At midnight, the famous Orient Express train is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, one of the passengers is dead – stabbed a dozen times. Isolated by a storm and with a killer onboard, detective Hercule Poirot must find the culprit.
The newest film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1934 murder mystery novel was released in UK cinemas in 3rd November 2017, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot.
I read Murder on the Orient Express for the first time around this time last year, and although I wrote notes, I never published a book review. However, after seeing the film adaptation last week, I thought it an appropriate time to revisit my notes and finally write a book review.
I really, really liked this book.
I haven’t read much by Agatha Christie, but I found her writing style surprisingly easy to read, which was a great way into the story.
Murder on the Orient Express is the first Poirot story I’ve ever read, though it’s the tenth published by Christie.
He is quirky and clever, drawing on stereotypes introduced by characters like Sherlock Holmes, such as the extraordinarily talented and secluded intellectual. Poirot, however, whilst he prefers solidarity, integrates with society in a polite and courteous manner and, to the best of my knowledge, does not struggle with an opium addiction. For these reasons, I enjoyed Poirot’s character more than Sherlock, and I liked reading Poirot work his way to conclusions.
I liked the mix of lots of characters, all trapped in one singular place, who all had different stories and personalities, and yet Poirot was able to find various connections between them in interesting and subtle ways.
Film Comment: I think this subtlety was lost somewhat when translated to the big screen, in the process of condensing the narrative into a just under 2-hour film.
I thought the book was satirical, particularly in the interactions between Hercule Poirot, and his friend M. Bouc. This satire was carried across to the film, albeit in different ways.
In the book, Bouc is aware of the stereotypical methods of looking for clues, and subsequently thinks almost every object on the train is a clue. Undoubtedly, this is the approach the “untrained” mind – the mind of the reader – would take; Poirot satirises this with quips directed at Bouc, and instead leads the reader’s attention to the tiniest and seemingly most insignificant details, which are the most telling.
The final reveal of the culprit surprised me, challenging my own theories I’d created in my head and making me think in different ways.
Minor Spoiler: There was a reluctance to condemn the act of murder, because of the reason it was committed. I think murder is murder, and if we begin to justify some murder over others, regardless of intentions or motivations, it creates a risky, slippery slope of vigilante justice. Admittedly though, this frustration was admittedly drawn out more by the film adaptation.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I really liked the newest film adaptation as well; Branagh captured the character of Poirot well, and the cinematography was visually stunning. I recommend both!
News of a second Poirot film with Kenneth Branagh, an adaptation of Death on the Nile, is already spreading. If this is the case, I can’t wait to read Death on the Nile next.