Goodreads rating: 4.04 (53,800+ ratings)
My rating: 6.5/10
Why it’s on the list: Like Death on the Nile, this was the 3rd of my brother’s favourite Agatha Christie books.
First published: January 4th, 1934 by Collins Crime Club
Another Poirot novel, Murder on the Orient Express is set on a train (unsurprisingly). Stout Belgian detective Hercule Poirot boards an unusually packed train, with a variety of other passengers from a wide range of countries and backgrounds. A Count and a Countess, a princess, some maids, a car salesman and a Colonel are just a few of the characters who make up the remainder of the first and second class carriage along with Poirot.
After another passenger is murdered, and some pieces of evidence are left behind, Poirot is called upon by the Orient’s owner to investigate the murder. The train is stuck thanks to the snow, and Poirot determines that no one could have got on or off the train, which means one or more of the passengers is the murderer.
I liked the layout of the book, which had separate ‘parts’, and when each passenger was giving evidence, they were in different chapters, for example, ‘McQueen’s evidence’, which made it easier to follow and also gave you more of an insight into the characters. The edition of the book that I read also had a diagram of the first and second class carriage so that you could see where people were in relation to the victim. I ended up referring to the diagram quite a bit as I was reading the evidence.
I won’t tell you anymore, as I really don’t like reviews that give away important plot points, however I will say that I was disappointed with the ending of this mystery. As usual, I had my suspects, and as usual, I was wrong. But that’s not what annoyed me. The ‘cop-out’ nature of the solution irritated me, and it was too far-fetched in my mind. Unlike other Poirot novels (eg. Death on the Nile) which seem more realistic and likely, and are clever murders.
I do love Poirot though, and I do recommend this book to any Agatha Christie fan/mystery lover just because you must read the book to believe it!
“The great Belgian detective’s guesses are more than shrewd; they are positively miraculous. Although both the murder plot and the solution verge upon the impossible, Agatha Christie has contrived to make them appear quite convincing for the time being, and what more than that can a mystery addict desire?” – The New York Times Book Review, March 4th 1934
Bits & pieces
- Christie herself was involved in a similar incident in December 1931 while returning from a visit to her husband’s archaeological dig at Nineveh. The Orient Express train she was on was stuck for twenty-four hours, due to rainfall, flooding and sections of the track being washed away. Her authorised biography quotes in full a letter to her husband detailing the event. The letter includes descriptions of some passengers on the train, who influenced the plot and characters of the book, particularly an American lady, Mrs. Hilton, who was the inspiration for Mrs. Hubbard. [Source]
- In Sex And The City Season 5 episode “The Big Journey”, Carrie and Samantha take a trip from New York to San Francisco in a cross-country train. Carrie booked a first class deluxe suit in the train, but when they arrive they are surprised to see how small it is. Samantha then quips, “I’m starting to understand why there was a murder on the orient express.” [Source]
- There is a history of criminals copying crimes from Agatha’s books (whether the criminals knew or not). There was a murder very similar to Murder on the Orient Express committed in West Germany in 1981. [Source]
- Her last public appearance was at the 1974 premiere of Murder on the Orient Express. [Source]
- The Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul has an Agatha Christie Room where, it claims, she wrote Murder on the Orient Express. [Source]
“If ever a man deserved what he got, Ratchett or Cassetti is the man. I’m rejoiced at his end. Such a man wasn’t fit to live!” - Mr Macqueen
“She is cold. She has not emotions. She would not stab a man; she would sue him in the law courts.” – Miss Debenham
“There is a large American on the train,” said M. Bouc, pursuing his idea – “a common-looking man with terrible clothes. He chews the gum which I believe is not done in good circles. You know whom I mean?” - M. Bouc
“No,” said Mr. Bouc thoughtfully. “This is the act of a man driven almost crazy with a frenzied hate – it suggests more that Latin temperament. Or else it suggests, as our friend the chef de train insisted, a woman.” M. Bouc
“I like to see an angry Englishman,” said Poirot. “They are very amusing. The more emotional they feel the less command they have of language.” - Poirot
“If you confront anyone who has lied with the truth, they usually admit it – often out of sheer surprise. It is only necessary to guess right to produce your effect.” – Poirot
“If you will forgive me for being personal – I do not like your face, M. Ratchett.” - Poirot