Dodd, Mead and Company, 1934
My Rating: A+
Back in the 1970s the movie version of Murder On the Orient Express was a smash hit. After seeing the movie I read the book. I liked both book and movie then and I really liked them now, as you can see from my rating above. Out of the 15 novels I’ve read in the past 15 months, this one is the best. I may discover more as I keep going. I only have 72 left to go.
Why is this one so good? Well, I liked the plot and I also liked the way it’s organized. It’s told in a very creative and systematic way. First the author gives us two pages listing the characters and tells a little about each one. Then she divides the story into three parts: The Facts, The Evidence and Poirot Sits Back and Thinks.
In The Facts Ms. Christie sets the stage. Hercule Poirot is traveling from the Middle East to London aboard the fabulous train known as the Orient Express. On board he met an old friend who is a director for the train. On the first night of travel one of the the thirteen passengers is murdered.
In the second part of the story, The Evidence, the director asks Poirot to lead the investigation. Poirot, of course, agrees and he begins his investigation by interviewing the remaining twelve passengers one by one. Poirot knows that the murderer must still be on the train since the train has been stalled in a snow drift and there are no footprints outside the train. The murderer has to be one of these twelve passengers, or perhaps the conductor.
By the end of the story we find that Poirot has a couple of possible solutions to offer the police. To be honest, neither solution occurred to me.
This week I watched the movie version again. The movie is very close to the story. What made the movie so amazing was it’s all-star cast. You will see Albert Finney as Poirot, Sean Connery, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Anthony Perkins, John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, and more.
The movie was such a pleasure to watch with all the glamorous costumes and the authentic looking coach and restaurant car. It was definitely a 1930s period piece. All of that, plus the classic actors from film and stage, made for a very pleasant afternoon.
My only complaint is that Albert Finney seemed to be over-playing Poirot. It was as if he saw Poirot as a caricature or a cartoon character. I’m sure many will argue that Poirot is a caricature of a detective but I don’t see him that way. Just let me stick to my belief that he’s a unique little Belgian detective. I like the version that’s in my head. (Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind later.)
Don’t let my minor complaint keep you from renting this movie or reading this excellent book. I think you’ll enjoy the experience.
For those people who live in North America: The PBS show, Masterpiece Mysteries, is featuring Agatha Christie’s novels starting this coming Sunday night. (The schedule is here.) The shows run from May 23 through August 1. Six of the shows are new videos.
July 7th: A special with David Suchet on the Orient Express
July 11th: Murder On the Orient Express
Murder On the Orient Express fulfilled several challenges: