I have a confession to make. I’ve never read an Agatha Christie novel before. This was my first, but definitely not my last, Agatha Christie book, and I truly loved it! Originally published in 1934, Murder on the Orient Express is a novel that hasn’t aged extremely well. Agatha Christie has been dead from 40 years. That hardly seems possible because her name is as fresh in the literary world as ever. That’s probably because she has sold 2 billion books, many of those after she died. I’m relatively new to the world of Agatha Christie literature, but I had always known of this book by the title, always wanted to read it. She wrote 66 mysteries, so I’m looking forward to a few more.
The story features Monsieur Hercule Poirot, a clever, logical, Belgian private detective with an elaborate, waxed moustache. It was written and is set in the 1930s so some of the language and expressions are old fashioned and there are quite a lot of French phrases spoken by Poirot, so you might need a French dictionary to help you translate!
At the start of the book Poirot is at a hotel in Turkey, after finishing a case, and is sitting down to dinner when he notices an American tourist who he observes has the eyes of an animal and an air of evil about him. The next day on the Orient Express, the same man requests that Poirot takes on his case as he says that his life is in danger. However, Poirot refuses despite the man (named Ratchett) offering him large amounts of money. Next morning Poirot discovers that Ratchett has been murdered in his compartment, by being stabbed twelve times.
There are 12 people on the train car and all are suspects, the train is snowed in and the police cannot reach it. The story moves forward with interesting interrogations that give insight into who might be the killer. The other 12 passengers and the wagon master in the coach are interviewed, facts are collected, further questions and suspicions arise and answers are found. There is a lady’s handkerchief in Rachett’s compartment, a cigar has been dropped accidently by the murderer, there is a lady in a scarlet kimono who was seen running away, a button from a wagon master’s uniform all form part of a growing body of crucial evidence.
The initial part of the book may seem a little slow paced for some of the readers. The initial happenings of how Poirot’s travel on the Taurus Express, Poirot receiving an emergency message to return to London, or how he obtains a first class ticket on the Simplon Orient Express, and various instances of interactions with the co-passengers on the train unfurl in slow momentum. One might be tempted to overlook the facts presented in the initial parts of the book. However, it is only later on that one comes to know how Christie puts forward the evidence subtly in the beginning of the book which our dear Poirot makes use of later on to solve the mystery. As soon as the murderer was revealed I felt dumb because it was so obvious and therein lays the genius of Agatha Christie.
Books detailing crime investigations have always been a fascination for many of us. One is always on a guessing game as to who might be the probable culprit. Christie has dedicated a chapter each to the all the passengers in the coach as they put forward their thoughts on the murder. They also come across as important sources of information. Christie’s writing style, Poirot’s questioning, and reasoning abilities all impress tremendously. The evidence provided by the others are enough to keep one glued to the book and go through a sleepless night till the mystery is solved. Christie has given a unique touch to the ending to the mystery. This can, however, come across as a surprise to some and a disappointment to some.
The book was incredibly well plotted, and left you admiring the writer’s skill in showing how clever her detective was to uncover the mystery. I really enjoyed the surprising twist at the end too. I would recommend this book to anyone of 12 and above who enjoys detective stories and I will certainly be reading more Agatha Christie novels in future.
My rating : 4/5
“The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.”