Murder on the Orient Express
Agatha Christie
Contributed by Ariane Heyne

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Part 2 Chapter 1-3
Summary

Chapter 1

In the dining car of the train, Poirot convenes the Court of Inquiry. He summons in Pierre Michel, conductor of the Wagon Lit. A Frenchman, Pierrre Michel has worked for the company for more than fifteen years. He is believed to be honest and trustworthy. Pierre tells him about his actions the evening before for Poirot. He informs Poirot that Ratchett requested that his room be made up while he was eating dinner so that he could retire at an early hour. Hector McQueen was witnessed going into the compartment at some point afterward. At 12:40 in the morning, Ratchett rang the conductor. However, when the conductor arrived at the door, Ratchett explained that he had made a mistake. After his response to Ratchett, Pierre set off to the Athens coach to see a colleague. However, he was called back at some point after one in the morning by the bell of Mrs. Hubbard. After that, he was summoned by Poirot’s bell. A half hour after this, the conductor made up McQueen’s bed. McQueen had been awake, conversing with Colonel Arbuthnot. The conductor did not notice any other movement within the hallways, with the exception of a lady wearing a scarlet kimono with dragons on it. The conductor also tells Poirot that the train has been properly searched and there is no assassin hiding on it. The last stop on the train was at 11:58 at Vincovci. This was where he accompanied the other conductors in descending from the train. 

Chapter 2

Poirot summons Hector McQueen for another interview. Poirot reveals Ratchett’s real name and crime. McQueen appears extremely surprised and informs Poirot that he would never have worked for Ratchett had he been aware of his identity. McQueen’s father was a district attorney, and he had handled the Armstrong case. McQueen felt a great deal of sympathy towards the family. McQueen informs Poirot that following dinner he went back to his compartment and read for a while. At Belgrade, McQueen got into a conversation with Colonel Arbuthnot. The gentleman ended up discussing politics until 2AM. This was in McQueen’s compartment. McQueen then fell asleep. When at Vincovci, he and Arbuthnot both alighted from the train to stretch. The sole person McQueen saw in the hallway was a woman wearing a scarlet silk robe going by his door. McQueen never witnessed a return from the unidentified lady.

Chapter 3

Poirot brings in Edward Henry Masterman, M. Ratchett’s valet, for questioning. The valet says that he last saw Ratchett at about 9PM. The valet went into Ratchett’s room to fold his clothes, put his dental place in water and administered his sleeping draught. Ratchett appeared to be upset and anxious; he was upset by everything his valet did. Ratchett communicated to Masterman that he did not wish to be disturbed until he rang the following morning. Masterman was not surprised that he failed to call the next morning, as Ratchett frequently didn’t get up until lunchtime. After he left Ratchett, Masterman told McQueen that Ratchett wanted him. He set off to his own compartment and did some reading.  The no. four compartment is shared between Masterman and the Italian. He was reading until 10:30, when the conductor arrived and made up the beds for the night. He did not fall asleep until four in the morning because he’s kept awake by a bad toothache. He was aware that Ratchett had certain enemies because he had hears Ratchett and McQueen talking about some of the threatening letters. Masterman lacked knowledge of Ratchett’s real identity, but he told Poirot that he knew about the Armstrong case. Masterman smokes cigarettes.

Analysis

Part 2 starts with Poirot gathering evidence. Prior to the interviews he carries out in these chapters, Poirot finds some evidence in Ratchett’s compartment. The most notable evidence is the charred piece of paper that bears Daisy Armstrong’s name and the strange nature of the stab wounds. However, in section two Poirot begins his formal collection of evidence for the crime. Murder on the Orient Express, like many Christie novels, are very formulaic. However, most novels in the detective and mystery genre have a “set” formula that includes these elements: a statement of the problem, the production of data needed for solution, and the discovery. Of course, writers have questioned and played with these rules, but Christie strictly adheres to them in this novel. She even goes to the length of using the following sections: “The Facts,” “The Evidence,” “Hercule Poirot Sits Back and Thinks.”

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