Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

It's only been seven years since the last film version of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, and I know that fans of David Suchet's version of the movie are satisfied with him as Christie's detective, Hercule Poirot. Many are not even interested in checking out Kenneth Branagh's interpretation, especially after they saw trailers of him with his mustache. I've seen both earlier editions of the film. It's only my opinion, but I find the 1974 film starring Albert Finney to be brilliant, and Christie herself liked it. It's pure entertainment with a stellar cast including Ingrid Bergman, Richard Widmark, Lauren Bacall, Vanessa Redgrave, Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins, John Gielgud, and Michael York. It's faithful to the book, with a few name changes, and an unusual final scene. I was disappointed in the 2010 film starring David Suchet. It lacked the entertainment element, and went with strong religious elements that were definitely not part of Agatha Christie's story. Read the book. Murder on the Orient Express is a true classic of the mystery genre. Then, check out whatever version of the movie you'd like to see. I'm heading to the theater to see Kenneth Branagh's new rendition once it's released.

If you've never read Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, you're in for a treat. This is one of the Golden Age mysteries with a most unusual ending. Christie violated the tenets of the genre by surprising the reader with quite a twist. If you've read the book or seen any rendition of the movie, it's still a treat to follow along with the great Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.

Poirot has just wrapped up a case when he's called from Istanbul to London. M. Bouc, a director of the train line, offers his friend a first class compartment on the Orient Express, knowing it is seldom full in the winter. To his surprise, all the first class compartments are full, but M. Bouc insists Poirot be given a compartment to share until a first class compartment opens. And, it's M. Bouc who points out the romance of the train and its passengers. "All around us are people, of all classes, of all nationalities, of all ages. For three days, these people, these strangers to one another, are brought together. They sleep and eat under one roof, they cannot get away from each other. At the end of three days, they part, they go their several ways, never, perhaps, to see each other again."

On the train, Poirot observes his fellow passengers, including a man, an American named Ratchett, who tries to hire Poirot to protect him. Poirot turns him down, telling him he doesn't like his face. And, evidently someone else doesn't like Ratchett. Along with other disturbances during the night, Poirot hears a cry from Ratchett's compartment. All the passengers awake in the morning to learn that the train is stuck on the tracks, due to snow. But, their fellow passenger, Ratchett, doesn't awake. Instead, he's found dead in his locked compartment, stabbed a dozen times.

M. Bouc quickly enlists the services of Hercule Poirot to solve the crime since the train is stuck in Yugoslavia. Poirot sees only two solutions. Either the criminal left the train in the middle of the night, or he is still on the train, stuck with all the other passengers. It's Hercule Poirot's job to find the truth.

I can't reveal more about the book without spoiling the ending. Looking at the characters now, they seem to be stereotypes representing different classes and nationalities. But, the story was written in 1934. According to her grandson, Christie's books were written as entertainment. Murder on the Orient Express succeeds as a brilliant solution to a fascinating crime. And, Christie based part of her story on the headlines of an American crime.  Again, I won't spoil the story. I do recommend that you read the book before you watch any of the movies.

That doesn't mean you can't watch a trailer, though.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. 1934. (This edition - HarperCollins, 2017. ISBN 9780062689665, media tie-in, paperback, 288p.)

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent a new edition of the book, hoping I would review it.


Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I agree totally, and agree the Suchet remake was bizarre and disappointing. I have no interest in seeing the Branagh remake.

Lesa said...

It's one more movie I can compare to the original, Jeff.

CindyD said...

I recently read it - my book group will be discussing it next week - and I totally agree with your review. I really enjoyed it. We also watched the 1974 movie. Supposed to see the new one with some of the book group members, but not sure after seeing the trailer.

Nann said...

What a great idea -- MOTE for a book club discussion. I've seen the 1974 version but I don't think I saw the more recent one. We do want to go to the new version because Judi Dench is in it!

Lesa said...

Yes, Cindy & Nann. My book group did it several years ago, and I led that discussion. I'm with you, Nann. I want to see Judi Dench. I just saw her in Victoria & Abdul & loved it.