Murder on the Orient Express must be one of Agatha Christie’s most well known books. It was first published in 1934 and it was first filmed in 1974, starring Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot, and most recently in 2010 with David Suchet as Poirot. I’ve seen both films and so knew the plot, but I’d never read the book until now.
Poirot is on the Orient Express, on a three-days journey across Europe. But after midnight the train comes to a halt, stuck in a snowdrift. In the morning the millionaire Simon Ratchett is found dead in his compartment his body stabbed a dozen times and his door locked from the inside. It is obvious from the lack of tracks in the snow that no-one has left the train and by a process of elimination Poirot establishes that one of the passengers in the Athens to Paris coach is the murderer.
Poirot interviews the passengers and the Wagon Lit conductors, none of whom appear to have a motive for killing Ratchett or to have any connection with him or each other. Poirot decides that this
… is a crime very carefully planned and staged. It is a far-sighted, long-headed crime. It is not – how shall I express it? – a Latin crime. It is a crime that shows traces of a cool, resourceful, deliberate brain – I think an Anglo-Saxon brain. (page 193)
Having interviewed all the suspects Poirot draws up a list of questions about things that need explaining. This leads him to speculation and re-interviewing some of the suspects and eventually he arrives at the truth. It’s hard to know whether I would have arrived at the same conclusion if I hadn’t seen the films, but watching the first one it did become obvious before the denouement.
I liked this book enormously. I like the way Agatha Christie divided it into three sections – The Facts, the Evidence and Hercule Poirot Sits Back and Thinks. I liked the characterisation and all the, now so non-pc, comments about nationalities, highlighting class and racial prejudice. I like the problem-solving and ingenuity of the plot.
- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Harper; Masterpiece edition (Reissue) edition (3 Sep 2007)
- Language English
- ISBN-10: 0007119313
- ISBN-13: 978-0007119318
- Source: Library book because I can’t find my own copy!