanting handwriting." As she is leaving, he asks her whether she accompanied her husband to America. She replies she did not, as they had only been married a year. She answers Poirot about her husband's smoking habits by saying he smokes cigars and cigarettes; then she asks Poirot why he needs to know. He replies, "Detectives have to ask all sorts of questions," and then he asks her the color of her dressing gown. She provides it and laughs. They then discuss where he works. After she departs, Bouc asks if they can now interview the Italian, Antonio Foscarelli, but Poirot does not immediately answer. Instead he stares at the grease stain on the passport.


Count Andrenyi is protective of his wife and wants to spare her from being interviewed. The narrator says he portrays himself as genteel man of the upper class who is rather vague about his activities but who could not possibly have anything to do with the murder. M. Bouc confirms this portrayal, warning Hercule Poirot to be careful and say nothing that gives offense. Because the count is a diplomat, any offense would not be just between Poirot and the count but between nations.

The count's role as a diplomat also explains his character. He presents himself as worldly and important, but he is rather vague and says he cannot recall if he ever met any Armstrongs because he meets so many people. He would be unlikely to say much about them if he did know them; he only admits to the most inconsequential information about other people or events. But he reveals his biases about America, suggesting he views it as the type of place that breeds murderers.

The count's answers also reveal he has heard a limited amount of gossip on the train; he knows about the murder but not the victim's real identity. This suggests he is somewhat aloof from his fellow passengers. The news of the murder most likely was revealed to him by a conductor. Although he is an aristocrat, which he emphasizes by mentioning his estate, he respects the rule of law, agreeing to Poirot interviewing the countess. The count understands the need for formalities, such as reports, even if he desires to be exempt from them.

When Poirot interviews the countess, he acts less deferential but shows his respect for her status as a diplomat's wife by asking only a few questions. But they are not as harmless as they seem; Poirot uses them to obtain information other than what he asks for. For example, he asks the Countess if she accompanied her husband to America. From her reply he learns how long she has been married. Similarly he asks her to sign a memorandum of her statement. This has the appearance of being a confirmation of her answers, but he really wants something else. He may want to compare people's handwriting to the Daisy Armstrong note to discover who wrote it. Rather than asking a direct question that would likely be met with resistance or deception, he asks his interview subjects to write inconsequential information. This lulls them into acquiescing. This is comparable to a modern-day detective sharing a drink or cigarette with a suspect and then collecting an empty cup or cigarette butt that can be analyzed for DNA. In this way Poirot obtains useful evidence that the interviewees don't realize they have supplied so he can match the writing samples to the Daisy Armstrong note.

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