Let me start off this review by saying I love Maggie Smith. An odd way to start, I know, but bear with me. I don’t know when it was that Smith hit my radar, but I do know that I’ve enjoyed her non-nonsense acting style long before the Hogwarts days. If this started when I first saw Death by Murder (or is that Murder by Death? I can never remember), or when I first saw Murder on the Orient Express, I can’t be sure. Needless to say, I am a fan, so when wandering through Chapters one day, a table of Agatha Christie works caught my eye and I started looking for Murder on the Orient Express, which leads me to my latest read.
Going into the work, I knew the ending. This approach sucks when reading a murder mystery. I think I had caught the last half of the film by the same name a dozen or so years ago, but with an ending like this story has, you’re not likely to forget it. This also makes writing a review on the work challenging, since I don’t want to give away the ending. I can, however, set up the story for you. This tale is spread out over 24 hours in the luxury car of a train heading from [I]Stanboul to
. Much to the surprise of the train-line’s director, and his good friend and international detective, Hercule Poirot, the car is full in the dead of winter. 13 guest, including Poirot, are travelling on this particular car, heading back to Calais Europe. On the second night of the trip, one in their midst is murdered, leaving Poirot to put two and two, and two and two, and two and two together to figure out who done it.
Christie wrote this work in the middle of her series of Poirot novels in 1934; and surprisingly, the work holds up remarkably well. There might be some instances of the reader being lost in translation due to the old-fashioned behaviours and etiquette, but if one keeps hold of the idea that it was written 80 years ago, it shouldn’t be a problem. Fast paced and with well developed characters, interesting plot twists, and an engaging writing style, I can see now why Christie has remained popular for so long.
One quick note on something that made me laugh out loud. The story partially revolves around the death of a child. While interviewing one suspect (a German lady), Poirot summarizes how that death relates to the murder. The woman exclaims in shock something to the effect of: ‘Murdering a child? How horrible! We are much to gentle in German to allow such a thing!’ It was after reading that line that I checked the original copyright date in the book – 1934. Boy, did Christie miss the writing that was all over that wall….
All in all, this was a good read. If I had been ignorant of the ending, I probably would have enjoyed it more. Am I going to run out and snap up all of Christie’s works now? Probably not – they just aren’t my style. I might borrow the collect that I’m sure my folks have, but I’ve got a lot of books I’d like to read first. Murder was a fast read, so I can see myself curling up with other Poirot mysteries when I need something quick as a distraction, but don’t want to drag out my Arthur Conan Doyle omnibus. I would be interested in knowing, however, how the other stories written by Christie pay off when one is ignorant of the ending. And, needless to say, I’d read any other stories that were adapted to the screen if Maggie Smith were somehow involved.