Murder on the Orient Express

by Agatha Christie

Murder on the Orient Express CoverThis is the first book in quite some time that I really find myself struggling to comment on. I definitely enjoyed reading through it, devouring it in a day, in fact, but I’m just as positive that Murder on the Orient Express has some major issues plaguing the story. I guess part of me is startled that I’m still able to turn a critical blind eye and just read a story for the pleasure of it, that a story doesn’t have to be unmatched in prose or wordplay or structure for me to appreciate it, but the trouble at uncovering the deeper reason for this enjoyment at least mildly concerns me all the same.

Murder on the Orient Express is probably Christie’s most well-known Hercule Poirot mystery. The passengers on the Orient Express awaken to discover that the train is snowed in, stuck in the Balkan hills, and one of them has been stabbed twelve times under the cover of night. It’s up to inspector Poirot to identify the murderer who lurks among them.

As I sit here and consider it, I think my favourite aspect of the story is the characterization of Poirot, the only character with any real depth. Of course, the other characters have a few layers to their personalities, but they all seem to exist to play their respective parts in the mystery, whereas Poirot moves from story to story, so I’m not surprised there’s a bit more to him. Often, I enjoyed the class and charm he carried himself with while interviewing the other passengers, but a gruff side also surfaced at opportune moments. (Poirot often employed this brusque manner to confront suspects with the cracks in their stories, but one of my favourite moments occurred early on in the story: When one man attempts to employ Poirot as something of a bodyguard, he responds, “If you will forgive me for being personal, I will not take your case because I do not like your face!”)

The plot also moves along at a good clip. I did my best to try and guess the identity of the killer as we went, so I was careful to consider the ramifications of every shred of evidence. And Christie was really good at slowly handing out information that made me jump to all manner of different conclusions, keeping me reading if only to uncover the next twist that was sure to come up. While I was unsuccessful in my deduction, I did find the final explanation at least a bit unsatisfying. But, once more, immediately after this may have lessened my opinion of the story, the conclusion made my jaw drop.

So, while I still feel there were major issues with some of the characters and plot, I very much enjoyed Murder on the Orient Express. Pick it up sometime if you want a quick read that will keep you guessing up until the shocking ending.