Murder on the Orient Express | Study Guide

Agatha Christie

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Murder on the Orient Express | Part 3, Chapter 5 : Poirot Sits Back and Thinks (The Christian Name of Princess Dragomiroff) | Summary

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Summary

After Count Andrenyi and Countess Andrenyi leave, M. Bouc praises Hercule Poirot's "excellent work" and, convinced of the countess's guilt, expresses his relief that she probably will only get a few years in prison rather than being guillotined. Poirot is less certain of her guilt and reminds Bouc of the count's word of honor attesting his wife's innocence. Bouc dismisses the count's word as merely his desire to protect his wife.

Princess Dragomiroff enters the dining car and says she believes Poirot has a handkerchief belonging to her. Poirot produces the handkerchief and asks why it has the initial H, as her first name is Natalia. Dragomiroff explains it is initialed in the Russian characters, with H representing N. They discuss why Dragomiroff did not reveal it was her handkerchief earlier and why she did not tell Poirot she knew Countess Andrenyi was Sonia Armstrong's sister. When Dragomiroff says she has no idea how her handkerchief came to be found near the murdered man, Poirot replies, "How much can we rely on the truthfulness of your replies?" Dragomiroff admits she intentionally lied to protect her friend because of her loyalty to her. She is pleased to learn that her maid, Hildegarde Schmidt, lied when Poirot asked her about the handkerchief, as it shows her loyalty to the princess. Poirot asks her if she does not believe in "doing [her utmost] to further the ends of justice." She replies "strict justice has been done" in her view.

After Dragomiroff leaves, Bouc shows amazement at the number of lies they have been told. Poirot says that when confronted with the truth, a person who has lied will usually admit to the lie due to "sheer surprise." But the interrogator must guess correctly to produce this effect. Poirot explains more about his method, which involves discovering what lies a person has told and discerning the reason for the lies. He hopes this will lead him to the murderer through a process of elimination. He plans to conduct additional experiments with the other passengers to uncover their lies.

Analysis

The superiority of Poirot's methods is again on display in this chapter. Where M. Bouc assumes a lie indicates a suspect is guilty, Poirot is pleased when suspects lie: the discovery of their lies reveals the truth. His tried-and-true method of saying something as if he knows it is true to elicit a shocked admission continues to provide him with useful information.

Princess Dragomiroff's belief in a justice higher than that delivered by the courts is a significant clue. It gives her a motive for murder, as the court system failed to punish the murderer of Daisy Armstrong. Furthermore, her fierce loyalty to her friends and family indicates she would want to see justice for Daisy Armstrong and her family because of her close friendship with Linda Arden, the murdered child's grandmother.

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