Tuesday, 29 November 2016
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie Review
Man gets stabby-stabbied 12 times on a train - Belgian dick Hercule Poirot tells us thickos whodunit!
Murder on the Orient Express is one of Agatha Christie’s most famous novels though I wouldn’t say it’s among her best. The premise is enticing: a luxury European sleeper train stranded in the middle of the night, a locked room murder mystery, and the killer among the remaining passengers. Also as background to the killing, Christie took inspiration from the scandalous real-life Lindbergh baby kidnapping/murder that shocked the world in the early 1930s.
The execution though is wanting. Poirot methodically interviews all of the passengers, slowly going over the repetitive events with ever so slight variations each time, for most of the book which, while understandably necessary, makes for a dry and unexciting read. This approach is why I’m not a huge fan of the genre.
Poirot is also not the most fascinating of characters being a quiet, intelligent, polite, and even-tempered gentleman - I’ve never understood his appeal, give me the cocaine-injecting opium dabbler Sherlock Holmes any day of the week! - nor are the other characters any more interesting.
That ending though! I was so smug thinking I’d figured out the killer by page 70 but old Aggie was quite the master of deception, wasn’t she? It really is a fantastic and clever resolution.
Murder on the Orient Express is a short book but I feel like it could be made even shorter by alternatively reading the story up to the murder and then skipping the dull middle section straight to the resolution. The book has its moments and it’s easy to see why it’s considered a classic but it’s not a white knuckle ride like her best story, And Then There Were None.