Review: Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express (Hercule Poirot, #10)Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I decided it was high time I read this classic mystery. This is the first Agatha Christie book I’ve ever read, and while the older style took some getting used to, I can see how she got her reputation for being a master of misdirection.

Let me start with a word about the style. The book itself is set up in a three act structure with the sections broken out into the time leading up to the crime, the investigation, and the conclusion. This breaks up the narrative in a way I’m not entirely sure I liked, even restarting the chapter numbers for each section to make them feel totally separate.

The language of the writing was, expectedly, older and read a bit stuffy for my tastes. The dialogue in particular was much stiffer than I am used to. There were also a lot of specific places, titles, and phrases that I was unfamiliar with, leading me to skim over a good amount of text. Case and point, there’s a bunch of dialogue in French. Since I know no French I took to skipping over any words written in italics.

The story was clearly designed for the reader to try to solve the crime alongside the inspector. I generally like that idea, and I like to be kept guessing. There were, however, some frustrating moments due to setting descriptions that were difficult to follow and withheld (or culturally assumed) knowledge that made me feel a little cheated at the end. This frustration did not make the inspector’s results any less satisfying.

The main character (who’s name I cannot even guess how to pronounce) was quite satisfying to watch but irritating to listen to. His two companions seemed overly dense, designed to make the protagonist seem all the smarter, and Poirot never let them forget it.

Some of the story felt a bit contrived, like Poirot’s whole theory being based on a scrap of paper burned such that it contained only the single word he would need to put it all together, and the fact that so much was based on speculation (Poirot admits to guessing). Despite that, I liked the ending, (and the choice the doctor and director make) but I won’t give that away. 😉

All in all, I enjoyed the story once I got used to the older language and rhythm.

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