|“||Casseti's connections threatened to kill me - his son - if he didn't do what they asked! Wha... what was he supposed to do?||„|
|~ Hector MacQueen (in the 2010 film)|
Hector Willard MacQueen is a major protagonist of Agatha Christie's 1934 Hercule Poirot novel, Murder on the Orient Express, and its adaptations.
MacQueen has been portrayed on screen by various actors, including the late Anthony Perkins in 1974, Adam James in 2001, Brian Smith in 2010, and Josh Gad in 2017.
At first glance, MacQueen acted as the secretary of Mr. Ratchett, primarily helping him navigate the various languages of Europe in his travels.
However, it turned out that MacQueen is the son of the prosecutor of Daisy Armstrong's kidnap and murder case, and his father ended his career in shame due to being threatened by Ratchett/Lanfranco Cassetti to rig the trial. He later participated the murder of Cassetti to seek righteousness for the Armstrong Family.
MacQueen's father was the District Attorney in charge of the Armstrong case, advising the Armstrong family after the kidnap of Daisy Armstrong. MacQueen himself had met Mrs. Sonia Armstong more than once when his father met with the Armstrongs, and took an admiration and sympathy to her.
A gangster named Cassetti was arrested and put on trial for the kidnap and murder of Daisy Armstrong but got off on a technicality because of his wealth and influence. Linda Arden, Daisy's grandmother, gathered a group of interested parties for the purpose of avenging the crime and bringing the criminal to justice. MacQueen joined the group.
Another participant of the group, the private detective Cyrus Hardman was assigned to find Cassetti who had by then the alias of Samuel Edward Ratchett. Thereafter, other members of the group managed to infiltrate Ratchett's staff. Edward Masterman managed to gain employment as his valet and MacQueen became his secretary after the old secretary was fired, and MacQueen maintained the position for almost a year.
MacQueen's position gave him insight and control over the travel plans of his employer, who made frequent journeys between Europe and the Middle-east in pursuit of his art collecting hobby. Based on MacQueen's information, the group was able to board the same train as Ratchett to implement their plan to execute him enroute.
Murder on the Orient Express
During this journey MacQueen travelled in compartment 6-7 on the Calais coach. He had booked as a single with a made-up booking for a fictitious "Mr Harris". However he was obliged to share the compartment with Poirot on the first night out of Istanbul because Monsieur Bouc, a director of the company had insisted that Poirot be accommodated.
During the night of the Ratchett's murder, he had been summoned at about 10 p.m. to take down a memoranda from Ratchett about some tiles and pottery purchased in Persia. Thereafter he supposedly spent the night talking with Colonel Arbuthnot.
After the murder of Ratchett, MacQueen told Poirot that he and some friends had come to the Middle-east to look into an oil concession but had failed badly. Ratchett had been staying in the same hotel and just had a row with his secretary. This was just over a year before. MacQueen told Poirot that since Ratchett did not know many languages, he sometimes acted more as a "courier" for his employer than as a secretary. He also showed Poirot "threatening letters" which he said Ratchett received. He also told Poirot that Ratchett had torn one up in a rage.
It was implied (and shown in the 2010 film adaptation) that MacQueen pretended to be Ratchett/Cassetti and spoke French to conductor Pierre Michel, who was also one of his collaborators, as a signal for others to arrive and stab Cassetti one person each time. Due to their sympathetic motives and righteous reason to kill off Cassetti, MacQueen and other culprits were spared by Poirot.
- MacQueen is of Scottish descent.
- In the 2017 film, MacQueen says that he is a lawyer by education, and the Armstrong Kidnapping took place in New Jersey, but Princeton University is the only Ivy League University in New Jersey, and it does not hand out law degrees.
- MacQueen admits that he is not a linguist but speaks bits of French, German, and Italian.