Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie
The Hamlyn Publishing Group Ltd., 1969 (published as part of the Agatha Christie Crime Collection)
Originally published in 1934
On the surface, Samuel Ratchett is an unremarkable American traveller, albeit a paranoid one. When his fears come true in the most extraordinary fashion, his body found savagely stabbed aboard the snowed-in Orient Express, the civilised mask falls away and the dead man is revealed to be a notorious kidnapper. Revenge, it would seem, has finally caught up with him. The case is a tangle of conflicting clues and inexplicable alibis, but the killer has made one crucial mistake: they committed murder aboard the same train as Hercule Poirot.
The thing I like best about Agatha Christie’s books is when she proves her credentials as the Queen of Crime by disassembling all your expectations of how a mystery novel is supposed to go. Christie’s work is so very much of its time, with all the racism and sexism that entails, and yet remains so readable – Murder on the Orient Express is a story that only gets creepier the more you think about it, which is probably why it has become one of her more famous books. Though most of the characters are drawn only in broad strokes, as is Christie’s usual style, the writing is clear, concise and somehow convincing, even when it shouldn’t be. And I am always happy to read about Hercule Poirot being cleverer than other people.