R63. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Year Published: 1934
Pages: 254

First Sentence: It was five o'clock on a winter's morning in Syria.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie | Two Hectobooks

Believe it or not, I'd never read an Agatha Christie novel before Murder on the Orient Express. As I mentioned in my review of The Maltese Falcon, my grasp of the mystery/detective genre is feeble at best.

And yet, Hercule Poirot is a familiar name. By my count this is Christie's eighth novel featuring this oddball Belgian detective. He has a voluminous moustache and an egg-shaped head, and I am in love with him. This book is a sort of locked room mystery, in which Hercule Poirot finds himself among several passengers in the same carriage of a train that gets waylaid by a mountain snowstorm, and oh by the way one of their number has been murdered.

In the early going I found Christie's style to be a bit too flat, but then as soon as Poirot began his investigation I got caught up with wanting to know the solution. The book is a wonderful puzzle that gives the impression that if the reader were only as smart as Hercule Poirot, they could solve the mystery along with him.

And that flat style I mentioned belies Christie's skill in sketching out her characters and the atmosphere of the train. The cast involved in this book is frankly enormous considering the length of the novel, but every character is easily distinguishable from the others. Given that the cast is multinational, they also all have very interesting and dare-I-say accurate prejudices about each other, which Christie seems to employ for purposes of humour (I found it humorous, anyway, although it struck close to the bone given recent world events). And regarding the atmosphere: my kingdom for a time machine that would let me take a trip on a train like this in the 1930s. (My kingdom for a time machine, always, but some locales just seem like more fun than others.)

I wish I could come up with more to say about this book. Basically it's a terrific mystery story (I didn't see the ending coming at all). It doesn't necessarily have anything earth-shattering to say about the human condition or anything, but it's fun and diverting. This may have been my first Agatha Christie novel, but I hope that it will be the first of many.

Current Distractions, October 2018 Edition


Happy Halloween!

Like I mentioned last month, I'm making these posts even shorter than usual in order to free up a tiny bit of time in my weeks/months.

Swimming
77,000m so far this year! Getting closer to my goal of 100km in 2018.

Reading
Credo by Melvyn Bragg
The Ambassadors by Henry James
The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson
The Last Hours by Minette Walters

Watching
Halloween (2018)
Castle Rock season 1
CBC Radio's The Debaters (live)
Hugo and Jake videos (specifically the Jordan Peterson ones)

Classics Club Update

Deadline: October 23, 2022
Time Elapsed: 1/5 years (20%)
Books Read: 16/50 (32%)

Well, I have not been a great Classics Club member thus far. Earlier this year, I decided to delete the RSS reader app I had on my phone in order to help with reducing screen time, and therefore I've barely visited the main blog over the last few months. I've also neglected to actually submit most of my review for inclusion on the Classics Club's index of reviews. Argh! That's on the agenda for today.

The year since I announced that I would be joining has really flown by, anyway.

As for my own list of classics, it has evolved since I created it. I've maintained the alphabetical order that I started with. I've put an asterisk in brackets next to items that have been added since the original. There's a strike through books I've finished reading. Top 100 books are still bold. Here you go:
  1. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
  2. Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
  3. The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov
  4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  5. (*) The House With a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs
  6. Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow
  7. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
  8. A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford
  9. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  10. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
  11. The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler
  12. (*) If on a winter's night a traveller by Italo Calvino (NB: Review to come!)
  13. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  14. U.S.A. (trilogy) by John Dos Passos
  15. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  16. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
  17. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser (NB: Review to come!)
  18. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  19. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
  20. Studs Lonigan (trilogy) by James T. Farrell (NB: Review to come!)
  21. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (NB: Review to come!)
  22. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (NB: Review to come!)
  23. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (NB: Review to come!)
  24. Thursday's Children by Rumer Godden
  25. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
  26. I, Claudius by Robert Graves
  27. Roots by Alex Haley
  28. (*) Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock (NB: Review to come!)
  29. Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart
  30. Three Cheers for Me by Donald Jack
  31. (*) The Sheik by E.M. Hull (NB: Review to come!)
  32. The Ambassadors by Henry James
  33. The Golden Bowl by Henry James (NB: Review to come!)
  34. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
  35. The Star Diaries by Stanislaw Lem
  36. The Stream of Life by Clarice Lispector
  37. The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
  38. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
  39. (*) Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor (NB: Review to come!)
  40. Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara
  41. 1984 by George Orwell
  42. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  43. (*) The Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake
  44. (*) The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
  45. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  46. All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren (NB: Review to come!)
  47. A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh (NB: Review to come!)
  48. The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder (NB: Review to come!)
  49. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  50. Native Son by Richard Wright
Discarded items:
  1. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien
  2. Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins
  3. The Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner
  4. The Doomed City by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
  5. Hard to Be a God by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
  6. My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
  7. Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
If you're noticing that I'm way behind on posting reviews of books, you are not mistaken! Rest assured, however, that I do have reviews written for all of these books, they just haven't made their way onto the blog yet.