There is not much I can say about Agatha Christie that I haven’t said before, but for this “Master Piece” I say : SUBLIME!
Agatha is really the BEST! I am so honored to be able to read this book. This book cannot be missed in any mysteries books’ collection.
The first time I’ve read this book, was during my teenagers years, but back then I was not so enthusiastic because I barely understood half of the book. Now I know that I was not mature enough to be able to understand it. Now I’ve read it again and it was very enjoyable and easy to read without the thoughts of the Poirot TV series ( or other versions on the screen).
When Poirot was traveling from Aleppo to Istanbul, he hears a conversation from Colonel Arbuthnot and Mary Debenham which is very suspect. She says ” Not now… Only when everything is done and behind us”. This happened in Konya. In Istanbul he should have taken another train to London, but that one was full, so the director of the Orient Express (Mr Bouc, who was also Belgian and an old Poirot’s friend) was at the same hotel and offered Poirot a place on his train.
And that’s why Poirot will be in this train by “mistake” and will be an inconvenience for the murderer! Still in the hotel, Poirot hears a conversation of Mr Ratchett and his employee, and since then he saw Mr Ratched as an “evil/wretched person”.
And in that night, the adventure begins….
In the train Mr Bouc comments that the passengers are coming from everywhere in the world , all from different classes in the society, and not related to each other…Bizarre!
Ratchet asks Poirot for protection as he has been receiving death threats but Poirot refuses the case, mainly because he doesn’t like Ratchet.
When the train arrives at Belgrado, Bouc moves to another train’s compartment and Poirot takes his old place. <Here I find some inconsistencies in the book: in the beginning of the journey Poirot says to MacQueen that he would stop at Belgrado to get another train, but he never does it. He only changes compartment with Bouc. Also in the book is mentioned that Bouc himself also would take another train…Which is also not the case… It might be that my book is not correctly translated to Portuguese!>
Ratchet is found dead on that night. The train is stopped because of the heavy snow.
Poirot starts the investigation:
-> is the murderer still in the train or already left the train facing the heavy stormy weather? -> There is a doctor on board who examines the body. Poirot, Bouc and the doctor will start the investigation together. Lots of clues are given: 12 stab wounds, window of the cabin is left open, handkerchief with letter ‘H’, pipe cleaner, burned letter with text “Armstrong”, red robe , etc, etc. -> Poirot reveals the identity of Ratchet : he was a famous gangster named “Casseti” who kidnapped and killed a small little girl Daisy Amstrong. This tragedy destroyed all Amstrong Family. -> Poirot thinks about the case: Almost all the information makes sense, but also not. Apparently everybody is everyone’s else alibi… Are those people really who they say they are? With the stranded train in the middle of nowhere, and no external help to confirm some details, this case is impossible to solve! -> Impossible??? Of course not! Not for Poirot! Poirot will exercise his grays cells in the most terrible conditions : a very cold train. <Apart note: in the TV series, there was a huge emphasis on the cold! And Poirot’s face would emphasize that fact almost all the time… the series with David Suchet of course :)). But this was not shown in the book that much>
—-> As usual Poirot gathers everybody, and reveals that they were all somehow related to each other and to the Amstrong family (aunts, cousins, sisters, niece, friend, nanny, driver, cook, etc) and one of them (or all ?) committed the crime…
Concluding my review: This story is so thrilling along the way and keeps you thinking, and guessing, and thinking again, until Poirot reveals the solution! Amazing! Just a MasterPiece!
Thanks Agatha for this Masterpiece!