Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Murder on the Orient Express
by Agatha Christie

The original 1974 film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s masterwork, Murder on the Orient Express, starring Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot, and a cast of mid-1970s all-stars, is one of my all-time favorite films, and I’m looking forward to the new version, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh (and another cast of all-stars, this time from our contemporary film era) -- opening Friday, November 10th, here in Lincoln NE. In the process of adapting all the Poirot tales, David Suchet starred in a TV version of the story in 2010. And Alfred Molina starred in a 2001 TV-movie version, which modernized the tale.

But none of these would have existed if it weren’t for Christie’s original novel. When critics try to distill the best of Agatha Christie down into the 5 or 6 of her novels that come most highly regarded, there can be differing opinions. However, it is rare for Murder on the Orient Express not to appear on any “best of” list. This is one of the 33 Hercule Poirot novels, and finds the famed Belgian sleuth having completed a case elsewhere in the Middle East and needing to return to London as quickly as possible. He books passage on The Orient Express, a stylish railway car, expecting it to be nearly empty, as winter is not a busy tourist season. Instead, the train is booked solid, with individuals from around the world. When an obnoxious American entrepreneur, Ratchett, attempts to bully Poirot into taking a case — protecting Ratchett from a threatened attack — Poirot turns him down…“I do not like your face, M. Ratchett!”

But, overnight, as the train ends up stalled by a massive snowfall blocking the tracks, Ratchett is killed in his sleep, stabbed repeatedly and violently. The rail line’s executive on board appeals to Poirot to solve the murder before the train resumes travel and local authorities have to board it and take over the investigation, muddying the investigation and possibly bring bad press down on the railroad company. Poirot must use his “little grey cells” and interview a dozen suspects to try to figure out who had motive, and opportunity, to dispatch the despised Ratchett in such a brutal and violent manner. However, Poirot’s investigation isn’t into the physical evidence, but instead into the minds and psychology of his fellow rail travelers.

This is truly Dame Agatha at her very best, and perhaps one of Poirot’s two or three most memorable cases! Enjoy the film, in all its many incarnations, but I highly encourage you to return to the original source material to truly appreciate this classic mystery story!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The 1974 Film starring Finney, or David Suchet’s version from 2010.]
[ official Murder on the Orient Express page on the official Agatha Christie web site ]
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Have you read this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

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