55. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (1934)
Dates: 4/18/20 – 4/19/20 (2 days)
Basic Plot: There’s a murder on the orient express. Obviously.
Experience Before Reading: In high school I worked at a bookstore. For some reason, I equated Agatha Christie with Toni Morrison, since books by those two came in so often. I apparently took that observation and conflated it quite a bit into adulthood. But I assure you that those two women wrote very different books.
Takeaway: Allow me to first clarify that this review is entirely spoiler-free. I do think this is something everyone should read and I’d hate to be the one to ruin the fun.
I’ve been in a bit of a train phase lately. This began, no doubt, with Atlas Shrugged. But I also watched a few travel videos on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, played Ticket to Ride for the first time, and recently played a Nancy Drew game with Abbey about a disappearance on a train. (The Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon – I cannot recommend these games enough if you want to solve some really difficult mysteries and puzzles. Abbey and I are suckers for the Nancy Drew games!)
Anyway, my toddler-like obsession with trains is mostly irrelevant – besides the fact that it got me to pick up this book.
I really picked it up alright. I have spent the last 15 hours doing nothing but reading this book and sleeping. I’m serious – the only thing I did during this entire experience was write my post for Arabian Nights. I knew I had to stop to write it or my thoughts on it would be washed away by this mystery.
It was written in an almost formulaic way: the exposition, the crime, the character’s testimonies and alibis, pondering the evidence, following up on their theory, and the reveal. I actually really liked this structure because it allowed you to play along.
To be entire honest, I did figure out who the murderer was. However, I do not think predictability should be a deterrent to read it. First, I didn’t solve it until the back half of the evidence analysis. Second, I don’t think it’s an obvious solution. Third, it’s more fun to hear the howdunnit than the whodunnit which comes right at the end.
Rave-review aside, I do have a little bit of criticism. There were absurd moments and connections of evidence the reader cannot do with what was given to them. Regardless of the nonsense, it comes together to click in a solution that could be reality.* (Or at least, reality-adjacent.)
I realize not everyone is a fan of mystery books like myself. But there is something different about this one. It was a pioneer in the genre and it is a fantastic adventure, both of which lead to my high rating.
And I’ve gotten lucky just like I did with Call of the Wild and a movie remake has just been made. Hello, quarantine movie night!
Would I Recommend It?: Absolutely. Because of its brevity and general amusement, I think there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Dates: 5/15/20 – 5/31/20 (16 days)
Plot: A man is murdered in the first class carriage of the Orient Express. Poirot, a famous investigator, must solve the case while living among the only suspects – the other first class passengers.
Experience Before Reading: I saw the movie when it came out, but couldn’t remember the ending. I was constantly remembering plot points while I was reading, which was quite an odd experience.
Takeaway: This is a quintessential murder mystery, a genre I hold very dear to my heart. I often find myself reaching for mystery novel whenever I am in the mood for a book, as I usually find them a quick and enjoyable read. This did not disappoint.
Would I Recommend It?: If you are even a small fan of mystery books, I would definitely recommend reading this. Agatha Christie is a God among mystery writers, and for a good reason. The final reveal, in the last few pages, is a wonderful culmination to this novel.
Who got it right? Have you read Murder on the Orient Express? Share your thoughts with us down in the comments below.
Read our next review: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess