Saturday, June 25, 2016

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Genre: mystery
Published: 1934
Pages: 322

Just after midnight, a snowdrift stopped the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train was surprisingly full for the time of the year. But by the morning there was one passenger fewer. A passenger lay dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside...

This is only the second Agatha Christie I've had the pleasure of reading--the first was And Then There Were None a few weeks ago--and I think I am already becoming hooked on her books.  Her style of writing is bare bones, she does not dwell on long descriptions of setting or characterization apart from what is necessary to tell an excellent, plot-driven mystery story.  Nevertheless, I found myself staring at the book's open pages for far longer than it should take me to read the text as I mentally ran through possible clues and racked my brain as to the identity of the murderer.  Well, Christie fooled me, so all my deliberation and reflection turned out to be for naught!

 Murder on the Orient Express stars one of Christie's two famous detectives, the Belgian Hercule Poirot.  Poirot is rather like Sherlock Holmes in that he is a well-respected detective known for cracking the cases which elude others and the police.  While he is also a bit arrogant--er, very sure of his powers of deduction--, Poirot differs from Holmes in his methods.  If Sherlock Holmes had been asked to solve a murder which occurred in one carriage on a snowbound train, he would likely pace up and down the corridor examining the crime scene, the floor, and the sleeves of all the passengers for suspicious substances which would in some complicated way allow him to deduce the identity of the killer.

Poirot, on the other hand, plants himself in a room and has each of the passengers (the only possible suspects, as the train is snowbound) come in for an interview.  He uses psychology to determine their guilt or lack thereof and, surprisingly, a bit of guesswork.  For example, Poirot asks some of the passengers questions which are intended to startle them into revealing something they may be trying to conceal.  He also analyzes phrasing and word choice... when he asks a woman if she owns a scarlet kimono (because the murderer may have been seen wearing one), she replies, "No, that is not mine," suggesting she may know whose it is, though she insists otherwise.  Poirot also rapidly alters his persona and method of questioning so as to best provoke answers or cooperation from the suspects according to their personalities.

The murder occurs fairly early on, as an unlikable American gentleman is murdered in his room at night.  Poirot begins his investigation the morning after the murder and interviews each of the passengers to obtain their alibis and any information they might have in the way I described above.  Among the suspects are a countess, the dead man's secretary, a conductor, a noisy American matron, and an English governess.  After interviewing each of these people and examining the clues (a handkerchief is found in the victim's room and a woman in a scarlet kimono was sighted in the corridor), Poirot finally lays out the solution to the friend who is helping him with the investigation.  I could be wrong, but I don't think the identity of the murderer is one that many people would be able to guess.  I changed my mind about who I thought the killer was at least four times, and by the end I did not have a clue!  I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  The next Agatha Christie that I read will be The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

This book is

brilliant                      diverting                 surprising

This review was one for my Classics Club list

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...