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Book of the Month

Book of the Month: Murder on the Orient Express

1st October 2017

Just after midnight, a snowdrift stops the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train is surprisingly full for the time of the year, but by the morning it is one passenger fewer. An American tycoon lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. Isolated and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must identify the murderer – in case he or she decides to strike again.

Ahead of the eagerly anticipated 2017 movie adaptation, this month we’re reading Agatha Christie’s bestselling novel Murder on the Orient Express. Undoubtedly one of Christie’s greatest stories, the plot finds Hercule Poirot find himself marooned on board the Orient Express with a killer to catch.

Christie’s celebrated story was first published as a novel in 1934, following a six-part newspaper serialisation in the US in 1933, under the title Murder in the Calais Coach. Despite claims from various locations around the world, the mystery of where it was really written continues. Many people suspect it was likely to have been drafted in Arpachiyah, Iraq, due to the book dedication which reads, ‘To M.E.L.M. Arpachiyah, 1933.’ M.E.L.M. were the initials of her husband, Max Edgar Lucien Mallowan.

One of the biggest inspirations behind the book came from Christie’s own trips on the Orient Express. All her life she had longed to travel on the luxurious train and in 1928 her dream came true. The other major influence on the story came straight from a 1932 news story of the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh Jr., the son of world renowned aviator, Charles Lindbergh. Christie lifted the case from the headlines and crafted the subplot of the Armstrong kidnapping case for her novel.

Although not much is written by Christie about her successful seventh Poirot novel, she did name it one of her favourite books that she’d written, purely because ‘it was a new idea for a plot.’ Critics at the time praised the book, with The New York Times saying: “Mrs Christie makes an improbable tale very real, and keeps her readers enthralled and guessing to the end.”

Being one of Christie’s most ingenious and popular stories, it has of course been adapted for different mediums many times, helping make it accessible and recognisable to many generations around the globe. One of the most successful adaptations to date is the 1974 film, directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Albert Finney as the celebrated moustachioed detective.

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