Murder on the Orient Express: Book Review

By Joseph Najjar

Murder on the Orient Express is a 1934 novel by Agatha Christie . In it, we follow acclaimed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, on his journey on the luxurious train, the Orient Express. It is here the root of the problems begin as an elderly American passenger, Samuel Ratchett, approaches Poirot, asking for protection and claiming his life is in danger. Poirot rebuffs him. The very next morning, Ratchett is found dead. The train has stopped in its tracks due to snow and it is clear that no one has exited the train, meaning the murderer is still on the train. Poirot then begins to investigate the crime and interrogate the passengers, until eventually finding the killer.

To start of with, the setting of this book is one of the most beautiful settings I have ever read. Reading the visual images as Christie describes; the train, and travelling by train from Syria to Turkey, I felt this strong sense of exoticness and culture that I am not familiar with, which engaged me and kept me reading, even before the excitement of a vile murder occurred. Christie masterfully makes this novel memorable, by portraying the beautiful train with the beautiful scenery and contrasting it with murder.

The characters are all equally memorable too, with the genius of Hercule Poirot being matched against the mysterious life and murder of Samuel Ratchett. With the murder being specifically located in one of the first class carriages, all twelve first class passengers, besides Poirot, are suspects. Since all the suspects are first class passengers, we experience a varied cast of characters. For example, a Russian Princess is one of the passengers, as well as a Ratchett’s own personal secretary. Christie successfully creates this varied cast of characters, and as a result, makes it easy to distinguish the differences between the characters, and show their true feelings for the victim.

While this is a good book, I did have one problem with it. As mentioned, there are twelve suspects, and Poirot spends the entire middle section of the book interviewing each of the suspects. It is in this section that the feeling of the book being stuck in a boring cycle of repetition began to emerge. Going through all the suspects, and asking each suspect the same questions felt boring, to the point were I lost interest until finally all the interviews were over. But even after the routine interviews were over, some passengers were called back for second interviews if they had aroused some suspicion or an interesting fact. While some interesting facts did emerge every now and then during the interviews that did spark some excitement, they were interviews that felt unnecessary, and ultimately just came off as boring.

Overall, I would give this book a positive review because of it’s ingenious plot. However, as mentioned, the feeling of being trapped in a loop of repetitiveness during the interrogations certainly took away some of the excitement of the book. The setting is exquisite, specifically Christie’s description of Syria, and the luxurious Orient Express gives the reader a desire to travel, despite the fact that its a murder mystery book! If I had to give this book a rating out of ten, I would ultimately give it a seven.

David Suchet as Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie’s Poirot (Credit: ITV)

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