Murder on the Orient Express

By: Agatha Christie

After receiving a telegram about a breakthrough in his current case, detective Hercule Poirot is forced to make an unexpected journey back home via the Orient Express. Once aboard, a man by the name of Edward Ratchett approaches Poirot asking the detective for help in discovering a plot against his life in exchange for a large reward. Poirot refuses. The following morning, he discovers that Ratchett has been brutally murdered in his sleep, and no one can account for the odd clues left in the dead man’s room. Unexpectedly trapped in a snow drift with no way to escape, Poirot knows that the murderer is still on the train with him, and he is the only one who can discover the motive to this grizzly assassination.

I admittedly decided that I wanted to read this book after I saw the amazing cast of actors in the recent movie adaptation from 2017. I still have not seen the movie because I wanted to read the book first without having any of the details spoiled for me. Movies based on books also always end up altering something thanks to artistic license, and I wanted to bypass that as much as possible. I don’t know when I will actually watch the film, but I can say with certainty that it will at least be…eventually.

Now, as far as the actual novel goes…

The entire book is written in the third person perspective, but we only follow around Hercule Poirot. We learn the details of the case as he discovers them encouraging us to try to make a guess at the identity of the murderer as we read. However, there were several points in the book where all of a sudden Poirot says that he has come up with a theory and the reader has absolutely no idea where it came from or how he drew that conclusion. At least, I didn’t. Maybe I’m just a dork, but I could merely sit back and watch trying to understand his train of thought as he explained his theories to his companions.

(pause for audible groans at that really terrible pun).

In many ways, how he reaches his conclusions made me think this novel was eerily similar to that of the original Sherlock Holmes stories (many of which I am quite familiar). The language that the author uses is nearly identical and reads almost like a children’s story with overly polite banter between all of the characters. Additionally, the author gets right to the point and doesn’t spend much time world building. Much is left to the imagination, which is an aspect that I enjoyed. Also like in a Sherlock Holmes story, Poirot is able to make some pretty large leaps in order to reach his answers that sometimes seem far-fetched and outrageous even though they are laid out to be “simple and obvious.” Poirot even has a “side-kick,” Monsieur Bouc. A Watson to his Sherlock.

Also, the characters are racist. If you do choose to read this book, I ask that you remember, as I had to, that the mindset of the characters is a product of the author’s zeitgeist. Their opinions do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of people in 2018. Okay, some people, but I hope not most.

However, despite these pitfalls, I do enjoy the way Christie presents clues to the reader and how Poirot doesn’t take anything at face value. I’m of the opinion that a real detective wouldn’t assume that everyone is telling the truth or that things are always as they appear. If that were the case, solving mysteries wouldn’t be hard. As a reference to Rick & Morty, it would be a Quick Mystery.

The dividing of the chapters is clear, methodical, and straightforward allowing me to digest the book in small chunks rather than as a whole. Overall, the story is a smooth read, and is one you faster readers could probably finish in a day. I preferred to read it one chunk at a time, and that method worked out quite nicely to prevent information overload. My favorite section of the book is where each character suspected of the murder gets to plead their case to prove their innocence. Each individual gets their own chapter, and I enjoyed seeing their personalities unfold in the pages allotted to them.

In the end, I do recommend this book, and have already suggested it to one of my closest friends. It’s not perfect, but I don’t believe most books stand the test of time. For the most part, this one does.

Overall Rating: 4

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