I’ve read a few of Christie’s Poirot stories before and while diverting enough, wasn’t overly impressed. I found the stories to be inferior versions of Sherlock Holmes and didn’t much like the narraror Hastings. Luckily in this book, Hastings is not the narrator and the book works better for it.
Hercule Poirot, the renowned Belgian detective is headed home to England after assisting in a matter in Syria. Boarding the express he finds himself among a diverse group of characters, from various countries.
He is approached by one passenger, Ratchett who believes someone is out to kill him. Not liking the man, who has an evil look, Poirot refuses the case. However, that night with the train stranded in the snow, Ratchett is murdered.
The killer is still aboard and Poirot is asked to solve the case. First he uncovers that Ratchett has lied about his identity and is in fact a notorious criminal. But who among the passengers would have cause to kill him?
I really dug this book and was through it in a few days. The story and set up is interesting and well done. Poirot chips away at each passenger’s testimony and pieces together the whole far fetched situation in an entertaining matter.
The case is quite ridiculous, but Christie keeps you hooked and injects subtle humour, often at the expense of the rather pompous detective.
The only flaws are it’s dependence on national stereotypes and the fact that most of the case is based on some pretty big guesses on Poirot’s part.
The final reveal and Poirot’s explanation for the crime is brilliant, as is the ending which doesn’t follow the traditional “criminal is arrested” ending.
Verdict: The story runs the risk of tipping into the absurd, but Christie keeps it moving along well and draws out the truth in a cunning and entertaining way. A good read and a great page turner. 8/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.