Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Connor rates it: 4.5/5
Anyone who knows me could tell you I read an awful lot of mystery novels. Almost every other book I read is a mystery novel. Agatha Christie, Ellis Peters, Dorothy Sayers, Peter Tremayne, Jacqueline Winspear, Elizabeth Peters, Charles Todd–I always have at least one mystery on hand, and quite often two or three behind it. Today, we’re focusing on one of my most-recommended authors, the Queen of Crime herself: Agatha Christie.
I’ve heard more than one person tell me that while the Americans invented the murder mystery (a… sort of accurate fact? Thank you, Edgar Allan Poe), the Brits perfected it. Agatha Christie remains one of the most popular authors of all time–she’s right up there with Shakespeare in the “two to four billion sales, we aren’t really sure which” category–and this particular novel of hers is my favorite.
Murder on the Orient Express is not the first Agatha Christie novel I read (Death on the Nile, seventh grade book club). It is not the one that gripped me most thoroughly (And Then There Were None, one year later in a single sitting), nor even the one with the most startling ending (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, a few months after that). But like I said: it’s my favorite.
In addition to M. Hercule Poirot, that most celebrated of detectives who uses the little grey cells to solve crimes, the audience has an ally in M. Bouc, to whom Poirot often explains (or chooses not to explain) his methods, and the array of murder suspects is numerous and varied enough to amuse even the most persnickety of readers.
While Christie swaps narrative viewpoints like M. Bouc swaps accusations of murder, there’s a reason Murder on the Orient Express remains an iconic crime novel over eighty years after its initial publication. After all, there aren’t many murder mysteries that beg to be re-read; the revelation of the murderer is often half the fun, and a reread means already knowing whodunnit. Murder on the Orient Express is an exception. Christie always keeps her plots and characters interesting and inventive, but in this particular novel–with its peculiar dose of Poirot’s arrogance and misleading clues–she shines.
(And if you insist you don’t have time for this 300 or so paged novel, I’d recommend the audiobook. The most recent version was recorded by Dan Stevens, and his character voices are absolutely phenomenal.)