52 Good Books

Book review 18 – Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Cristie

Book review 18 – Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Cristie

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you’ve all started the year with renewed enthusiasm to tackle those resolutions. I have to admit to feeling a tad smug in this regard. Having started my own 52 week reading challenge back in September, I am now 18 weeks in and going strong. This is all smoke and mirrors of course. Come April everyone else will also be 18 weeks into their resolutions (by which time I will be a further 18 weeks in ­čśë) but it does feel good to get past the initial few tentative weeks.

So my fellow bookworms, I wonder how many of you may have turned out the following phrase:

If you are one of these purists you will appreciate my┬ádetermination to read ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ by Agatha Christie before watching the film. The only slight snag was that since the film came out all the libraries that I frequent seemed to be remarkably bereft of copies of this particular book and so it has taken till now for me to read it. I believe the Curzon in Victoria is still showing the film… I’d better hot-foot it down there before even they stop!

Not having read any of Agatha Christie’s work before, I was tickled to discover that Hercule Poirot is a character of hers. I remember the almost comical, moustached little man with a black top hat that appeared on films on TV. I never really took much notice, but I must say I am inclined to now go and hunt down some of those old films and watch them in a new context.

Murder on the Orient Express is a delightfully put together book. The story takes place on a train making its way from Istanbul to Calais. The journey is set to take three nights but a snowdrift grounds the train mid-route and a gruesome murder is discovered. The conundrum is who killed this man in his sleeper compartment and then managed to escape whilst locking the door from the inside? The legendary detective Poirot happens to be travelling on the train and he is tasked with getting to the bottom of the mystery.

Every good detective has to have a side-kick or two to bounce off and Poirot finds these in the form of the Director of the train company who is an old friend of his and a Doctor. Together the trio question the passengers and sift through the evidence. I┬áthink I was lulled into a false sense of security by the two hapless sidekicks, one of whom suspected a man of being the killer for no other reason than the fact he was Italian and so it suited his Latin temperament… I mean seriously?!┬á

This put it into my head that everything about this book was going to be a bit dumbed down and in no way comparable to sophisticated modern┬áday mysteries such as Jonathon Creek which I have never yet been able to work out. But it was foolish of me to think this or perhaps I just fell into the trap that Christie had set for me. The end was jaw droppingly unexpected. I simply did not see it coming and I never even had a theory as to whodunnit. In fact just like the Jonathan Creek’s of this world, I’m pretty sure no-one would be able to work this one out other than Poirot, Jonathon Creek, Sherlock Holmes etc. themselves.┬á

All in all this was a fantastic page turner that I devoured within a few short days. Age has not diminished the appeal of this fantastic murder mystery, so whether you are holding off the film like me or whether you have already seen it, I think there is something here for everyone.

I hope you’ll join me next Monday. I’ll be returning to Ali Smith to review her latest book ‘Winter’.

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