I mentioned before how much I enjoy listening to Agatha Christie’s mysteries while I’m driving to and from work. So far, it’s all been Miss Marple, but last week, I chose Hercule Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express. As can be expected from Christie, the mystery was smart and entertaining. Other than a bloody knife—and the victim’s body, of course—there was no gore, no sick tampering with the corpse, and no follow-up murders. It was as clean a murder as you could want, and my stomach thanks you, Agatha Christie.
What I did get was lots of Hercule Poirot. With Miss Marple, I sometimes regret that she slips into the background and isn’t seen for lengthy periods of time, but here, Monsieur Poirot was always front and center. Good thing he doesn’t mind that no matter where he goes, whether it’s on business or on vacation, there always seems to be a murder happening. This one takes place while he travels from Syria back to Europe, right when the train gets stuck in a giant snow storm. Of course that means that the murderer must still be on the train, although all the passengers who could be suspected have a firm alibi. On the surface, this seems to be an almost impossible crime to solve.
As Poirot is a firm believer in the psychology behind a crime, the focus is always on his interactions with potential suspects and his observations of their statements, behavior, idiosyncrasies. (I was struck by how much he reminded me of Columbo in this respect.) While Poirot investigates, he is accompanied by the director of the train company and a doctor, both of whom can’t figure out how it might all fit together to make sense. Their questions for Poirot, and their clumsy attempts at pointing fingers at this passenger or that one, are a clever way of having Poirot explain what he’s thinking and where he finds weak points in the testimonies. Of course there are lots of red herrings, and so it’s no surprise that I was wrong in my guesses of whodunit all along. I was convinced that the murderer had climbed out the window and onto the roof of the train, where no one would be able to see the footprints in the snow. Nope, that’s not what happened at all!
Perhaps I found the solution to the crime just a tad far-fetched, but that’s almost beside the point. Any slight misgivings I might have had with the plot were far outweighed by the great narration. I had borrowed the Harper Collins edition narrated by Dan Stevens, and it was superb. He had a great way of giving each character his or her own voice and accent without them sounding exaggerated or ridiculous. In a story that relies heavily on dialog and the way certain things are said, he was able to convey seemingly without effort all that was said without words in this story. I see that he has also narrated The Illiad and The Odyssey. I’m almost tempted to pick those up next…