“I like to see an angry Englishman. They are very amusing.”
Hercule Poirot is returning to London after dealing with a case in Aleppo and manages to get a berth on the Orient Express – it seems that one traveller didn’t take up his booking. What luck! Or it would be, were it not for the events about to unfold. As the train grinds to a halt in a snowdrift, who would have thought it, but a murder takes place in Poirot’s carriage.
But it is no ordinary crime. The victim, Mr Ratchett, had asked Poirot the night before for his help against “his enemy”, but when his true identity is exposed, it is clear that more than one person had a motive for killing him. Surely Poirot can determine which of the thirteen suspects was the murderer – but it isn’t going to be quite as easy as that…
Let’s start with another quote – from me, when Murder On The Orient Express came third in my World Cup of Poirot or whatever I called the thing.
“I’ll be honest, I was concerned this would win, as I really don’t think much of it, being far too gimmicky, but it is very popular. I must re-read it at some point, as it’s been a while, but I’m really in no rush…”
And now another one, again from myself, when I re-read that after re-reading this book:
“I’m an idiot.”
Now it might be because it’s been a while since I read Christie. Yes, some of her plots are easy to spot – too easy, if you’ve read too much crime fiction – but this isn’t one of them. It’s harder to go into this book, of all of her canon, without knowing whodunit, as even Christie herself spoils it in Cards On The Table – which is even odder, given what Poirot does at the conclusion of this tale – but if there is anyone out there who hasn’t read it or know much about the book, stop reading this and go and read the book. Because I’ve changed my mind on this one. I think it’s a masterpiece.
Despite a huge chunk of the book being put over to Poirot interviewing suspects, the tension never flags, the mystery keeps twisting without becoming over-complicated. One aspect does lead the reader in the right direction a little too easily, but I’m reading this with hindsight. I have read it before, decades ago (yes, I’m old) and I think even then, someone had told me whodunit.
I’m not going to say much more, because either you’ve read it, in which case you have your own opinion, or you haven’t and by now have dropped everything in order to get your hands on a copy. Or, I suppose, someone spoiled it for you and you never got round to reading it. In which case, go and read it anyway. Needless to say, as Recommended as it could possibly be.
Oh, and Ken? Don’t f**k up the film, there’s a good chap…