Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Reviewed by Chau
This time, I have decided to go back in time and to check out an older book from one of the most famous authors of all time: Agatha Christie. If you’re in the mood for some mystery, or you want a good puzzle to solve, “Murder on the Orient Express” is a good place to start.
Detective Hercule Poirot, having just finished one of his cases, was traveling on the Orient Express train and became involved in the murder of millionaire Samuel Ratchett. With twelve people as suspects from all walks of life, the case became increasingly puzzling when seemingly no one on board was guilty. When Ratchett’s past came to light, it only further complicated motives of the murderer and of the passengers. Detective Poirot must find the killer before another murder could occur.
I have to admit, I picked up this book with no previous knowledge about Agatha Christie, and was completely blown away! The novel is written in a very odd format, at least comparing to modern books. It’s divided into three parts: the facts, the evidence, and Poirot’s conclusion, each with its own smaller chapters. Reading this book is not unlike reading a police report with a narrative underneath. Poirot interviews each passenger and these interviews are carefully written with clues embedded inside. I did spot a couple of hints, but I couldn’t draw any conclusion from them. As I said before, reading this book is like solving a puzzle. Everything is laid out in front of you—all the evidence and facts. The writing style is very concise, perhaps a bit dry. There’s little description, and if there is, it’s usually very simple. The majority of the story contains dialogue between Poirot and other characters.
One of the reasons why I loved this book is the characters. With so many suspects, you’d think that one will outshine another in terms of guilt. In fact, all of them has something that’s suspicious, from their words to their reaction. It’s also interesting to note that all characters had their own distinct personalities. I admire Agatha Christie for being able to write twelve characters so well. The relationships between them have many layers and are so complex that you can’t help but be intrigued.
The plot progresses quite slowly at first, mainly because the story structure is unlike the typical “Hero’s Journey” of modern books. The climax occurs in the very last chapter, with a short—yet meaningful—resolution. And by the way, I did not see the ending coming at all. It was a twist for me, a good one, because the facts presented already suggested something like that in the back of my mind.
The only weakness I found is that some of the words are a bit archaic and might be hard to read. Plus, all the French dialogue isn’t translated, so there’s a lot that I missed. Other than that, this book is amazing. I understand why it’s one of the classics of literature and why it remains extremely popular even now.
If it’s not already apparent, I’d like to say that I love this book. I was reading it in class and I let out an audible gasp as I read the ending. The lack of descriptive writings in certain points—there are pages where only dialogue takes place—works in the book’s favor because Agatha Christie essentially walks us through the entire process of Poirot solving a problem. However, the parts that are descriptive are very well-written, and I can tell that each word is precisely chosen for a reason. Reading this book will keep you on your toes, because throughout the interviewing process, you try to form your own theory. The ending was brilliant, the characters are distinct and memorable, and the plot is impressive.
I rate this book 9.5/10, mainly because some people might not feel familiar with the writing style. However, I recommend that every one of all ages should try out this book.