By: Joseph Clardy
Agatha Christie (AKA “the Queen of Mysteries”) was a British novelist famous for her anthologies of crime novels featuring the detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Of the many books she wrote, arguably the most famous is Murder on the Orient Express, where Hercule Poirot must solve the murder of a fellow passenger after the train he is on (the titular Orient Express) becomes stuck in a snowdrift. With the major motion picture boasting a star-studded cast (Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, and Daisy Ridley from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, to name a few) set to release on Nov. 10 of this year, I decided to read the source material in preparation for what is looking to be a cinematic powerhouse.
The book is not very long. The copy I purchased was 336 pages, but it was a mass market paperback version (like the smaller copies of books sold at airports) and had large text. It took me about three days to read, but keep in mind that I am a fast reader. The book is set for the most part on the immobile train in the middle of Yugo-Slavia, and so contains characters from many parts of the world. Christie attempts to portray this diverse selection of characters by throwing in phrases from other languages every so often in the dialogue. This was confusing at times, but the phrases were generally easy to figure out, or were explained in English shortly after they were said. All-in-all I feel that it was a poor attempt at portraying the fact that multiple languages were being spoken. On top of the phrases from other languages, Christie keeps the reader in constant awareness of what language the different conversations are being spoken. For example, prior to any given conversation, Christie will write something to the effect of “Poirot said, in French,” which doesn’t seem to add anything to the story except add a potential layer of confusion for the reader.
Story Review (No spoilers)
Murder on the Orient Express is one of those stories that you hear about, but probably have no clue as to the specifics of the plot. I myself went into it blind, knowing only what the title told me: that there was a murder on a train called the Orient Express. I must say that the novel was very inviting, and I found myself speculating as to the “solution” throughout my reading. I was wrong in the end. The finale caught me firmly off guard. The characters were convincing. They each seemed to come to life spectacularly. Christie expertly crafted each to have some level of suspicion laid upon them, with no accusation feeling out of place. It was a very easy read, but still a good one.
This was a fantastic book that could be a bit overzealous in its portrayal of its diverse cast of characters. Overall, I would give it a 9/10. I highly recommend it, and if you are planning on watching the major motion picture set to release Nov. 10, I suggest reading the book first. It can only serve to heighten your viewing experience.