Not everyone likes to read. Most people of the people I’ve met aren’t avid readers or don’t read fiction in English language, in spite of which, most of them have told me that they have read Agatha Christie. And not just one book, by the way, a couple of them, because, as they say in the Lays ad, ‘no one can “read” just one’ Agatha Christie book. Such is the power or her writing. While her narration is gripping from the very first word, it is also very simple; simple enough to sail a non reader through the pages effortlessly.
As the synopsis suggests, Murder on the Orient Express is a story of a crime committed on the very train detective Hercule Poirot is travelling. After successfully solving a case for the French Army in Syria, Poirot heads for home, planning couple of days of stopover in Istanbul. His case in London, however, takes an unexpected turn, thwarting his holiday plans, and forcing him to rush to England in the very first Orient Express leaving Istanbul. On the second night in the train, one of the passengers is murdered and as luck would have it, the train runs into a snowdrift, as a result of which the killer is unable to escape. This makes all the remaining passengers a suspect, trapped in the train along with one of the world’s most reputed detective. One. Brilliant. Plot.
The book is divided into three parts — The Facts, The Evidence and Hercule Poirot Sits Back and Thinks.
The main drama takes place in the first part and is pretty fast in pace. Add to it the sheer number of suspects, and you are left struggling to remember which character is which. The reader may take time to remember all of them.
In the second part, Poirot questions the passengers one by one and here is where the fun begins. Every time a passenger is interviewed, the reader becomes convinced that the character just questioned is the murderer, until Poirot interviews another and then you started thinking the same about him as well. One thing baffles me is how every passenger knows exactly what he/she was doing in the middle of the night down to the exact minute! It’s as if each member of the train posses photographic memory. And through her characters’ ‘photographic memory’, Christie spins a think web of activity, leaving the reader thoroughly amused, and eager to hunt the killer.
The last part is where Poirot puts the pieces of the puzzle together, and of all the possible killers that sprang into my mind, I just could not guess the real killer. The end was just brilliant leaving me in awe of Poirot and in turn, Agatha Christie.
The passengers on the Orient Express belong to various backgrounds and nationalities, and posses distinct characteristics, all beautifully sculptured by Christie. She paints each characters through distinct dialogues and mannerisms with such finesse that the characters come to life with every word you read. Hercule Poirot once again astonishes the reader with his attention to detail and analytical ability, and amuses us with his subtle tongue-in-cheek humour.
Murder on the Orient Express is a light book you can easily finish in a day or two.
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