Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Fiction — print. Berkley, 2004. First published 1934. 322 pgs. Library copy.

The tenth book in Christie’s series starring the private detective Hercule Poirot crisscrossing the “Orient” from Baghdad to Beirut to Istanbul before a snowdrift stops the train in its tracks in the now former Yugoslavia just after midnight.

The passengers, including Poirot, are anxious to reach their destinations and disembark the crowded train yet the train is stopped once more with the discovery of an American passenger laying inside his compartment stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside.

It comes to light that Ratchett, the victim, was the mastermind behind the kidnapping and murder of Daisy Armstrong, a toddler well-beloved by her mother, a socialite, and her father, who served in the United States military. The similarities to the Lindbergh kidnapping are evident; the Armstrong’s nurse commits suicide following the intense questioning just like the Lindbergh’s nurse. In this case, though, the focus is not on the murder of little Daisy Armstrong by on the murder of her accused murderer.

Christie is, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the best-selling novelist of all time, and considered the “Queen of Crime” because she constructed the classic mystery structure: a murder is committed, multiple suspects exist and all conceal secrets, and the detective uncovers these secrets over the course of the story with the most shocking twists towards the end. It is a structure I am quite familiar with albeit without the chase scenes and gun violence of more recent mystery novels I have read. Thus Christie’s novel relies on sheer intrigue rather than violent interactions to carry her story; the murder ends up being much sneaker and the process of solving the crime much more intriguing.

I had an inkling who the murder might be – although, I can’t decide if that is because the ending was spoiled for me many years ago – but I fell for many of the red herrings along the way before reaching the end. Poirot is smug in his explanation at the end, and I’m afraid I might tired of such a character were I to quickly plow through the rest of the books in the series. But flipping back through the novel to reread certain passages where important pieces of evidence are subtly revealed proved just how genius Christie was so I’m considering taking the risk.

The Classics Club:

I read this book for the Classics Club, which challenges participants read and discuss fifty or more books considered to be classics within a five year period. My personal goal for this project is to read seventy-five books in three years ending on August 15, 2017. You can find out more information by checking out my introductory post, project post, or spreadsheet of titles.

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