The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances. Agatha Christie
A classic, to which everyone should agree. A classic brought back into our minds by the 2017 Hollywood remake staring none other than Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Kenneth Branagh (who, in my opinion, made an excellent impression as Hercule Poirot, although no one can touch David Suchet), and many other famous faces.
This book was my first introduction to the murder mystery genre and I was hooked immediately. This is my second time reading Murder on the Orient Express and I was just as enthralled as the first time round.
The story is simple, a group of thirteen seemingly unrelated people are aboard an unusually full train carriage and (you guessed it) someone shows up murdered in their sleeping compartment. From start to finish nothing is what it seems with these characters and their reasons for being on the train, disregarding Poirot, M. Bouc and Dr Constantine every character has their own secrets and a murderous reason to hide them. The reader is lead to believe that any of the passengers on the carriage could have committed murder, that any of them would have sneaked through the train at night right under the nose of one of the most famous detectives of his time, and without giving too much away (although you really should know the story by now, it was first published over 80 years ago) we come to such an impossible conclusion that is the only possible conclusion.
This is now one of my favourites books because I live for the twist at the end, the unexpected revelation that no one could have predicted. Say what you like but there is not a man (or woman) on this earth who could have predicted the ending of this story. For my first read through I did unfortunately already know the ending because I had been pointed to the book after we had watched the film. Despite this I was amazed throughout the book at the detail of the character backgrounds, they were all so interesting and carefully planned out so that they could be intertwined delicately for the purpose of the mystery. There is too much to explain for each individual character otherwise I would be here for days, so I’ll only say this; the backstory to these characters is a literary work of art, Agatha Christie’s ability to have conjoined all of their stories so beautifully amazes me to no end. I would read this book again and again and still find new aspects to the characters I hadn’t seen previously.
As always the depiction of Poirot was excellent. I love the carefully explained deductions in any of the Poirot novels but when I first read through this I did feel lost at some points, as though the connections between theories was missed somewhere and I’d fell behind. On my second read through I made a point to make sure I could connect the dots before moving on and I got it this time round, not the theory behind the murder, but the reason I couldn’t understand it the first time, because that is the whole point. As a reader we are not always meant to understand to workings of Poirot’s little grey cells. His individual questionings of the suspects was so thorough and all the clues gathered so methodically, but then the jump between the collected information and the conclusion is mindbogglingly brilliant, the only person who could make those connections is Hercule Poirot. I have read several more Poirot books since this but this will always be considered as the ultimate mystery for me, so many twists and turns until the very last pages.
I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone. If you haven’t already seen the film, I’d suggest reading this beforehand so you get a real feel for the characters. They are all so different from each other and yet so similar, this story is as much about the 13 strangers as it is about our favourite Belgian detective and their reason for coming together was heart-wrenching, Christie conveys their emotion brilliantly, capturing the heartbreak of every character relating to their past once the truth is revealed.
The film has a multitude of adjustments that most classic Christie fans were disgusted with, but as a separate entity I thought it was wonderful. Although there were a few adjustments that I’m not sure if I agree or disagree with. The joining of the characters Dr. Constantine and Colonel Arbuthnot to (I assume) reduce confusion between additional characters was something I can get on board with, and the addition of the scene at Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall was although not present in the book was a really useful way to introduce to unfamiliar viewers the excellency that is Poirot.
My goal is to read all of the Poirot novels and one day I hope to achieve this, but I will always return to Murder on the Orient Express.