Friday, April 27, 2018

Murder on the Orient Express

Finally, I got around to reading Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie. It was a treat to read a genre classic by the genre leading lady.

My first thought, as the plot unfolded was, this sounds like the Lindberg baby kidnapping. I searched and lo, I was right. Dame Christie said she was inspired by that horrible crime. I thought she did a magnificent job in assembling a cast of characters, none of whom seemed to have a motive or opportunity and all who ended up having both.

The mystery is a claustrophobic variation on the isolated country manor, in which a train from Istanbul to Paris is stalled in a snowstorm. No one can leave, no one can communicate with the outside world. The murder happens in a locked room.

I watched the latest movie version after finishing the book--the one with Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot, Judy Dench as Princess Drogomiroff, Michelle Pfeiffer as Mrs. Hubbard, and Johnny Depp as Ratchett. I liked it. I know it's gotten some mixed reviews but it was dazzling. One huge difference between the movie and the book was all the time the characters spent outside the train car. Branagh, who was also the director, chose to make an avalanche stop the train in its tracks rather than a snowstorm. That meant that once the train was stopped, the characters could get out and walk around a bit. It would have been a less visually impressive film had all the shots been confined to a train car's interior. Very cramped, dark versus brilliant.

See what I mean? 

I thought the book was first rate, Christie at the top of her game. I thought the film was a fine adaptation--true to the book, with some modern issues thrown in to make it feel less dated. 

This book is part of my 2018 Back to the Classics challenge, classic crime story category.


  1. My wife is a big Agatha Christie fan. I have not yet read her but I I have been thinking of read this one. For years it had sounded so appealing to me. Your excellent commentary makes me want to read it even more.

    I also want to see the latest film.

  2. I'm going to skip the film. The facial hair on Branagh is too much. :D I read somewhere they were hoping to "reboot" Poirot in the manner of Sherlock Holmes a la Robert Downey Jr.

    The book is fabulous. I still remember reading it for the first time. The ingeniousness of the mystery is unforgettable.

  3. I read this mystery last year for the first time and just loved it. Haven't seen either movie versions yet, though. :)

  4. Thank you for posting this with all the images--I now think I would like to view this recent film version. And I absolutely must read the novel. Can't believe I haven't!
    Back in 1974, I saw the original film version of Murder on the Orient Express. Such a lauded cast of characters (Lauren Bacall, Vanessa Redgrave, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, and Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot, Anthony Perkins, Michael York, and Richard Widmark--what a cast! I feel so sad that it bored me beyond words that I literally fell asleep. Granted, I was a junior/senior in college at the time and may have been sleep-deprived, but as I told myself at the time, if it had been truly stunning, I never would have fallen asleep, though I did feel badly about it.

    1. That is truly an amazing cast--talk about star-studded! I know what you mean, though. I fell asleep during the Keira Knightly P&P, which I never would have expected.

  5. Great classic! I also enjoyed the movie adaptation!

  6. This is not my favorite Agatha Christie. Maybe because I have watched the movie (the old one, not Branagh's version) before reading the book. Maybe I need to reread it someday.

  7. I just read this with my book club last fall and enjoyed it. I really need to watch the movie - I'm glad to hear its worth it. I really need to read more Agatha Christie - this is her only novel I've read!

  8. Thx for saying the latest film is good to watch. I think I will check it out. It seems visually dazzling.

  9. I thought parts of the film were visually stunning -- some great tracking shots as everyone is boarding the train -- but I was really disappointed with Branagh's loose interpretation of the plot and added scenes (that chase scene was just silly). And I got really annoyed with Branagh and his scenery chewing. I should have known better, the original 1970s version is one of my favorite films of all time and quite faithful to the book.