Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

13th June 2012

*I bought this book (and want every one of these with the new covers put out by Harper Collins).

From the back cover (because I’m still exhausted from New York):

Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Edward Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. One of his fellow passengers must be the murderer.

Isolated by the storm, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer among a dozen of the dead man’s enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again.

Toward the end of the spring semester, my students and I read an ESL version of Death on the Nile. Keep in mind, we read this on the heels of two other detective novels: one, a sort of Sam Spade, down-and-out detective novel and Sherlock Holmes in Hound of the Baskervilles. My students did not take kindly to Monsieur Poirot. After the other detectives, they couldn’t understand why Poirot kept allowing people to get killed. “2 bodies!” “5 bodies!” they’d exclaim. “And he doesn’t give us any hints!”

As an avid mystery reader, this would also be my complaint about Poirot. So pompous, and he keeps things so close to his chest, proclaiming again and again that he knows the killer without letting on what exactly gave him the idea. Ah, Poirot, you madden me. Yet, I’m still a sucker for it. This mystery in particular was one I enjoyed just because the victim was so dastardly. When his past comes to light, and the suspects express their happiness for his untimely end, you can understand why. Each passenger has an express reason to want the victim dead, and the end result is one I was both surprised and pleased with, in terms of mystery telling. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever read a mystery quite like this one.

Also, in contrast with Ms. Marple, whose exploits are very often close to home, Poirot is the exotic traveler, unfamiliar with his surroundings, yet in his element all at once. I read a few other Poirot toward the end of last year and wasn’t sure if I’d continue with him or not, but Murder on the Orient Express has changed my mind. I’ll still be grumpy about my own limitations and inability to determined the killer, and I’m sure I’ll complain about Monsieur Poirot as well, but as Lawrence Block says on the back of this book, “Agatha Christie is something special.”

  • Laura Rowsell

    Aw, Poirot is my favourite! I haven’t read an Agatha Christie for quite a while, but this one is my absolute FAVOURITE! I love love love the whole story of the murder, and I kind of want to read it again now because I can’t remember how it all went down.

    Also…. I don’t think you should feel bad about not being able to guess the killer in this one, because COME ON! Best ending ever.

    • Exactly! I didn’t feel too badly about it. Seriously, such a fantastic ending. Loved that aspect of it, and it was so interesting following along and trying to keep the clues straight.

  • I especially loved the ending to this book. It was one of those “take that” pulling together that rocked my world. I haven’t met Miss Marple yet, as Orient is the only mystery book I’ve read by Christie, but I hope to make her acquaintance soon!

    • The only Christie? You’re in for such a treat! It had been years since I read any, and last summer I picked up And Then There Were None on audio. It was fantastic. I also really loved Man in the Brown Suit, which isn’t Marple or Poirot.

  • heidenkind

    Did you ever watch the TV series? I loved that show! I used to watch it every day when they played the reruns on A&E.

    This is actually the only Agatha Christie novel I’ve read. I was stranded in Paris and the only English-language books I could find were Agatha Christie. It was pretty good…

  • I’m so sad I never read this. I checked it out from the library and never got around to it before it was due again. I have only read one Agatha Christie–And Then There Were None. It was pretty good, and I’m excited to try more. One day…

  • I always loved the setting of Poirot novels but never Poirot!! Miss Marple was too homey for my tastes.

    • Yeah, I definitely enjoy Christie’s standalones more than Poirot or Marple (at this juncture). We shall see.

  • FABRSteph

    I read a couple Agatha Christie books, although it was some time ago. I agree that these new covers are wonderful and I am so glad to see that Harper Collins has done them. It seems to grab the attention of a different generation of readers.
    I can almost see a group of students keeping track of the body count and remarking that Poirot was not holding up to the expectations of these readers, especially after recent detective reads.
    I do remember liking Poirot myself, and will have to read Christie’s books again to remind myself of why. Like I said, it was some time ago.

    • Steph – It was so funny! They were very set against Poirot because of it. Then, of course, we watched the film, and they thought he was a very odd little man.

  • I’ve never read her and really need to change that!

    • Never?! Marie – I can hardly believe that. If you decide to pick her up, I’d definitely start off with And Then There Were None or Man in the Brown Suit. Great introduction. I hadn’t read her for years and started there last summer.

    • rolling22

      the ones Jenn suggested are really good… (i havent read man in the brown suit.. so no idea about that) you can also read death on the nile or evil under the sun…

  • What fun, haven’t read her in ages, but remember going on Agatha Christie binge-reads when I was younger. They’ve since all blurred together in my memory & this makes me want to read them all over again. You can’t help but love Poirot.

    • Yes, it had been since I was maybe in junior high, but I’m glad I picked her books up again. Such fun.

  • Oh, I am just OBSESSED with Agatha Chrisite novels – I’ve read them all so many times but I keep going back to them again and again. Over the years I’ve picked them up from second-hand bookshops and I’ve also collected a whole load of the 1950’s/60’s hardback editions with fantastic covers… I think I have a problem!

    • That’s such an awesome collection. I love the old covers just as well, and honestly, having a collection of any books is NOT a problem in my book. 🙂 What’s your favorite, out of curiosity?

      • rolling22

        I loved Death on the Nile… Murder is easy… and Murder is announced… Which ones r ur favs?

    • rolling22

      I am the same way.. m addicted to AC novels