So you're the director of the company that runs one of the most famous trains in the world - and you find yourself stuck with a murdered passenger in the midst of a snowstorm which has left the train and its passengers and crew stranded - meaning that the murderer must be someone still on board your train. As they say, who you gonna call? Well, if you're fortunate, and one of your other passengers is named Hercule Poirot, it's only natural for you to call on him to take over the case.
Welcome to one of the most famous titles in the entire world of mysteries: Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie's 1934 classic, surely one of the most read and discussed mysteries ever written - and still fresh and delightful for the reader as it was when it was written more than 80 years ago. It's the topic of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to that entire review by clicking here.
Those of us who love traditional, plot-oriented mysteries have a special place in our hearts and minds for Agatha Christie. She had an unequalled ability to plant clues within her mysteries, and at the same time very skillfully misdirect the reader’s attention so that he or she will ignore the real clues. There are excellent reasons why her books mostly remain in print. And if you want to know why, I strongly suggest you read Murder on the Orient Express.
Hercule Poirot is returning home from business in Syria. Much of his journey, beginning in Istanbul, will be spent in a sleeping car compartment on board the Orient Express, in its day, the preferred way to travel from Central and Eastern Europe to Paris and on to London. The sleeping car is remarkably crowded for the dead of winter, and Poirot considers himself fortunate to have been able to get a compartment.
But two things happen during the first night of the journey: there is a murder. And the train becomes stuck in snowdrifts somewhere in Yugoslavia, the one country on the journey where there are no local police officials traveling on board the train.
That’s when Monsieur Bouc, a director of the railway company and a fellow passenger on the Orient Express, asks Poirot to take over the investigation. For it is clear that the murder must have been committed by one of the people traveling in that sleeping car, because the stranding of the train means that the killer could not have escaped. And, of course, Hercule Poirot accepts the challenge, for there is a great deal that puzzles him about this murder…
And that is all I'll say about the plot. If you are new to Murder on the Orient Express, you have quite a treat in store, and I envy you. If it's been a while since you read it, it's surprising how well the plot and the writing hold up. In any case, don't let anyone tell you the secrets of this excellent book before you have the opportunity to read it yourself!