Sunday, March 3, 2013

Review: Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie

In Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, Poirot plays the funny foreigner, impishly innocuous traveling back from Syria where he has solved a case vaguely described as very shocking and somewhat melodramatic. He's not at all perturbed when he over hears a conversation during their late-night stop in Konya, revealing more about his reserved English traveling companions.
"Mary--"
The girl interrupted him.
"Not now. Not now. When it's all over. When it's behind us--then--"
The young woman travelling with him, an English governess, displays suspicious behavior that Poirot immediately picks up on, and this is why I, as a reader, fixated on her for the rest of the novel. Her behavior alone tips me off that something is going on. While I liked her immediately for the murder, and stuck by my suspicion of her for almost the entire book, anyone who is familiar with the famous little detective mystery knows my mistake, and I won't re-hash it here.

What I enjoyed so immensely about this short book is Agatha Christie's sense of humor. Her character of Hercule Poirot is intended to better satire the contrast between Continental Europeans and the average English mind. His unique ways and strange appearance seems to be on everyone's mind when they see him, and his amusement at English behavior works so effectively because he is an outsider. I don't believe Agatha Christie was regarded as a humorist, but it is her charm and the concise writing of this novel that kept me enthralled.
"I say, sir," said the young man quite suddenly. "If you'd rather have the lower berth--easier and all that--well, it's all right by me."
A likeable [sic] young fellow.
"No, no," protested Poirot. "I would not deprive you--"
"That's all right--"
"You are too amiable--"
Polite protests on both sides.
While description is curtailed to the stations, hotels and the Stamboul-Calais coach, and a seemingly disparate group of travelers, Christie succinctly builds a surprisingly lively book. If all her books are this enjoyable, I look forward to reading them. Writing less does work.

198 pp. Pocket Book. Sept, 1975. Paper.
SBN: 671-80018-3

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