Last post of 2010

My last post for this year is a re-read - a book that I've known for a very long time, but not read for years. Murder on the Orient Express is one of Agatha Christie's best known novels, and is probably her best known Poirot story. It's famous for its unusual solution, rather than the murder being committed by a single murderer it's actually committed by multiple murderers. It's also extremely unusual in that the murderers get away with their crime, although the victim, who is himself a child-murderer, is brought to justice by his assassins.

It's certainly an innovative novel. First published in 1933, nothing had ever been written quite like it, and it remains unique in its radical solution, to my knowledge, to this day. Re-reading it however, made me realise how clunky it is. There are some holes in the plot that don't quite work, and although the central story-line is very clever, I don't think it showcases the finest of Christie's writing.

Also interesting is the apparent change in Poirot's character. Most Poirot mysteries place stress on his firm belief in justice, and his unswerving devotion to bringing murderers to justice. This, to a certain extent, appears to desert him here. In fact he appears to treat the whole affair in a slightly comic fashion, and this really grates when you've read later more serious Poirots. Over Christmas ITV showed a new adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express starring the inimitable David Suchet. This, very cleverly, tied up some of the loopholes in the plot, and also gave a real twist to the release of the murderers, in which Poirot struggles with his conscience as to what to do. In the end, he follows the plot and lets them go free, recognising that they had provided rough justice when justice had appeared to desert them, but it's not easy for him, and this is reflected in Suchet's brilliant performance.

Perhaps what's most fascinating about Murder on the Orient Express is the way in which it illustrates how news events can provide inspiration for writers. I knew that the crime of the victim which provoked his murder was based upon the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh's baby, what I only discovered recently was that the novel was also inspired by the real life stranding of the Orient Express in a snow drift.

It's a really interesting novel - I don't think it's Christie's best, although it is one of her most unusual, but if you're into crime fiction it's a must-read. Happy New Year to all Bookhound readers, and see you in 2011.


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