Literary Pop: Murder on the Orient Express

Author: Agatha Christie
Year: 1934
Nationality: British

“It was five o’clock on a winter’s morning in Syria.”

Some time last year, inspired by my Christiephilic girlfriend (I’m sensing something of a pattern here), I read my first ever Hercule Poirot story (and my first Agatha Christie novel), entitled An Appointment with Death. I enjoyed it, and so for my birthday in December I received a couple more Poirot books: Death on the Nile, and this, Murder on the Orient Express. Of course everyone’s at least heard of Agatha Christie, and chances are if you’ve heard of any of her books then these two will surely be among them. I’ve never really read much in the way of detective fiction, so this is a relatively new area for me. However, it looks like it won’t be too hard for me to become acquainted quickly enough given that I picked it up on Friday night and had finished it by the end of Saturday.

Murder on the Orient Express is the 10th of Christie’s novels to star Hercule Poirot, the iconic little Belgian detective with the distinctive moustache. As I’ve come to find out, it doesn’t seem to matter which order you read them in so don’t be put off by the fact that (bold prediction incoming) you probably haven’t read the first nine.

The order of the books, it is not significant.
The order of the books, it is not significant.

When Poirot is summoned from Istanbul back to London at short notice, he manages to grab a last-minute seat on the titular locomotive, which should have him back in a matter of days. However, progress is delayed when the train is forced to a standstill in heavy snow, and things take a turn for the sinister when a seemingly-unpleasant old man is found stabbed to death in his bed the following morning. Among a group of passengers of various nationalities from murdercoverall walks of life, Poirot has the impossible job of finding out who among them, if any, has a connection to the dead man that might suggest his or her involvement. With the train going nowhere fast, Poirot has all the time he needs to interview the passengers, analyse the evidence and come to a conclusion that may or may not surprise you. I’m not going to spoil the ending, because what would be the point of that, but I for one was surprised.

This was an excellent book, and it’s easy to see where Agatha Christie earned the nickname “The Queen of Crime”. I’ve now read two of her books, and had no idea what was coming in either; I think it’s fair to say however that Murder on the Orient Express is on an entirely different level to the Poirot I read previously. Apart from being more than admirably written from a literary point of view, the story itself is genius. I find myself wanting to read it again to see if I can pick up on things that I missed, but even then I get the feeling I’ll be tricked again. I can’t really tell you much other than that you need to read this for yourself. Additionally, if you like a series (I like a series) there are loads more that you can (and I plan to) discover. Even if you don’t, you ought to read this book. You might be surprised.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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