Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

This book has appeared in many lists of Agatha Christie's top novels - from The Guardian's "The Top 10 Agatha Christie Mysteries" in 2009, Entertainment Weekly's "The Nine Great Christie" in 2014, to Barnes and Noble's 10 Absolutely Essential Agatha Christie Novels on 2017. It's also one of the most famous Christie's books-made-into-movies. But for me, this is the most hideous, brutal case, and one of my least favorites of all.

Hercule Poirot is in Istanbul after solving a case in the Middle East, when he is summoned back immediately to England. By the help of M. Bouc, fellow Belgian who is the director of Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits, Poirot obtains a second class berth in the elegant Orient Express. He actually intended to have a first class one, but it's apparently unavailable - which is unusual during the winter seasons. On board the train are also thirteen other passengers from multi-dimensional backgrounds. One of them, an unpleasant, harsh man named Mr. Ratchett, tries to hire Poirot because his life is in danger. But Poirot, disliking him, rejects the proposal. On the first night the train is unexpectedly stopped, stuck in a snowbank. In the morning, Mr. Ratchett is found dead, with twelve random stab wounds. A charred piece of paper with "Armstrong" written in it is found in his cabin, gives Poirot the valuable key to solve the mystery.

Armstrong refers to Daisy Armstrong, a 3 year old child who was kidnapped and murdered by a man called Cassetti - a tragedy that triggered some further tragedy in the family. Poirot concludes that Ratchett is actually Casetti, and that the motive of his murder is vengeance. So, the strong point of this story is more on the method, rather than motive. Without the presence of the police, it leaves to Poirot, M. Bouc, and Doctor Constantine (why a doctor should almost always present near the murder cases?...) to find from the passengers, one or more people who are connected to the Armstrongs, as the murderer.

This is one of the "easy" cases, the "I-should-have-noticed-it-from-the-first-but-it-seemed-impossible" ones. I can't explain more, as it would spoil the whole mystery. It's sufficient to say that if you do the math, you'd probably guess the murderer. This is also one of the greatest deduction works of Poirot, using his thorough methodical grey cells to seek the truth from the labyrinth of cross alibis and clues.

What makes me dislike this novel, is the baseness of the murder, and immorality of the conclusion. As I didn't find any other way of explaining my points without scattering clues, I must warn you at this point to...

**Spoiler alert - Please skip this paragraph if you haven't read the book.**

1st point: hideous crime. There's too much blood for my taste. I much prefer the more subtle ones - murder with poison, for example. If it must include stabbing, at least done by cold headed murderer, not vengeful random stabs - and twelve times too... ugh!! With the motive as the strong point, at least we'd have also the psychological aspect through the investigation (the humane side). This one is mainly clues, alibi, methods, and eventually, the animal passion. No, I can't imagine how a governess, for example, who, despite loving the child so much, could stab a knife into a man's body just like that. I mean, I understand how she might have hated that man, cursed him a lot, wished him to be dead in horrible ways. But to do a journey to stab him... at least, didn't she waver a little at the critical moment? And what about the other eleven/twelve people, were they just driven by the same animal instinct to kill the prey? That's what I see in this book, a group of animal hunting a prey.

2nd point : unbelievable conclusion. I was truly disgusted at how those criminals were let free by "the judges". I know Rachett is a rascal, and the Armstrongs' history is so tragic, but letting them do a brutal crime just like that? Not even a single punishment?

** Spoiler ends **  

If I had a book I wish Agatha Christie has never written, this is the one.

It could have been an interesting case, but like I said, it's too hideous and disgusting crime for me.

Rating: 2,5 / 5


  1. Oh, yeah...see this is one my 12-year old would NOT want to read. I don't want her to read it either. Yikes! We'll stay clear of this one. I ordered her some Agatha Christie's from the library, and we haven't picked them up, yet. I better make sure to tell her to not read this one...and she won't. So thanks!!!

    1. Glad to have been of service :)
      I still don't see why people love it. It makes a good thriller movie, though..


What do you think?