Firstly, I’d like to apologize for being so awol these past couple of days/ weeks. Turns out, I no longer have as much free time on my hands and as a result, my reading and writing hobbies have really taken a back seat. Hence, this entry itself will probably read quite choppily and awkwardly as it’s definitely been some time since I wrote something. As such, I’d like to offer my apologies in the beginning of this post and just say that I will not begrudge any of you if you comment on how horrible this review it. With that out of the way, let’s begin is super spoiler-y review (hint – I actually give away everything LOL).
As some of you may know, I have a friend who adores Agatha Christie, so I’ve been slowly going through some of Agatha Christie’s books on the insistence of my friend. While I have found some books of hers to be absolutely wonderfully charming (recommend Endless Night to EVERYONE), there are some that I do not like quite as much. This book falls in the middle of that spectrum, but I suppose that actually also might be my fault. As one of her more well known and celebrated books, I had expected Murder on the Orient Express to blow my mind and leave me amazed. And when I didn’t get that reaction, I was left a little confused and humdrum.
Briefly put, the book revolves around a murder committed on the Orient Express (surprise, surprise LOL). Midway through the journey, the train gets stuck in snow, and amid the stalling, the dead body of a passenger is found. Luckily, famous detective Hercule Poirot in also on the train, and he spends the book trying to and successfully finding out who murdered the victim. Spoiler alert – it was a joint effort by all 12-13 people on the train coach. It turns out that the dead passenger, Cassetti/ Ratchet, was a horrible man who had kidnapped a young heiress, Daisy Armstrong, in exchange for money. After receiving the money, it was discovered that he had actually killed Daisy and never meant to exchange her back in the first place. However, he managed to evade justice and left the country (USA) with the money and changed his name. As he was a horrible man, most people who came into contact with him weren’t big fans of him and some could even sense the evil coming from him, like Poirot. On his second (?) day on the train, Cassetti approaches Poirot and offeres him a job. Apparently, Cassetti had been receiving threats and felt his life was in danger, so he asked Poirot to figure out who was after him. However, due to the evil vibe Poirot could sense from Cassetti, Poirot declines to take on the case. The next day, Cassetti is found dead and the director of the train, M. Bouc, also a friend of Poirot, enlists in Poirot’s help to find the murderer aboard the train (remember the train had gotten stuck in snow). The rest of the book is about how Poirot comes to the the conclusion of who the murderer was.
In terms of the mystery, the book is actually pretty solid. Agatha Christie leaves quite a few red herrings around and makes it incredibly difficult to guess who the murderer could be. I myself felt like I went around in more than a few circles trying to figure out who murdered Cassetti. So I’d definitely rate the book highly when it came to the suspense. Similarly, the characters are actually quite enjoyable to read as well. I know I’ve ragged on Poirot in the past, severely disliking his pompous personality, but I gotta say, I actually didn’t mind him in this book so much. Maybe it’s because he was with friends so he was on good behaviour or because there was no Hastings around to focus Poirot’s rudeness, but I actually found Poirot to be very well behaved and likeable. Now don’t get me wrong, he was still pompous, but that pomposity was toned down here. Instead of getting a prideful vibe from him, I got more of an fascinated vibe. In other words, in the previous books, I always got the feeling that Poirot was incredibly proud of his ability to solve cases and that pride was what kept him going. In this book however, I got the feeling that Poirot was instead being fuelled by his curiosity rather than his pride; he genuinely liked the puzzle of trying to find a murderer on a stalled train. Either way, I really quite enjoyed reading the book. Similarly, when it came to the technical details, the book performed very well. The writing was easy to read as always and the plot was laid out in a manner that felt organic and yet still produced more mystery as the book went on.
Some of you might be wondering why after all these praises, I did not find the book to be an absolutely wonderful reading experience. And that, my friends, is due to the focus in the book. I know the book revolved around Poirot as he is Agatha Christie’s main character and hence resolved around the murder that was committed, but somehow, after the conclusion was revealed, I found myself increasingly drawn to the murderers themselves. How did they all manage to meet and plan the murder? Who came up with each idea? How did they all come into contact with each other after so many years? Why wait so many years to commit the murder in the first place? What were their discussions like after Poirot took on the case? I just found myself really into the planning and strategizing of the murderers rather than the case. I mean, the entire case is so damn interesting. The way Poirot solved it was amazing in itself, but the way it all came together, albeit behind the scenes, also seems incredible to me. I really wish Agatha Christie had focused on explaining the murderers planning and processes. I think I would’ve been more engrossed in the book then.
My rating: read it for the Agatha Christie style and to experience an interesting mystery that you have no hopes of solving before Poirot (LOL).