16 September 2009

Review: MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, Agatha Christie

Published in the UK on 1 Jan, 1934, and then republished later in 1934 in the US under the title of MURDER ON THE CALAIS COACH.
I listened to an audio version wonderfully read by David Suchet.

The blurb from the first edition:
"The famous Orient Express, thundering along on its three-days' journey across Europe, came to a sudden stop in the night. Snowdrifts blocked the line at a desolate spot somewhere in the Balkans. Everything was deathly quiet. 'Decidedly I suffer from the nerves,' murmured Hercule Poirot, and fell asleep again. He awoke to find himself very much wanted. For in the night murder had been committed. Mr. Ratchett, an American millionaire, was found lying dead in his berth – stabbed. The untrodden snow around the train proved that the murderer was still on board. Poirot investigates. He lies back and thinks – with his little grey cells...
Murder on the Orient Express must rank as one of the most ingenious stories ever devised. The solution is brilliant. One can but admire the amazing resource of Agatha Christie."

What has delighted me so much in this audio book has been Suchet's superb characterisation of each person. I have particularly enjoyed Mrs Hubbard - the depiction has had me laughing out loud as I'm driving. It contrasts so beautifully with Poirot's calm voice of reason, and Monsieur Bouc's willingness to jump to conclusions. I must admit, I really already knew how this novel turned out, so the element of surprise that a new reader gets from this novel is not there for me. But that has given me a chance to appreciate how carefully Christie constructed the plot, how meticulously she laid the red herrings across the path, and just how well it shows Hercule Poirot's little grey cells in action.

It also shows how Agatha Christie uses current events in the setting of her novels: MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS was clearly based on the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby in the previous year, and Christie's own experience when the Orient Express train she was on was stuck for twenty-four hours.

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS was Agatha Christie's 14th novel, the 8th Hercule Poirot. Poirot's usual foil, Captain Arthur Hastings, is missing from this novel. Poirot is on his way back to London from an assignment in Syria, and so he bounces his ideas off two others: Monsieur Bouc, the director of Wagon-Lits, an old friend of Poirot's, who employs him to discover who has killed Mr Rachette; and a Greek Doctor Dr. Stavros Constantine.

There must have been considerable outcry, one would think, about the final solution to the crime. Poirot comes up with two solutions, but the one he finally goes with reveals great humanity.

My rating: 4.7

More details at Wikipedia (Including the spoiler of all spoilers- Poirot's solution explained).

I decided also to give the graphic novel a try - it was available at my library - to see if I like it better than I did THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES.

Well, I thought the cartooning was better, but it took me less than 15 minutes to read. The depiction of Poirot is obviously very heavily based on Albert Finney's facial characteristics.
Please don't give these to young people thinking you are hooking them on Agatha Christie. They will be greatly disappointed when they discover the "real books" require much greater levels of literacy and concentration.

And just recently came the news that the Orient Express is coming to an end.

There is also a video game: here is a trailer



If you want to watch the video, then here is the trailer for Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot.




Apparently a new version starring David Suchet will be made in 2010.

8 comments:

Bernadette in Australia said...

Another of my favourite Christie novels and one I think I'll also try via audio. I adored David Suchet's narration of Death on the Nile and think I might have to collect them all - he's really a brilliant actor.

Kerrie said...

I'm sorry the layout is a bit of a mess Bernadette. It looked fine in draft.
I think Suchet is a bit addictive too.

Uriah Robinson said...

ITV 3 have an Agatha Christie weekend coming up so my recorder may be asking for overtime payments.
Great post as usual. The way Christie used the Lindbergh kidnapping as a basis for the book would not be possible today due to the threat of some kind of litigation.
The beauty of Christie is that you can read them, listen to them, or watch the films even when you know the solution and still enjoy their cleverness.

Dorte H said...

What a delicious post you have composed for today! Small wonder that your visitors come back for more :D

Margot Kinberg said...

Oh, Murder on the Orient Express is one of my favorite Agatha Christie novels! Thank you so much for reminding me of it. It really is a terrific piece of work. What I really like about it (among so many other things) is the timing of everything in the novel. It really challenges the reader to think hard and figure things out. There are also a host of wonderful characters; Mrs. Hubbard is certainly one of them. Thanks for a great review!

justareadingfool said...

Kerrie: Wonderful review as always and nice connection with Orient Express ending, although I think they didn't read the book because they mention a "slow, traumatic death." I don't think it was that slow in the book from what I remember. :) Or wait, is that :( ?

Margot at Joyfully Retired said...

Excellent post Kerrie. I can't wait till I can get to this one. Maybe by then the will have the new film done. I'm going to look for this on video. You have convinced me.

esa1969 said...

again! may review was similiar to yours.

LinkWithin

Blog Widget by LinkWithin