Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Puzzling mystery to keep you turning pages
The Bottom Line:
Murder on stuck train
Classic Christie book set up
Even Knowing the End, This is a Wonderful Mystery
While I love mysteries, I must admit my knowledge of the early masters of the genre is very limited. I’ve only listened to a handful of Agatha Christie stories on CD over the years, for example. Still, over the years I’d had the ending to Murder on the Orient Express spoiled for me. When I decided to listen to it on CD recently, I was wondering how that would affect my impression of the story. I need not have worried; I still loved it.
Hercule Poirot had hoped to have a few days to spend in Istanbul on his way home from a case in Syria, but when he arrives, he finds himself being summoned back to England. Even though travel is usually light in the winter months, he still has a hard time finding passage on the next train, only getting on because he is friends with someone who works for that particular line.
On the train the first day, he is recognized by Mr. Ratchett, an American who asks for Poirot’s help since Ratchett is in fear for his life. Poirot refuses for one simple reason, he doesn’t like the man’s looks. Something about him really bothers the detective.
However, that night, Ratchett is indeed murdered in his first class sleeping compartment. Since the train is stuck in a snow storm, Poirot is asked to help find the killer. It is quickly determined that the killer is still on the train, but the clues at the crime scene point to two very different killers, and all the passengers seem to have alibis. Can Poirot solve this case?
It was actually fun reading this story knowing the ending. (No, I’m not going to spoil anything.) Even then, I couldn’t quite see how Poirot was going to figure it all out. I was in awe as he worked the solution out over the course of the book. And yes, it is a logical ending. Even knowing what it was, I wasn’t sure if I would buy it or not, but I did completely.
I’ve heard that Agatha Christie isn’t super strong when it comes to characters, but I didn’t feel that here at all. We have a large cast, and I didn’t have any trouble keeping them all straight. They were real enough to make me care about the outcome, and I felt for some of them as the story progressed. That’s important as the case draws to its climax.
I know some of that was helped by the narration provided by Dan Stevens in the audio version I listened to. I must admit, in the first few minutes, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to follow the story. The voice he did for Poirot was so quiet I could hardly hear it while the rest of it was just fine. However, after about 15 minutes, I found the problem went away and I was able to fully enjoy the story. I’m happy because he did a great job with the very diverse cast, really helping bring the story to life.