Monday, August 19, 2013

Rereading Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (Spoilers)

Murder on the Orient ExpressIt was five o'clock on a winter's morning in Syria. Alongside the platform at Aleppo stood the train grandly designated in railway guides as the Taurus Express. It consisted of a kitchen and dining-car, a sleeping-car and two local coaches.

"Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. One of his fellow passengers must be the murderer. Isolated by the storm and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer amongst a dozen of the dead man's enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again..."

*This review contains spoilers, although not outright ones. Readers, beware!*

I recently watched a movie adaption of Murder on the Orient Express, so I knew what the outcome of the mystery was, but I still wanted to reread the book to see how it differed from the movie and once again experience Christie's amazing writing. I haven't read any of her novels recently; they're not really the kind of books you read twice. However, Murder on the Orient Express is one of her best (and also most sensational) mysteries, and it's worth reading more than once, the second time so that you can take note of the foreshadowing and the subtle clues that Poirot picks up on. 

As I said, I think the whole set-up of the murder is very unrealistic. Without giving anything away, I think that it would be highly unlikely that something like this would actually happen, something so well planned out. Although the book is ingeniously plotted. It's also a very moving story too, since it deals with a horrible crime that happens in the past. 

The writing was very good, simple, and suspenseful; however, there were some word choices that felt off. Like the phrase "freezingly cold", which was used on the very first page. Surely "freezing cold" would be much better. I don't even think freezingly is a word; Blogger says it's not. Of course, it also says that cockatiel isn't, so...Still, Christie describes everything in clinical detail which still manages to be really entertaining. 

All of the characters and their quirks are really interesting; the murdered man is an awful person, and lots of people have (very good) reasons for killing him. This novel raises interesting questions of right and wrong; if a man has done something utterly horrible and legal justice fails to punish him, what punishment should be given to those who decide to take justice into their own hands? Who decide to take revenge when the courts have not properly tried someone? It's a difficult question, and I myself am not sure whether I agree with Poirot's decision at the end. Yes, it seems right and like the murder was deserved, but murder is murder, no matter who the victim is. Ratchett was killed, and that is a crime, no matter how many other innocent people's deaths he was responsible for. And yet, he deserved punishment, and the murderer(s) were doing what was right, at least in their minds. 

Anyway, this is an exciting mystery that will force you to ponder these questions and also keep you entertained throughout. There are certainly new things that one notices rereading a mystery to which the solution is known. Rather than racing through the book, eager to find out who did it, I took a little more time and noticed some of the details. 

Poirot is also a great character. He thinks very well of himself, and he's a very quirky, amusing Belgian character. He gets annoyed when people haven't heard of the great Hercule Poirot, and he's very fastidious. People tend to underestimate him because he's so effeminate and mincing. Big mistake, because his "little gray cells" are sharper than anyone's. 

This is one of Agatha Christie's best mysteries, I think, if not in writing, then in story. I would certainly recommend it. I'm planning to reread some of her other mysteries that I own. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is also an excellent Poirot mystery. 

265 pages. 

Rating: ****

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