Murder on the Orient Express | Study Guide

Agatha Christie

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Murder on the Orient Express | Part 3, Chapter 4 : Poirot Sits Back and Thinks (The Grease Spot on the Hungarian Passport) | Summary

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Summary

Hercule Poirot conducts an experiment in the dining car. He arranges with the chief attendant for Count Andrenyi and Countess Andrenyi to be delayed so they are the last to leave the car. When they leave, he calls out to the countess that she had dropped her handkerchief. He hands her the one found in Samuel Ratchett's compartment. The countess denies it is hers, but when Poirot presses her, she confesses she is Helena Goldenberg, Linda Arden's younger daughter. She and the count explain they deceived him because she knew her real identity would make her a suspect. He notes she has a lovely, pleading voice, the "voice of the daughter of Linda Arden the actress," which indicates he suspects her of possessing excellent acting skill.

Both the count and the countess give their word of honor the countess did not murder Ratchett. Poirot asks her to "take [him] back into the past" so he can "find there the link that explains the whole thing." The countess says there is nothing to tell, as everyone is dead. She expresses great emotion at the loss of three people she loved dearly. She also mentions Susanne, the French nursemaid who threw herself out of the window because the police suspected her of being involved with the kidnapping; a nurse, Stengelberg; and Miss Freebody, who was her governess and Sonia Armstrong's secretary. She says she has not seen anyone on the train, other than Princess Dragomiroff, that she recognizes.

Analysis

Hercule Poirot once again uses his technique of pretending to know something to trick someone into making a revelation. After the countess admits her deception, she appears very earnest and eager to help solve the murder of Samuel Ratchett/Cassetti, but Poirot is not convinced her intentions are genuine. Among the passengers on the train is a near-universal attitude the victim deserved to die. In contrast, her expressions of grief about the murder of her young niece and the subsequent tragedies of her sister's death and brother-in-law's shooting appear to be genuine. Poirot's acknowledgment of these contrasting emotions will have a significant influence on how the crime is solved.

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