Review: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Bjørn reviews Agatha Christie‘s classic mystery novel, Murder on the Orient Express, which is the tenth published Hercule Poirot Mysteries book.

About the Book
Series:Hercule Poirot Mysteries #10
Genre:Mystery
Publisher:Collins Crime Club (UK); Dodd, Mead and Company (US)
Date of Publishing:January 1, 1934 (UK); February 28, 1934 (US)
Trigger Warnings:off-page child murder, suicides, off-page murder of a man with an unlikeable face
Page count:256 (original hardcover edition)
Book Blurb
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Just after midnight, a snowdrift stops the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train is surprisingly full for the time of the year, but by the morning it is one passenger fewer. An American tycoon lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside.

Isolated and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must identify the murderer – in case he or she decides to strike again.

Quote of the Book
Quote Background

“It is a good phrase that,” said Poirot. “The impossible cannot have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.”

Review

“He was hardly more than five feet four inches but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His moustache was very stiff and military. Even if everything on his face was covered, the tips of moustache and the pink-tipped nose would be visible.”

He is Hercule Poirot, a man with lots of little grey cells, an enormous ego, and a habit of speaking about himself in third person. He’s also always right. No sarcasm. He is always right. If someone was murdered and Poirot is in the general vicinity, he’ll figure it out.

Unless…

In Christie’s books, a single hair in the grass left there exactly 92 days earlier connected with the fact that the victim has once glanced at a cigar in the presence of a maid named Elisabeth makes it clear – to Poirot – that somebody smuggled a typewriter in the pudding in order to stab the victim with a tuba while he was dancing polka at a fancy ball. In Murder in the Orient Express, the hints are blatantly clear, and if something isn’t, Poirot explains it to his friend and to the reader. It’s impossible not to guess who the killer is.

The Orient Express train is stuck in the deep snow, this particular carriage inaccessible to anyone but those who travelled in it, and a murder has been committed. The snow is located in Yugoslavia, where they don’t have Scotland Yard and possibly only speak Yugoslavic. And the murdered man has asked Poirot for protection not long earlier, claiming that his life was in danger. The detective refused on the grounds of “I do not like your face,” and now feels rather guilty about it. He has the time, the group of suspects, and lots of evidence.

It must have been done by a man with a very high voice, or perhaps a woman with a low voice. Neither of the passengers fits the description. The evidence and clues are so obvious you could think someone was trying to divert the suspicions from themselves. The alibis are shaky, identities uncertain, the testimonies unclear and/or contradictory. On the night of the murder, Poirot himself saw a woman in a red kimono. Nobody on the train owns a red kimono, which he eventually finds in his own luggage. There is a hastily altered passport, a pipe cleaner, a handkerchief with an initial, a match (!!!) different (!!!) from the ones the dead businessman used, and each of those things clearly points towards one of the passengers – never the same one, though. Awkwardly, one of the twelve stab wounds was inflicted by someone left-handed, but the remaining eleven weren’t. Obviously, murdering someone is a nerve-straining job, but I have never been upset enough to even briefly forget I was right-handed.

I pride myself on guessing who the murderer is, and unless Christie keeps too many details off page I generally do. This time I was so bewildered I started suspecting Poirot. The man with that face and false papers would be the obvious culprit, if not for the fact that he was actually the victim, and couldn’t have committed suicide by stabbing himself twelve times. So, when Poirot did his usual thing, gathering everyone in the restaurant and revealing the results of his investigation…

*

Murder on the Orient Express is an absolutely exquisite book. Poirot is a person so absolutely ridiculous even Christie started to despise him at some point. Her books are uneven – Christie herself complained about “that rotten book The Big Four” in which the most dangerous villains intending to destroy Earth apparently planned to do so by committing a very impressive suicide. Death in the Clouds is as ridiculous as Kenneth Branagh’s mustache in the 2017 movie adaptation of Orient Express. All I can tell you about the ending this time is that Poirot was not the murderer. After all, they will have to wait for the Yugoslavian police to figure out the truth – hopefully the one Poirot would prefer. I did not expect that two candidates for my favourite book of the year would turn out to be the Britney Spears memoir and a whodunnit published 89 years ago. I recommend Murder on the Orient Express to absolutely everyone who likes books. Unless you want bloodbaths, grimdark, and require swords. There’s only one off-page bloodbath, a very dark crime committed many years earlier involving a child, and a knife. If you can deal with that, make your life better by reading this book.

Our Judgement
Praise Their Name - 5 crowns

If you don’t want to miss any of our posts, please consider signing up to our monthly newsletter or follow us on social media:

You can also support us on Ko-fi so we can keep maintaining the Asylum!