Thursday, February 3, 2011

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

While en route from Syria to Paris, in the middle of a freezing winter's night, the Orient Express is stopped dead in its tracks by a snowdrift.  Passengers awake to find the train still stranded and to discover that a wealthy American has been brutally stabbed to death in his private compartment.  Incredibly, that compartment is locked from the inside.  With no escape into he wintry landscape the killer must still be on board!  Fortunately, the brilliant Belgian inspector Hercule Poirot is also on board, having booked the last available berth.  He launches and immediate and urgent investigation into this vexing crime-for which each of the thirteen other passengers seems to have a motive.

As most of you know by know I'm not a huge fan of Monsieur Poirot, though I may be considered a minor fan. He tends to get on my nerves a lot.  He's arrogant, pompous, vain, and just a little snobbish.  Now I admit that he is brilliant enough and he has little competition when it comes to how his "little grey cells" work.  Normally I need someone else with him, like Hastings, in order to humanize him for me.  Or I need him to be an almost secondary character, as he was in The Mystery of the Blue Train.  Neither of those are the case in Murder on the Orient Express, which has always been my favorite Hercule Poirot book.

The storyline and plot twists take care of that for me in this one.  This is not the first time I've read this book, not even the tenth, but it may be the first time, while reading the book, that I focused on how I was feeling towards Poirot.  He seems almost toned down in this one.  The arrogance is there, but it's not as in your face.  Though that's not what makes him more real for me. 

It's how he reacts to the motive behind the killing and the subsequent investigation.  He seems almost to be emotionally reacting to the whole thing.  I'm not going to go into any details for those of you who have not read this book, but the motive for the killing is perfectly justifiable for me, and in a way Poirot may feel the same way.  I think he wants to solve this one more for personal knowledge that he could, rather than seeing the guilty parties brought to justice.  You just have to read the solution and how Poirot handles it in order to understand what I'm talking about.

Now I have seen two movie versions of this.  The first is the Albert Finney version, the second was the PBS version from last year.  Both movies, though the PBS one more so, seem to show a more conflicted, angry Poirot than what I get out of the book.  I think that anger is based more on Hercule Poirot's attitude and personality in all his other books, than what is shown in this one.  I could be completely off base on that, but maybe not.  I actually own the Albert Finney movie and may end up reviewing it on here at some later date.

No matter what, this was and still is one of my favorite Christie mysteries and I would encourage everyone to read it.

Challenges: M&S, VM


bermudaonion said...

When I think of Agatha Christie, this is the first title that pops into my mind. I guess it would make a good starting point for her books.

Jen said...

Nice post! I haven't re-read this book for a long time, so it was enjoyable to read your thoughts on it.

Anonymous said...

One of my favorites too.

Marce said...

I am reading my very first Christie right now - And Then There Were None. I will keep this one in mind.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

This was the first book I read by Christie...but it's been forever. I really should read it again or try another by her. And Then There Were None is the other one I read. I liked that one too.


Heidenkind said...

That's very true, Poirot does react emotionally to this murder, which he doesn't usually. I've never noticed that before!

Yvette said...

Ryan, I love this book. Great review. This has one of those classic Christie endings which, of course, everyone went on to copy in one way or another.

Same as with THE ABC MURDERS, if you know what I mean.

I think the definitie film of this book still needs to be made. I didn't like the Albert Finney portrayal of Poirot. And I hear, from my brother that the PBS one bolluxed up the storyline. So I won't be seeing that.

I'd love a film with Suchet in it that acually follows the story AS CHRISTIE wrote it. At least, Finney's movie did that much.

Why does anyone ever think they can 'improve' on Christie's plots?
A foolish endeavor at best. Her plots were perfection. :)

Yvette said...

Of course, I meant to write: definitive. Jeez.

Mirza Ghalib Shayari said...

The book is one of the best of Agatha Christie's work. How a man can be murdered by someone behind a locked compartment door and with train in a standstill position amidst the snowy countryside how can he escape?? How the murderer can be tracked among the different passengers travelling? These are just of the few question that will hover your mind till the end. A masterpiece.