“The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.”
During the course of last summer I read my second Agatha Christie book and I really enjoyed it; Death On The Nile is a great mystery novel and I have also reviewed it on the blog. While I really appreciated the twists and the setting, reading Murder On The Orient Express, my third Agatha Christie book, has been an even better experience, since I was already familiar with the character of Hercule Poirot and the writer’s style.
To me, this book confirmed Agatha Christie’s genius in building the plot and creating the right amount of suspense in the process of solving the case. I am very fascinated by the fact that, even though this novel was published in 1934, it feels very modern and the language used by Christie makes you feel like you were reading a modern novel, as if it were set in present times.
The book takes place aboard the Orient Express, a train that used to connect the Middle East to Europe in the first decades of the 20th century. The famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is traveling from Istanbul to London by train, along with a series of passengers that make for very interesting characters; they come from all different places and each of them has their secrets and peculiar traits. When a murder occurs, Poirot and the other passengers find themselves stuck on the train while traveling through Yugoslavia due to a heavy snowfall and it is very likely that the murderer is still on board.
As Poirot begins to investigate the murder, which immediately appears to be related to a crime case in the USA that occurred a few years before the events in the book, the passengers are being interrogated by the detective, and it is clear from the outset that most of them have something to hide… During this investigation, Poirot is accompanied by Monsieur Bouc, his old friend and director of the Wagon Lits; while Bouc immediately jumps to conclusions about who the perpetrator of the murder might be, Poirot prefers to wait until he is well informed about the facts before expressing an opinion on the matter.
The novel is structured in a very organized way, with entire chapters devoted to character questioning and evaluation of evidence, which includes quirky objects such as a pipe-cleaner, a message on a scrap of paper and a button from a train conductor’s uniform, so it is quite entertaining to witness Poirot’s thinking process and the way he pieces together all the clues. I tried so hard to guess who the murderer was but Agatha Christie always manages to surprise you, while by the end it feels like the solution was right under your nose all along! Although some might argue that a train is a confined place for the action to unfold, which might make it a bit static, I actually find that this increased the level of suspense and lent a claustrophobic tone to the whole story.
Overall, I think it is a novel that makes the reader reflect about the matter of justice and how sometimes a flawed justice system drives people to act in a certain way. I had a great time reading it and it made me want to read more books by Agatha Christie; I would also love to explore the ones that feature Miss Marple as the main character, since I still haven’t read any of those.
SIMILAR BOOKS: I really enjoyed Murder On The Orient Express so I will soon pick up other books written by Agatha Christie. If, like me, you have already read it and are looking for something similar, you will most likely enjoy other books featuring Hercule Poirot in the role of the detective. I own Hallowe’en Party and would also like to read Hercule Poirot’s Christmas soon. I recently purchased Agatha Christie’s The Body In The Library, which features Miss Marple, so I am going to read this one as well. A few years ago I also read And Then There Were None, which was pretty good, and, as I have previously mentioned, last summer I read Death On The Nile, which I really enjoyed (it is the first book I reviewed here). In addition, my mother recommended to me another Agatha Christie novel from the Miss Marple series, titled The Mirror Crack’d from Side To Side, which she read during high school. Regarding similar books by other authors, I read The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins, which is a very fascinating thriller and it partly takes place on a train. When I was ten I also read a middle grade book in the Tom Austen Mysteries series by Eric Wilson titled Murder On The Canadian, loosely inspired by Murder On The Orient Express, which will certainly appeal to young readers. I also plan to read Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers On A Train, since I find the plot and the setting very intriguing.
MOVIE ADAPTATIONS: Murder On The Orient Express has been adapted countless times over the decades so you will have plenty of choice in deciding which TV or film adaptation to watch. I watched the 1974 movie adaptation starring Albert Finney in the role of Hercule Poirot; his performance gives the character the right balance of wit and comedy. Lauren Bacall and Ingrid Bergman are also playing the roles of two train passengers (the latter won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in this one) and I think it is a very good adaptation. When I was little I got to see the first scene by chance as it was broadcast on National TV and it scared me quite a lot; I still find it a bit disturbing to this day. The movie has also excellent photography and some scenes are aesthetically pleasing because it was shot on location and it features some breathtaking views of the Bosphorus river. There is also a 2017 movie adaptation directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also stars in the role of Poirot, and it features great actresses like Judi Dench and Penelope Cruz so I am very curious to watch it. I have heard it has some mixed reviews but one of my best friends really enjoyed it so I am planning to watch it soon and discover which adaptation I prefer.
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