REVIEW: Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie

Friday, 15 December 2017

Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. One of his fellow passengers must be the murderer. Isolated by the storm and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer amongst a dozen of the dead man's enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again...

Agatha Christie has always been celebrated as the Queen of plot-twists and shocking endings, and the secrets of the Murder on the Orient Express were ones that kept even me guessing until the very last page. Unlike many before me, I unexpectedly did not guess the culprit and honestly, after all of the mysteries I have watched and read over the years, that was a welcome and happy surprise. This book was a quick read, and Poirot - and in particular, his moustache - was a pure (although slightly implausible) delight.
Despite all of this, I cannot allow myself to give it a higher rating than three stars due to the prejudices and bigotries that are expressed within its pages. And, sure, you can put that all down to the time-period it was written in, but does that make it any better? Am I meant to ignore it and give a glowing-best-book-ive-ever-read review and excuse it for its intolerance? I wouldn't do so for books written in 2017, so you can bet your life on the fact that I am going to acknowledge the issues in books written however many years before. I can still enjoy and appreciate the book, yes, but can I ignore and excuse its problematic (god, how I abhor that word) elements? No I cannot.
Agatha Christie, at least from the two books I have read, has a bit of a track-record for the inclusion of the cultural stereotypes and the language seen in Murder on the Orient Express. First, there was And Then There Were None's two earlier titles and now (NOW!) we have a plot that hinges on the ignorances and bigotries that it includes in abundance in its pages. I mean, do I even bother to keep going and try for a third? Is whatever degree of supposed majesty that lies within its pages worth the trundle through its inevitable passages devoted to its numerous and nauseous prejudices?

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