“Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie


asteriaiconOne day I was at one of my favorite stores in the city. It has a nice, quaint atmosphere, with used CD’s, vinyl, DVD’s, collectables, and of course books, and the staff are incredibly knowledgeable. As I was talking with my friend who runs the book section of the store, we got talking about Agatha Christie. I had never read Christie, and with the movie coming out for Murder on the Orient Express, I thought this would be a perfect time to give Christie a try.

I brought the book with me on a recent trip to Rome. It was a perfect book to take. It was a small, thin book that fit perfect in my purse, and I read it at the airport and in our hotel room before bed. It was a quick read, but I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the ending, how the clues all worked, and who the killer was.

The story follows Hercule Poirot, who is on a train heading to London, when the train is stopped due to a snow drift blocking the tracks. While stopped, a murder occurs in the cabin next to Poirot’s in the middle of the night. Poirot is now on the case, attempting to solve the murder while still on the train. He interviews all of the passengers, after all the killer has to be one of them. The victim, a man named Ratchett, is not a very nice man, and throughout the investigation, Poirot discovers Ratchett is using a fake identity, and there is a very good reason why someone would want him dead.

Poirot has an acute attention to detail, trying to interpret what clues were left behind, before the passengers get off the train in London, and potentially lost forever. Remember, this was written in 1934, so this is pre-cell phone era. There is no connection with the outside world, no help looking up information online, no one coming to save the day and make an arrest. Each character has their own unique personality, each is flawed, and each capable of murder.

As this was written over 80 years ago, the English was rather different than what we use today. I half expected to read the word “indubitably”, and was somewhat disappointed when I didn’t. As I said, somehow my mystery reading repertoire was missing Christie, which is a shame since she seems to be considered the Queen of mystery writing. This was the 10th novel in the Poirot series, but it read easily enough as a standalone.

For those that do not know the ending, and are okay with me ruining it, the killer does not turn out to be any one passenger on the train …but rather in fact it is ALL of the passengers on the train. Poirot is the only one not involved in the murder, and his appearance on the train was happenstance. Each guest was connected to the same family who experienced a tragedy in the United States at the hands of Ratchett.

For me, I was very disappointed and found the book to be much over-hyped.  I knew she was the Queen, but thought that was because the story was so well told, not because the ending, the who-dunnit, was so absurd and impossible to predict. True, I do like it when I can’t guess the ending, but I would still like it to be believable. Perhaps, in 1934, the likelihood of all of these characters being on one train was more probable than today. Regardless, I do not see myself picking up another Christie novel any time soon, and needless to say, I never made it to see the movie and am not really upset about it.

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