Classics · Mystery/Thriller

Murder on the Orient Express

Confession time: this is my first Agatha Christie. Yup. I’m almost 30 and reading is my self-professed favorite way to spend time, but I have never read the Queen of Mystery before. It took this most recent screen adaptation to get me to pick one up. I’m a little embarrassed, BUT better late than never, I suppose. And to be fair, mysteries are not really my cup of tea – I much prefer other genres. So, it’s not like I have been reading mysteries by everyone other than Agatha Christie. Regardless, I got here eventually and that’s what matters (or, at least that’s what I’m telling myself).

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

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This book is one of an entire set that follows detective/inspector Hercule Poirot. I do not think they need to be read in order, and truthfully, I had no problem getting into and following this particular installment without any prior experience with the character. Poirot is on the titular Orient Express after finishing up with a prior case and en route to another. But, when a murder is committed in the train car he’s on, and the train is stuck for days due to a snowstorm, he is impressed upon to put his mind to the task of solving the crime.

From what I can tell, this is a very formulaic mystery novel. Soon after meeting all the characters and getting acquainted with the setting, but before we get too comfortable with anything, the murder is committed. We are then presented with the physical and remembered evidence. Over time, theories are presented and shot down, lies are uncovered and, in the end, a final pronouncement of Poirot’s suspicions is made. However, since the train is stuck between stations, there are a few things that make this a little out of the ordinary, as far as solving crimes goes. First, there is no assistance from actual law enforcement or real labs/autopsies. The information Poirot is able to gather towards solving the case is very basic – a ranged time of death from an onboard doctor, a few small pieces of evidence and, primarily, the testimonies of the crew and passengers of that particular train car. So, this is one of those mysteries that is solved Sherlock Holmes style: using a lot of psychology, intuition, and deductive reasoning. Second, there is the chance for things to be resolved and decisions on how to handle it made before anyone from the “outside” arrives…which makes for a lovely little twist at the end.

This limited setting combined with that “twist” ending, if you will, is (in my opinion) likely what makes this particular novel one that is so often adapted onto the stage/screen. It adds a bit of controversy and judgement, a chance to discuss and debate, to what is (or would be) an otherwise straightforward murder mystery. And I am for sure planning to watch this newest movie version to see how the story and characters are adapted. I’m also excited to see how the ending is treated, regarding the consensus of the passengers on how to handle the guilty party, and how conclusive or controversial they decide to make it.

As a general reading experience, I did appreciate and enjoy this book. Christie’s grasp of all the little details that seem unimportant to start, but later change the shape and direction of the story in major ways, is impressive. It is clear that she has masterful control over the minutiae and development of the story, particularly in how/when certain clues and suspicions are revealed to the reader. Pacing-wise, this could not have been better. As with all mysteries, the focus is plot over characters, so I definitely found myself confusing certain ones or forgetting things about them, in my rush to see what happens next and subsequent skimming of certain passages and details. Though that fault is, I suppose, more with me as a reader than Christie as the author.

I definitely found myself enjoying the read and wanting to see what would happen, how the mystery would conclude. I liked how everything came together and I like that I was left thinking a little at the end. Overall, this was a positive first Agatha Christie experience for me! I am happy to say I have finally read her and was not disappointed by the experience. I may pick up another in the future (I think they might make nice one-off palate cleanser books for me), but I don’t think I’ve been converted to the genre.

28 thoughts on “Murder on the Orient Express

  1. Nice review! 🙂 I enjoyed the book even though I’m not a mystery reader either. And I loved the new movie but I preferred the Poirot TV version. If you ever decide to read more of Christie I suggest And then there were none – it’s the most brilliant mystery I’ve read, and the BBC mini series is amazing 🙂

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    1. Oooo ok – thank you! I want to see the new movie for sure (there are a lot of big names in it). And I really appreciate the recommendation for a next one to try…since she has written so many, it’s a little overwhelming to try and pick one!

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      1. Yes, the movie is really great 🙂 I just prefer the old Poirot actor, I watched the series many times and grew attached to him 😀 I get what you mean, I didn’t know which one to read first too so I chose that one because it’s a standalone 🙂

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  2. I have an Anne Cleeves crime novel to read. I don’t usually read crime with the exception of Sherlock Holmes. But I try and read outside my comfort zone. I’ve never read an Agatha Christie but I think I will have to

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    1. That’s how I felt! It’s not my usual genre, but I really felt like I needed to read something by her because she is such a classic author! I’m glad I did – I feel like I know what all the fuss is about now. But like I said, I don’t think it made me a convert to the genre. It was an overall positive experience though!

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      1. That’s good. I never convert to the genres I don’t read often but like you think it’s good to read thrm for a change sometimes 😊

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    1. Well she is such a prolific writer – there are so many books to choose from it’s kind of overwhelming! I did like this one, so I would recommend it, but I haven’t read any others so I can’t really tell you whether it’d be better than or not as good as the one you chose. If you do decide to read it though, I’d love to hear how they compare!

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  3. Murder on the Orient Express was my first Agatha Christie book too! I knew how it ended thanks to the incredible TV show that used to air ages ago, but I was still impressed by how she ties things together. If you want to give her another shot, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is amazing. It made me shriek when I discovered who the murderer was!

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    1. I’ll be honest, I have a really low thresh-hold for fear (thrillers and horror really affect me) and this one was super low key…not scary at all! Just a good mystery. So maybe you would be able to try it sooner rather than later!

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  4. I’m glad you enjoyed your first foray into Christie. I do love her and I want to read more of her book. Not all of the books have such a huge cast of characters, so hopefully if you read another, that part won’t be as confusing. hah I’m going to second that you read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. That’s probably my favorite by her.

    -lauren
    http://www.shootingstarsmag.net

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  5. I also only picked up a Christie for the first time recently I agree about the pacing, but also put this down to me as a reader as well. And I also enjoyed it overall- love what you said about this being a palate cleanser. Great review!

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  6. This was a great review. I don’t read mystery but I love watching them. So, this is one that I might only stick to the movie but you did a really awesome review.

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    1. Hahah thanks! I really am not a mystery person either, but I just really felt like I needed to have read something by Agatha Christie at some point in my life. Have you seen the new movie for this (and if so, what did you think)?

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      1. I loved the movie a lot the plot twist really surprised me and got me. Which is something I love because I think you really did your job if I’m thinking I figured it all out and wasn’t even close in the end.

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  7. I really liked this book!
    I read quite a lot of Poirot stories, but not in order. They are not really connected, so it was fine. I did notice after a while that many of the stories have the same structure, but it’s still quite entertaining.

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  8. Great review. 🙂 I’ve never read an Agatha Christie either, it’s one of my literature blind sports.
    I guess, like you, I’m not a big fan of mystery novels although I like mystery films. I’ve seen a few Christie adaptations over the years and each time I think ‘must pick one up eventually’. Maybe one day it will actually happen!

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