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Book of the Month

Book of the Month: The Mystery of the Blue Train

1st August 2017

When the luxurious Blue Train arrives at Nice, a guard attempts to wake serene Ruth Kettering from her slumbers. But she will never wake again for a heavy blow has killed her, disfiguring her features almost beyond recognition. What is more, her precious rubies are missing. The prime suspect is Ruth’s estranged husband, Derek. Yet Poirot is not convinced, so he stages an eerie re-enactment of the journey, complete with the murderer on board.

Derived from her short story The Plymouth Express, the novel transports readers onto a deluxe sleeper train bound for the South of France, and into the glamorous world of the French Riviera. We see the scene through the eyes of naïve heroine Katherine Grey, who has recently come into a substantial inheritance. Miss Grey gets mixed up with the shady characters and tangled plots that weave around the central murder, and along the journey meets Hercule Poirot, who is pulled into investigating the crime despite his intention to travel for leisure.

"Nominally Poirot has retired, but retirement means no more to him than it does to a prima donna. Let a good murder mystery come within his ken, and he just can't be kept out of it.” The New York Times Book Review August 1928

Agatha Christie wrote most of The Mystery of the Blue Train whilst visiting Tenerife in the Canary Islands. She had headed to the island after struggling through a difficult period in her life, taking her daughter Rosalind with her. They arrived by steam boat, disembarking in the main port of Santa Cruz before heading north to Valle de la Orotava. In Agatha Christie’s mind, this was the turning point in her career where she changed from an amateur to a professional author.

The biggest critic of The Mystery of the Blue Train was the author herself. Commenting on the novel in An Autobiography Christie wrote, ‘each time I read it again, I think it commonplace, full of clichés, with an uninteresting plot. Many people, I am sorry to say, like it. Authors are always said to be no judge of their own books.’

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