Author: Agatha Christie
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publishing Date: January 18, 2011
Number of Pages: 288
Genre: Mystery Fiction, Suspense Fiction, Detective Fiction
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.
I used to have no interest in reading fiction although I did spend time reading the glossy pages of magazines and encyclopedias. Everything changed during my senior year in high school as I started taking interest in fiction books; I originally thought that I would never be able to finish one because of their length. My introduction to this wonderful world were suspense and mystery novels. However, over time, the predictability of these novels made me shift to other genres. That was until I heard of Agatha Christie, whose mystery novels earned her the moniker of “Queen of Mystery.”
I first heard of Agatha Christie, in a more pronounced form, through a college classmate; I heard about her but in passing. My classmate’s palpable enthusiasm about Christie and her works immediately piqued my interest and within weeks, I purchased the first Christie mystery that I encountered, Murder on the Orient Express. And on a rainy Baguio City day, I finally got to immerse on perhaps one of the most hyped books (at least by a friend) I came across. Here are my thoughts.
“The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.” ~ Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express
Murder on the Orient Express is the tenth novel featuring the famed detective Hercule Poirot; he draws comparison with that even more famous Arthur Conan Doyle character of the same mettle. While aboard the popular Orient Express, murder was announced as one of the train’s passengers, Samuel Edward Ratchett, was found dead in his compartment. It was, to borrow a term from a famous Japanese anime, a “locked room” mystery as his compartment was locked from the inside. Aside from Ratchett and Poirot, there are twelve other passengers. Now, it is up to Poirot to catch the fugitive. Who among this twelve is the murderer?
Set in the famed Orient Express that originally serviced Paris and Istanbul, the novel was first published in 1934 and contains allusions to the kidnapping and murder of the son of Charles Lindbergh two years prior to the book’s publication. Christie drizzled the novel with some of her experiences with the famed passenger train. These may seem very simple elements at first but with Agatha Christie’s masterful and suspenseful writing, it ultimately worked out great in the end.
Agatha Christie really got me bemused on this one as she used many interesting elements – a train, a murder, 12 interesting characters, 12 suspects with perfect alibis, 12 suspects with possible motives, and in their midst, a Belgian detective. From these elements she weaved an intricate narrative that got me going on the onset. What is more even fascinating is that Poirot must solve the mystery sans the aid of any electronic and modern devices. He used manual labor and his instincts, making this story a gold, a masterpiece.
“But I know human nature, my friend, and I tell you that, suddenly confronted with the possibility of being tried for murder, the most innocent person will lose his head and do the most absurd things.” ~ Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express
There are a lot of things that I can think of that sets apart this suspense novel from the rest. Ultimately, it was how Christie cleanly tied it all up in the end that just threw me off. Christie literally played tricks with my mind, going from one potential suspect to another, making my mind work overtime. From start to finish, I was at the edge of my seat trying my best to resolve the murder and try as I might, I couldn’t properly point my finger to the correct suspect. As the story concludes, it all became clearer; that was when I appreciate the beauty of the novel.
But don’t get me wrong – the novel was great from the onset, which is a rarity. It was consistent all through out and for that, props up to Agatha Christie for an amazing job. Overall, if one is to ruminate, he might glean the absurdity of plot but it is this impossibility that made the detective story all the more interesting and fun. It was through this novel as well that I got to appreciate Hercule Poirot and his wit, including his problem-solving process. Post Poirot, I would encounter other great fictional detectives like Miss Marple and Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. I personally refer to them as the Holy Trinity of detective fiction.
Another element that truly shone in the novel is Agatha Christie’s writing prowess. She was on point the entire time. She deviated from the formulaic story telling that I have gotten used to. She got the pacing right while maintaining a sense of tenterhook and tension in the atmosphere. The way she carried on with the narrative is something that one rarely encounters. The novel is a collection of wonderful attributes that were carefully weaved together to create a masterpiece.
Even with just one book, she was clearly able to prove to me her worth and immediately endeared me to her. The way she made me navigate a labyrinthine mystery is a splendid reading experience. She made the reader feel as though he is one with Poirot and that he is part of the narrative. It does take a lot to transport the reader from reality to the world of fiction.
“At a small table, sitting very upright, was one of the ugliest old ladies he had ever seen. It was an ugliness of distinction—it fascinated rather than repelled.” ~ Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express
As mentioned in the introduction, I lost my enthusiasm for mystery fiction because of their formulaic approach. It was my first Agatha Christie mystery that has rekindled that interest in me. Stepping into an Agatha Christie novel is like stepping into a whole new dimension. It made me realize that there is so much more to mystery and suspense fiction. I can’t help myself but gush over Murder on the Orient Express and Agatha Christie. Both the book and the author have earned a special place in me.
Post Orient Express, I purchased and read more of her works; about 25 I think. I do plan to read all of her works. Agatha Christie has captured me with just Murder on the Orient Express. She is now my favorite mystery fiction author and Orient Express is one of my favorite mystery fictions of all times. For those who want to start on Agatha Christie’s works, Murder on the Orient Express would be a great start. Lastly, I would like to thank that friend who introduced me to the wonderful world of Agatha Christie. I owe you, big time.
Recommended for readers who like detective and mystery fiction, those who were fascinated with Sherlock Holmes, those who want mind-boggling and puzzling mysteries, those who want to be on the edge of their seats from start to finish, those who got tired with formulaic mystery novels, and readers who want to indulge in Agatha Christie’s works.
Not recommended for, well, no one, unless you are not really into reading. 😊
About the Author
To learn more about Agatha Christie, click here.