Book of the Week · Reading · Sunday Book Club

Sunday Book Club: Murder on the Orient Express

imageHiatus over!  I went on vacation over Thanksgiving break to Hawaii, and got sick on the way home.  I was so sick that I was in bed for 4 days. It was just a bad cold, but I had zero energy.  In fact, I had to stop decorating my Christmas tree just to rest.  Christmas can be extremely overwhelming to me.  Spending all that money, the high expectations, the completely packed calendar, the rush to finish (or raise grades) school projects before the end of the term…so many things to trigger my anxiety.

Usually I get my Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving so I can enjoy the holidays a little bit more.  This year I wasn’t able to do that, so I was not feeling the Christmas spirit.  At all.  Add on top of that feeling like I was dying, and you have the perfect storm for mild depression and high anxiety.  I’ve finished all my shopping, so that’s major thing I can check off the list.  Decorations? Done.  Christmas cards? Next thing to do.  I hate feeling like Christmas has become a huge list of “to do”s, but perhaps that’s a better way to help me cope and get things done early so that I enjoy Christmas when it actually arrives.

This week for Sunday Book Club I am reviewing a classic: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.  I decided to go back and read it because I really wanted to see the movie and I had forgotten what happens.  Classic Agatha Christie.  I’ve been on a Agatha Christie reading streak since then–some of her books are excellent, others are okay.  I recommend The Murder of Roger Ackroyd if you are looking for more.  Plot twist like you wouldn’t believe!

Murder on the Orient Express starts with the famed detective Hercule Poirot needing a holiday from all his detective work.  He has it all planned, until an emergency case calls him back to London.  He is in the middle east, so in order to get back to London he has to take the Orient Express.  His friend, who is the director of the Orient Express, is confident he can get Poirot a first class ticket–it is, after all, the middle of winter and there are always open seats even at the last minute–however all the compartments are booked (very important plot point!),  He meets a variety of characters on the train, including the American gangster Ratchett, who is the one who is murdered.  Why was he murdered?  Who did it?

Poirot is asked by his friend, M. Bouc, to investigate the murder.  There are inconsistencies, strange evidence left behind and no one is who they seem.  This includes Ratchett, who is, in fact, a criminal named Cassetti.  Cassetti was responsible for the kidnapping and murder of Daisy Armstrong, the infant daughter of a famous aviator (a blatant reference to the real life Lindbergh baby kidnapping). Cassetti escaped justice in the United States, and was never held accountable for his crimes.  Instead, a young housemaid of the Armstrong’s was put to trial and later committed suicide after her conviction. Sonia Armstrong, Daisy’s mother, died in childbirth after learning of her daughter’s death and Colonel Armstrong then committed suicide

As Poirot delves deeper into the murder, he finds that all the people in the first- and second-class compartments had some sort of connection to the Armstrong family and their lives were changed forever because of the murder.  So the question is–who did it?  Which of the twelve passengers killed Cassetti?

I saw the movie last night, and it follows the book fairly well.  There are, of course, some differences, and two of the characters are merged into one, but overall the plot and outcome is the same.  I do have a few criticisms: the casting wasn’t quite right as far as the age of the characters go (you’ll see what I mean if you read the book first and then watch the movie), and much of it was unreliable to today’s audience: most people do not remember a time when even modest households had servants.  This makes it hard to relate to family that had a cook, a nurse and governess for their baby, a housemaid, and a valet. (Although, arguably, TV shows like Downtown Abbey have helped make it more understandable.)

Next week’s book: The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey (which is also a movie!)

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