Murder on the Orient Express | Study Guide

Agatha Christie

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Murder on the Orient Express | Part 2, Chapter 9 : The Evidence (The Evidence of Mr. Hardman) | Summary

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Summary

Cyrus Hardman meets with Hercule Poirot, M. Bouc, and Dr. Constantine in the dining room for his interview. A "big, flamboyant America," he wears a "somewhat loud check suit, a pink shirt, and a flashy tiepin" while chewing gum. Using his passport, Poirot summarizes Hardman's personal information, and Hardman confirms it. Poirot asks a few questions about his travels, and Hardman states he is traveling on business. After Poirot asks him to describe what he did the night before from dinner onward, Hardman hesitates. Then he asks the three men who they are. Poirot introduces the other men and himself by name and profession. Hardman acknowledges he has heard of Poirot and says he guesses he'll come clean. He admits his passport is a bluff. He is a detective, not a salesman, and works for a New York detective agency. He gives his business card to Poirot, who recognizes the agency as one of the most reputable in New York. Hardman has just completed an assignment in Europe that ended in Stamboul. He had planned to return to New York, but while staying at the Tokatlian Hotel, he received a letter from Samuel Ratchett. Ratchett informed him of the threats against him and hired him to travel on the train to make sure "nobody got him." Hardman is upset he failed at his assignment and shares the information Ratchett had provided:

  • The person who threatened Ratchett is a small, dark man with a womanish voice.
  • Ratchett expected to be assaulted on the second or third night of the trip.

Hardman is surprised when Poirot informs him of Ratchett's real identity. He is familiar with the Daisy Armstrong case, but he doesn't know anyone connected with it who fits Ratchett's description of his enemy. He says most people involved with the case are now dead and points out that Ratchett was involved in other kidnapping schemes. Poirot explains he has reason to believe Ratchett's murder and the Armstrong case are connected. Hardman looks to him inquisitively, hoping he will explain, but Poirot says nothing further about it.

Hardman then describes his movements the night before. He slept in the daytime and stayed awake all night. He saw nothing suspicious during the night. He had kept his door slightly ajar but saw no strangers pass. He is certain no one from the rear carriages was in Ratchett's coach, nor did anyone from outside get on the train. He saw Pierre Michel, the conductor, sitting on the seat by his door and describes his movements, which match Michel's own account.

As the interview comes to an end, Poirot asks Hardman to initial his business card, and he complies. Poirot offers him a cigarette and asks if "perhaps you prefer a pipe?" Hardman takes a cigarette and declines the pipe. After he leaves, the men discuss his interview. Poirot expresses his belief that Hardman is genuine. His reasoning: he knows the type, and his story would be easy to disprove.

Analysis

Cyrus Hardman is using a concealed identity, a common device in Christie's novels. But he readily admits this to Hercule Poirot after learning Poirot also is a detective. Poirot handles the interview—even before he learns Hardman is a detective—differently from others. Instead of asking a series of warm-up questions, he uses Hardman's passport to learn his personal information and then summarizes it to Hardman and asks for confirmation. But Poirot does employ two techniques used with the other individuals interviewed to date. He offers a cigarette to learn if Hardman smokes a pipe, and he asks Hardman to initial his business card. It seems unlikely Poirot is seeking a handwriting sample to compare to the Daisy Armstrong note. It's far more likely he is trying to determine who is right-handed and who is left-handed because the stab wounds indicate both hands were used to murder Ratchett.

Hardman's willingness to admit who he really is demonstrates his honesty and trust in his fellow detective. Poirot, too, seems to accept everything Hardman says at face value, saying he knows his type. The "type" is a detective, a character portrayed during the golden age of detective fiction as an upstanding, moral individual who is a crusader against evil. And Hardman is similar in type to Poirot as created by Christie. He is analytical—as revealed by his comment about Samuel Ratchett's involvement in kidnapping cases other than the Armstrong case—and inquisitive—as demonstrated by his demand to know who the men are before he will answer Poirot's questions.

Christie plants a new clue in this chapter: a description of Ratchett's enemy. She also offers a bit of misdirection. Should Poirot be so quick to accept Hardman's information as true because Poirot knows "his type"? Theorizing about the murderer's psychological makeup is akin to what a contemporary law enforcement profiler does. But it isn't proof, and it is out of character for Poirot to so readily accept evidence at face value.

Another fact stands out: Hardman admits to hearing about the murder but not to knowing the murder victim's real identity. By now sufficient time has elapsed since the previously interviewed passengers learned this news. The gossip chain should be running rampant in the coach. At the very least, the murder victim's true identity should be a subject of conversation. It's odd that Hardman has not heard about it by now. Is he really unaware of it, or is he concealing something?

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