Day 319: Murder on the Orient Express

Cover for Murder on the Orient ExpressMurder on the Orient Express is Agatha Christie’s classic mystery featuring Hercule Poirot. Everyone has of course seen the lush 1974 movie featuring a flock of movie stars and Albert Finney as Poirot.

Hercule Poirot is visiting Istanbul when he unexpectedly receives a telegram prompting him to cancel his plans and book a seat on the Orient Express leaving that night. He is able to book a compartment in first class, but only after some difficulty.

Poirot’s fellow passengers include a Russian princess, a Hungarian count and countess, a Swedish missionary, a British colonel, an annoying American widow, and other unusual characters. As always with Christie, her characters are expertly and colorfully drawn.

On board the train, Poirot is approached by the repellent Mr. Ratchett, an American businessman who believes his life is being threatened, asking for protection. Poirot dislikes Ratchett and declines his offer.

After a disturbed night, during which Poirot is awakened by a cry and spies a woman in a lurid silk kimono walking down the hall, Ratchett’s body is found dead in his compartment. He has been stabbed 12 times. The railroad executive traveling on the train begs Poirot to attempt to solve the crime before the train reaches Yugoslavia.

It begins to look as if an intruder disguised in a railway uniform broke into Ratchett’s compartment and murdered him then escaped out into the snow. Poirot’s investigation turns up a suggestion that Ratchett was the leader of a gang who kidnapped and killed the child Daisy Armstrong (a crime based upon that of the Lindbergh kidnapping), resulting in much tragedy for the family. He also begins finding links between some of the passengers and the Armstrongs.

This particular mystery is famous not only for its exotic locales but also for the unusual solution to the murder. Despite my familiarity with the plot, it made enjoyable reading.

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