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Cannonball Read #19: Murder on the Orient Express

01/24/2010

Unbelievably, I’d never read any Agatha Christie prior to reading Murder on the Orient Express. I’d seen bits and pieces of movies and encountered references to various books of hers in other works, but I had never sat down to spend time with Hercule Poirot until now.

[*Let’s just get the spoiler alert out right now – if you intend to read this book and want to be surprised by the ending, skip down to * below]

I knew the basic idea of the story before starting this mystery – a murdered man, and seemingly nowhere for the killer to have gone. As I got farther along, I did recall that the resolution of the plot was going to be that everyone in that train car was in on the murder. Even knowing “whodunnit,” I still wanted to read about Poirot uncovering the truth. I’m don’t think I quite realized that each suspect would have stabbed the body with a knife, but that is how they all took part. The corpse, that of a reprehensible man who’d arranged the kidnapping and then murder of a child they’d all known and loved, was stabbed with blows of differing forces and left and right hands.

Poirot lays out for us two scenarios. The one above, and then one where the murder was committed by a single killer, who was able to escape the train just before it left the station at the stop before being stranded by snow. After hearing the confession of the dead child’s mother about the plot that entangled everyone, Poirot gives the choice of the true story to his friend. Monsieur Bouc chooses to exonerate them all.

*One odd point early on, though, Christie has Poirot pretty hamhandedly foreshadow the murder in the story. With the title of Murder on the Orient Express, I don’t know how you’re supposed to avoid realizing there will be a murder, but on page 19, in the beginning of Chapter 3, Poirot says:

“…suppose an accident…let us just for one moment suppose it. Then perhaps all these here are linked together–by death.”

Why say that? The murder hasn’t even been committed. Was the mystery novel so in its infancy that the casual reader would NOT know what was going on? Or is it a tongue in cheek prod to the reader that yes they are going to get what they’ve paid for? And we do.

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