Murder on the Orient Express is one of the most famous Hercule Poirot mysteries. Unfortunately, many people seem to have seen the TV or movie version rather than read the book. I remember reading this as a precocious teen, when we bartered books amongst kids. Owning a copy of this book was very valuable, because almost everyone wanted to read it. This was a time before the current era of excess, when you had to do something spectacular like be at the top of the class or have a birthday for someone to buy you a book. Anyway, nostalgia is just one of the reasons why Murder on the Orient Express continues to be one of my favorite Agatha Christie mysteries.
The Orient Express is a luxurious train that ran between Istanbul in Turkey and Paris, France. Hercule Poirot books a first class compartment on the train while rushing to answer a summons to London. His services are propositioned by a wealthy American called Ratchett. Finding the man odius, Poirot declines. The next night, the train encounters a snowdrift. The morning reveals that Ratchett has been murdered. Hercule Poirot, being on the scene, is asked to investigate.
Just imagine the scene – a train full of different characters, stuck in the snow in a remote area. There is no where the murderer can escape. As Poirot investigates, he finds that almost everyone on the train had a reason to kill the old man. Hector MacQueen, the secretary, Masterman the valet, Mrs. Hubbard, a famous American actress, a Countess, a Princess, an English spinster, an American car salesman, a Swedish missionary – all seem totally unconnected and the most unlikely to have had any connection whatsoever with the dead man. But there is a common thread that binds them. Wouldn’t it be easier to assume that some stranger boarded the train, killed Ratchett and jumped off?
Hercule Poirot has to make a choice. Will he choose to overlook a cold blooded murder? Murder on the Orient Express is interesting on many levels. The characters are colorful, and it is hard to imagine them knowing one another or colluding with each other.
This is one of my all time favorite books, one that got me hooked onto the funny Belgian detective and also contributed to my love for mystery books. A must read for all Agatha Christie and mystery fans worldwide.