Tag Archives: Lawrence Block

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.”