By Becky Cooper
Johnny Depp. Daisy Ridley. Michelle Pfeiffer. Judi Dench. Penelope Cruz. Kenneth Branaugh. With a cast like this, you know you’ll want to see Murder on the Orient Express.
But you know it was a book first, right? By the best-selling novelist of all time, Agatha Christie.
They say that the book is always better than the movie, but maybe you don’t have time to read it before November 10? Well, you’re in luck, because this review will give you enough of the plot to understand the movie without spoiling the end.
Christie’s 1934 novel begins with our main character, Hercule Poirot, arriving at the Tokatlian Hotel in Istanbul. He plans to stay for a few days, but receives a telegram asking him to return to London immediately. Poirot books a ticket for the Orient Express that night, and thus begins his journey to London.
Murder on the Orient Express is a fantastic read for many reasons, but one of its greatest strengths is the brilliance of its main character. Hercule Poirot is not your typical hero: Christie gives the reader just enough information about Poirot to make him credible, but he is rather aloof and calculating, and you end the book knowing just as much about him as you did when you started it. However, we are invited into Poirot’s analytical and incredibly observant mind, which is the real star of this novel. Poirot takes thirteen strangers, a few key facts, testimonials, physical evidence, and solves one of the greatest mysteries ever concocted by Agatha Christie.
Admittedly, the beginning of the book is somewhat slow. It takes a while to introduce all thirteen characters, and the initial setup feels like it moves at a snail’s pace. However, the story starts to pick up when Poirot is approached by one of the passengers, a man named Ratchett, who asks Poirot to protect him, as he senses that his life is in danger. Poirot refuses the case, and sends the man on his way. That night, Poirot wakes up in the middle of the night to a cry coming from Ratchett’s compartment. He leaves his own berth to discover that the train is at a standstill, stuck in a snowdrift. As the passengers convene in the dining car to investigate the stalled train, they receive the news that Ratchett has been stabbed in his compartment during the night. It is clear that the murderer has not left the train, and is still among them. With no obvious suspect, it is up to Poirot to solve the crime.
The bulk of the novel follows the investigation of Ratchett’s death, spearheaded by Poirot and aided by Poirot’s friend, Monsieur Bouc, and Dr. Constantine, who provide much needed dialogue, serving as our window into Poirot’s mind. Christie artfully describes evidence in a way that important details are noted, but not revealed in totality. We are carefully lead through testimonials from all thirteen passengers and Poirot’s examination of the evidence, all of which culminate in a brilliant surprise ending that will have even the most investigative and skeptical impressed with Christie’s mystery. As Poirot himself finds himself puzzled at the facts of the crime, he sums up the novel quite nicely by stating, “The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.”
(Cover photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox)
Becky Cooper is a senior Marketing major with a Professional Writing minor from Fishers, Indiana. She hasn’t visited the IKEA yet, but plans to soon. Her favorite things include Grey’s Anatomy, dumplings, and her shih-tzu/poodle dog, Molly. Connect with her here!