Friday, December 29, 2017

Book Review: MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS - Movie Tie-In Edition

HARPCOLLINS/William Morrow – @HarperCollins @WmMorrowBks

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

AUTHOR: Agatha Christie
ISBN: 978-0-06-268966-5; paperback (October 31, 2017)
288pp, B&W, $14.99 U.S., $18.50 CAN

Murder on the Orient Express is a detective novel written by Agatha Christie.  First published in the United Kingdom in1934 as “Murder in the Calais Coach,” Murder on the Orient Express is, according to its American publisher (HarperCollins), the most widely read mystery of all time.  The novel stars Christie's beloved Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, who must solve a murder that occurred in a locked first-class compartment aboard a passenger train.

The novel opens and finds private detective Hercule Poirot traveling to Istanbul, when he receives a telegram prompting him to cancel his arrangements and return to London.  He manages to book a compartment aboard the train, the Simplon-Orient Express.  The morning after the second night of his journey, Poirot is informed  that a passenger, the mysterious businessman, Samuel Edward Ratchett, has been murdered.  M. Bouc, a fellow Belgian who is a director of the train line (Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits), asks Poirot to investigate the murder, to which the detective agrees.

With the assistance of M. Bouc and the Greek physician, Dr. Constantine, Poirot discovers that he has 13 murder suspects.  This includes Ratchett's employees, Hector Willard McQueen, his secretary, and Edward Henry Masterman, his valet.  The Wagon Lit conductor, Pierre Michel, is a suspect.  A Russian princess, Natalia Dragomiroff, and her maid, Hildegarde Schmidt, are suspects.  An American lady, Caroline Martha Hubbbard, and a Swedish lady, Greta Ohlsson, are suspicious.  A British officer, Colonel Arbuthnot, and Mary Hermione Debenham, the British governess the officer befriends, could be murderers.  The suspects also include two American traveling salesman, Cyrus Bethman Hardman, and Antonio Foscarelli, an Italian immigrant who is a naturalized United States citizen.  Finally, there are the Count and Countess Andrenyi.

Who has committed this murder?  Who is lying?  Where is the truth?  And what is the real story behind the mysterious American who is the victim?  Poirot must discover the answers before the murderer strikes again aboard a train that becomes snowbound.

Thanks to a review copy given me by HarperCollins, I read Murder on the Orient Express for the first time.  Now, I can see why this novel is so famous and so beloved.  It is like nothing that I have ever read, and its ending and resolution make it, quite frankly, a brilliant work of fiction.

Although Poirot, M. Bouc, and Dr. Constantine do investigate the crime scene, most of Poirot's investigation involves interviews he conducts with each suspect in the presence of M. Bouc and the doctor.  Every word and utterance and how and when they occur and the circumstances behind those words and utterances are subject to Poirot intense examinations.  Secrets and lies; truth and falsehoods; the past – all play a part in Poirot's inquiry, and his memory and recollection are seemingly without fault.  In Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie fashioned an engaging, unforgettable character.

Murder on the Orient Express is also unforgettable.  I think it is essential reading for readers in general, and not just for lovers of mystery and detective novels.  The novel was the subject of a recent film adaptation by Oscar-nominated director, Kenneth Branagh, who also stars in the film as Hercule Poirot.  William Morrow, the HarperCollins imprint, recently released the novel in a movie-tie edition, complete with a cover that uses elements of a movie poster for the film as cover art.  I hope the movie can live up to this amazing book.

9 out of 10

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

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