“But I know human nature, my friend, and I tell you that, suddenly confronted with the possibility of being tried for murder, the most innocent person will lose his head and do the most absurd things.”
I've heard a lot about this story from Christie followers, telling me how good it is and how it rates a favorite for many. While it didn't steal the #1 spot for me from And Then There Were None and Death on the Nile, it maneuvered its way into #3.
Ah, Poirot. He may think he's retired, but he keeps running into murders on his travels. This time he's come from an emotional upheaval and needs the break, after being saddened by a friend's death, but once on the train he sees it's no peaceful vacation. Murder takes place, but the clues are so obvious it's clear they were planted. Not only obvious, but they point the fingers at several and contradict each other.
Murder on the Orient Express was refreshing for a Christie book because she took a break from her straight-laced justice chase for once. It showed a different side to the understanding Poirot has, something he usually doesn't do or get involved in. The ending delivered a unique twist that comes back to a personal situation with Poirot in the beginning. How she ties these tiny knots together to make the rope so complex always surprises me.
Even though it's about a crime, a few sentences of humor are introduced, mainly when Poirot's mustache battles his soup and an overbearing character who won't shut up. Usually a suspect needs detailed interviewing, but this is one woman they're happy to get out of the interrogation chambers. Besides that, his two companions were a lot of fun since they suspected pretty much everybody after each questioning. How Poirot has patience with us and our little minds, I'll never know. :)
The mystery is hard to solve without Poirot's genius observations, but it's still neat to see how it plays out when he reveals his hand. Again I loved the ending focusing on justice in such a different sort of way. The irony with the numbers is genius too - those little touches make all the difference between a good story and a great one.
One of the contradictions on the train was a clear-standing prejudice of travelers of different nationalities holding their personal prejudices against "foreigners." It comes across more funny than anything, although some may itch to get offended, as silly as I think that is.
On the negative side, the book was mainly just interviews and not red herrings or different discoveries and explorations - sitting for hours talking isn't as exciting as the different trials on the ship with 'Death On the Nile' and the claustrophobic tightness of 'And Then There Were None.'
“The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.”