We begin our Twitter librarians #librarytwittermysteryamonth with Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, and a jolly good read it is
Agatha Christie first rode on the Orient Express in 1928, and she had longed to travel on it many times before then. She loved rail travel, writing in her autobiography, “trains have always been one of my favourite things.” Another reason for her love of trains may have been that, along with her fictional detective Hercule Poirot, she detested sea travel.
Agatha Christie rode the famed Orient Express again in 1933 to join her husband’s archaeological dig in Iraq, and it was here that she wrote Murder on the Orient Express which was published the following year. The long train journey gave her ample opportunity to research details for her novel and she also was able to use some fairly recent real-life events in her plot: the Lindberg kidnapping in 1927, and an incident in 1929 in which the real Orient Express was stranded in fierce snow storms.
In the novel the Orient Express is again stranded in a snowstorm, this time, as luck would have it, with M. Bouc, Director of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits, on board with his old friend the famous detective Hercule Poirot.
Unusually for this quiet time of year, the train is fully booked with an assortment of characters and caricatured nationalities… among others, a loud mouth American, an English colonel returning from India, a Hungarian diplomat, a Russian Princess and her German maid, and a Swedish missionary (who is put down along with all her countrymen with the withering description “Poor creature, she’s a Swede”).
As with many of Christie’s novels, you should never assume people are who they say they are, especially the victim! With the train snowed in and all communication with the outside world cut off, M. Bouc places Hercule Poirot in charge of the investigation. The clues point in several different directions, and it seems that the murder must have been committed by more than one person, but it would be unwise to assume that more than one means two!