That feeling you get from exploring a good story. A bookish podcast discussing and reviewing books and films as I journey through my ever growing TBR backlog and watchlist.

Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie

This review will focus primarily on the book, though I’ll give a few thoughts on the film as well, since we watched AND read this story for the Storyphoria Story Club. Will this classic mystery tale delight the senses or dash my hope of a thrilling ride?

Murder On The Orient Express
Title: Murder On The Orient Express
Page Count: 256
Published: 01/01/1934
Categories: ,
When an American businessman is found dead on a train stuck in a blizzard, a train that happens to contain the worlds best detective Hercule Poirot, the game is afoot as they say. With the killer stuck on the train and very limited clues available can Poirot solve the murder before anyone else is killed.

Agatha Christie, known to many as the “Queen of Mystery” wrote an astounding number of books, including over 30 stories featuring world famous detective Hercule Poirot. Murder on the Orient Express is the 9th book in her Poirot series, which explains why we are given very little in the way of an introduction to WHO this detective is and WHY it matters that he’s on the case.

He is Christie’s version of Sherlock Holmes.

Though, in my opinion, maybe not as entertaining or engaging to read as a character as Sherlock Holmes is/was.

The premise of this book is pretty straight-forward and simple, which I enjoyed.

There is a murder on a train and the train is stuck in a snow storm, hence cut off from any police support and there is nowhere for the passengers to go. Which means the killer is still on board.

Good thing detective extraordinaire, Poirot, happens to be on the same train. Side note – I wonder if the killer(s) involved had to be cursing their luck that FIRST a snow storm leaves the train stranded and SECOND the best detective in the world just happens to be a passenger on the same train and has decided it’s his duty to solve this murder?

Anyways, back to the review.

When it comes to characters or any character development, it’s mostly non-existent. But how much can you expect from a mystery happening over just a couple days. Not every story will see a huge character arc, some have a different focus – be it plot or worldbuilding.

Unfortunately, this book has none of that.

Buckle up for a second because I’m about to throw a couple haymakers

While I was greatly intrigued by the actual mystery, sucked into trying to figure out “WHO DID IT?”, by the time I hit the final act of the book I stepped back and realized that while the mystery part of this book IS very well done… in terms of a story… it sucked.

The book reads more like a murder mystery subscription box game, maybe a board game like Clue with a hugely expanded amount of details, or even some of the classic point and click style video games from the 90’s in which you click on clues on the screen which give you your evidence and then you attempt to solve the mystery.

I felt like I might as well have been flipping through a stack of index cards that each featured a character, their background, the info about “where they were when the murder happened”, and then at the end told to sit down and think with Poirot and see if I could figure out the mystery before he laid it out for us.

As a STORY this book really missed the mark for me, even though I was entirely enjoying trying to solve they mystery, which I know is a weird thing to say.

Put another way, as a STORY this book has very little actual story structure. There isn’t the usual ebb and flow, the beginning/middle/end, and more importantly there is no real building of the required tension and intrigue leading to the climax at the end of the story.

Instead we get essentially a huge info dump of clues and then a fairly unsatisfying ending that, at least in the book, lands like a wet blanket.

In this regard, the film does deliver a little better.

Murder on the Orient Express would make a fantastic card game with friends, maybe even a fun “Carmen San Diego” style video game. Largely because Agatha Christie does a wonderful job playing dungeon master and creating a terrific puzzle of a mystery to figure out. However, as a story it really just misses the mark for me. The feel of every chapter being simply an info dump of clues for us to decipher versus being a story through the eyes of Poirot, coupled with an ending that is very flat, left a lot to be desired.

This is one of the few examples where I’ll say the film was better than the book, even if only just a little. Mainly because the film does a better job of building a dramatic and exciting story(along with some beautifully shot visuals) that leads to an ending that, while technically the same as in the book, is executed and performed in a way that at least let’s us feel the impact of the twist. Not to say the film was AMAZING… just a little more enjoyable than the book for me.

Oddly, while it sounds like I totally hated this book, I’d still recommend it to anyone looking for a good mystery book. I don’t regret reading it and Christie DOES put together a compelling mystery/puzzle. But the bottom line is that while her storytelling didn’t find a home with me, TONS of people have read this same book and absolutely LOVED her storytelling. And I realize that it is most likely a case of the book and I just not being meant for each other.

So if you love a good puzzle to solve as you dig into a classic murder mystery, I’d highly recommend you give Murder on the Orient Express a look.

For me however, the book fell really flat and the film was only slightly better.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (BOOK) gets 2/5 stars
Murder on the Orient Express (MOVIE) gets 3/5 stars

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