Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Group Review: Murder on the Orient Express

Summary: Murder on the Orient Express is a tour-de-force variation on the theme of the English house-party, gathering a remarkable set of characters, each a secretive soul, for a journey on the fabled Orient Express train as it travels from Istanbul to Paris. On hand to resolve the murder of an American passenger is Hercule Poirot, the dapper Belgian detective, dependent only on his wit, who tucks away obscure, seemingly unrelated minutiae in his facile mind. When he determines that the corpse was a renowned child kidnapper/killer, he begins to wonder about connections between the passengers and the victim. A misplaced button, overheard conversations, a monogrammed handkerchief, and an elusive figure clad in a scarlet kimono all become clues as Hercule Poirot interrogates the snow-trapped travelers and comes to his own conclusions. Murder on the Orient Express, with its skill plot construction, adroit writing, and thought-provoking revelations, reminds us that what is "just" is not always what is legal.

Julie's Review: I was in 7th grade when I first read Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians or And Then There Were None and was hooked. So since it was my choice for our book club pick, I decided to go in Ms. Christie's vault of mysteries (Jenn prodded me towards Murder on the Orient Express). I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can understand why she's referred to as the Queen of Mystery, because this book had me guessing till the end. I really enjoyed the cast of characters that were under suspect and Hercule Poirot is interesting himself. Quite the clever and cerebral man.

I really don't want to give too much away in case you haven't read it but she really does keep you guessing until the last 10 pages and even then you get a couple different scenarios to digest. Kind of like those books I used to read as a kid that you could go to one page to go for one ending and another page for another ending (God, what were the names of those books?!!) I did guess one plot detail while Poirot was collecting the evidence which made me feel pretty smart given the outcome of the book. I truly enjoyed the ending of the book. It makes me sit back and think about the definition of "justice". I thought that the commentary on all the different types of people were pretty stereotypical and yet funny because most of them still remain true to this day, which while funny is still sad. I'm sure most of the world views Americans as boorish and materialistic.

What amazes me is how the story-telling of Agatha Christie stands the test of time and how other writers try to emulate but can never replicate. I have And Then There Were None on my TBR list so I'm sure I'll read that sooner than later. I'll probably also eventually get around more Hercule Poirot books. I definitely recommend this book. I look forward to viewing the movie at some point.

My only 2 complaints were that 1)there was a bunch of French in the book without translation and that irked me to some degree but I understood the reason she used it and 2) it did seem to drag in parts.

Julie's Final Take: 4.0/5

Jenn's Review: I too started reading Agatha Christie sometime during middle school and this story is one of my favorites. I too get slightly frustrated with the conversational french used in the book, though it is never anything important, it is a bothersome part of all of the Hercule Poirot books. Unlike so many modern mysteries Poirot always seems to be a font of information (information that the reader's are never privy to until the big reveal) which always makes him seem so brilliant.

This is also one of the best book to movie translations that I have ever seen. I refer to the original 1974 star-studded production of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. The movie is true to the dialogue and the characters (with, I think, a slight tailoring of the character of the Swedish missionary to better fit Ingrid Bergman - and I would hardly call Dame Wendy Hiller ugly!). If you have never read the book or seen the film I suggest you do both! And this is one of the only times you may find me saying that I don't think it matters whether you read it or see it first. It's that good.

Jenn's Final Take: 4.7/5

Lisa's Review: Unlike my friends this is my first and quite possibly my only Agatha Christie. Even though, I now get what the big whoop was all about, I'm becoming more and more aware, that I like my writing a lot more on the contemporary side (does that make me a shallow, mindless, chick)? Though the more I think about it, it could simply be that the writing seemed stiff because it was meant to seem as if it was translated from French? Not sure. Other than that, this was a pleasant reading experience. This is easily an intriguing mystery. The sheer number of characters was difficult to keep up with at times, however served the to keep you guessing right up until the last few pages. I was positive, I knew who dunnit, but uh uh uhh.

I was far more impressed by the 'moral of the story' than anything else - it was extremely compelling and makes sense as the foundation upon which this mystery is built.

Lisa's Final Take: 4/5


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