Murder on the Orient Express: Book Review Summary & Analysis

Agatha Christie's famed Murder on the Orient Express - explores the plot, morals, logic, and deeper meanings behind this classic detective tale.

Welcome to an insightful journey through the world of 'Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie: Book Review Summary & Analysis,' written by Muhiuddin Alam on the book recommendations and reviews site, ReadingAndThinking.com

Over the years as a leading authority on literary expertise, I've shared numerous articles and book reviews, many of which can be found on this site.

I have received many requests to review 'Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie'. 

In response, I'm pleased to offer my expert Reviews, Summary, and Analysis in this article.

Content Introduction: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

One of the reasons why Grandma's books are very popular, whether in the East or the West, is that in addition to meeting the necessary conditions for mystery novels, that is, the plot is cleverly conceived, unexpected but reasonable, she is also a female writer who is unique in being delicate, gentle, and good at Describing details and psychology are also important factors. 

Finally, what cannot be ignored is that although she comes from a privileged background and lives a wealthy life, she is full of respect and understanding for all working classes in society, and has natural tolerance and compassion. She upholds traditional moral values, loves her family, respects her elders, and enjoys life slowly.

"Murder on the Orient Express" is such a classic. A murder case in a confined space, the Orient Express bound for Europe, passengers with different backgrounds and personalities. 

Although the deceased was hated by everyone, no one had a motive for the murder. Of course, the truth came to light in the end, but what was as unexpected as the process of solving the case was the even more unexpected treatment of the perpetrator.

Once the Queen of England met with Agatha and asked: What is the ending of the Orient Express mystery? I forgot. She smiled and said: Sorry, Your Majesty, I forgot too.

As famous as the novel is, of course, the movie of the same name. This lineup certainly does not disgrace the novel. 

Even the supporting role of the tutor is also the movie queen Ingrid Bergman, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for this film, making a gorgeous return to Hollywood. 

You might as well go and see it again. Even every small role is played by a great actor.

Agatha's books rarely win by being shocking, they don't describe violence, they're not curious, and they're not supernatural. In modern mystery novels, her books are like the British Empire, a little lonely. 

However, on a rainy evening, you hold a cat on your lap, light a fire in the fireplace, make tea, and read one of her books. 

You just keep reading, and it feels like a hand-knitted pure wool shawl. , how many years have passed, and no one can match that exquisiteness.

Book: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Murder on the Orient Express is a work of detective fiction by English writer Agatha Christie featuring the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. It was first published in the United Kingdom by the Collins Crime Club on 1 January 1934. ----- Wikipedia.

    • Originally published: January 1, 1934
    • Author: Agatha Christie
    • Followed by: Three Act Tragedy, Peril at End House, The Merchant of Venice, All's Well That Ends Well
    • Characters: Hercule Poirot, Edward Ratchett, Mary Debenham.
    • Genres: Novel, Mystery, Crime fiction, Detective fiction
    • Pages: 256

murder-on-the-orient-express
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

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About the Author

Agatha Christie is known as the queen of detective novels. Her books have sold more than 1 billion copies in English and have been translated into more than 100 languages, with sales of more than 1 billion copies. 

She wrote 80 detective novels and short story collections, 19 screenplays, and 6 novels published under the pseudonym Mary West McCourt. The number of works is second only to Shakespeare.

Agatha Christie's first novel, "The Mysterious Case at Styles Park," was written at the end of World War I, during which she served as a volunteer ambulance crew. 

In this novel, she created a cute little Belgian detective Hercule Pogge, who became the most popular detective image among readers after Sherlock Holmes. 

In 1926, Agatha Christie wrote her famous work "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd" (also translated as "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd"). 

In 1952, her most famous play "The Mousetrap" was put on the stage and has been performed continuously since then for a long time, setting an unprecedented record in the history of world drama.

In 1971, Agatha Christie was knighted by the Queen of England. In 1975, Ingrid Bergman won her third Oscar for the film "Murder on the Orient Express" based on Agatha's novel of the same name. 

Agatha's hundreds of millions of admirers include prominent figures including Queen Elizabeth II and French President Charles de Gaulle.

In 1976, she bid farewell to the people who loved her at the age of 85.

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Book Summary

Among the detective novels I have read, my favorite is Agatha's. Among them, "Tragedy on the Nile" and "Murder on the Orient Express" are my favorites. The reason why I like Agatha's works is because it can bring me pleasure that I cannot get from reading other detective novels. 

Most other detective novels have a formula: a tragedy occurs, the detective goes to the scene to do some investigation that no one can understand, and then does some elusive investigation work, or even disappears for a few days to find clues, and then the truth is revealed. Uncover a shocking secret. 

In short, in order to make the ending surprising enough, both the case and the detective's investigation were made as unbelievable as possible. 

The ending was indeed "astonishing", but it made me feel that everything I had read before was useless. All I needed to do was see what happened and the "detective reveal" at the end. 

I felt that when I read the previous investigation part, I was a complete idiot and didn’t understand anything. I just often saw the detective’s “mysterious smile” and everything was clear to me. 

But when the detective finally solved the mystery, I finally understood the case. What was going on, and more importantly, what was going on with the puzzling investigative work done by the detectives, and I felt even more like an idiot. Of course, we must also admit that this may be related to IQ.

    But reading Agatha's works is completely different. You don't have to spend time guessing what kind of investigation the detective has done. 

The author will put every step of the detective's investigation and the evidence he obtained in front of the reader, allowing the reader to solve the case with the detective. I feel like every time I read Agatha’s work, I’m unconsciously involved. 

The author does not embarrass readers with professional knowledge, investigation situations, or evidence, but tries to make up for readers' disadvantages in reading and provides readers with a platform for thinking. 

It does not make a fuss about the investigation and other issues, but truly achieves the twists and turns of the plot while being reasonable. 

Let readers guess and think based on the development of the plot and the gradual increase of evidence, draw conclusions and then overturn their own conclusions, and then continue to guess and think... until the answer is finally given, the reader's thinking has been following the plot. development and the answers given are both reasonable and certainly unexpected. 

So I can't help but admire the author's thoughtful thinking and ingenious conception.

    I think those detective stories that dare not tell readers the investigation situation, techniques, and case evidence are simply afraid that readers will guess the result too early and lose interest in the story. 

However, this should be developed in terms of story structure and plot, rather than being clever and hiding it to deceive readers in disguise. 

I always like to deify detectives, but in fact, I don’t put readers on an equal footing with the characters in the story. In this way, readers not only lose fun but also lose respect.

Book Review

I must admit that I am a pseudo-mystery reader and never enjoy finding answers. Reading reasoning is like doing math problems, the only thing you look forward to is the final answer. 

However, reasoning is still in the form of a novel and not a puzzle, so after all I have one more thing to do: I want to see how the answer comes to light step by step. 

But after watching it, I realized that although I had been spoiled before, the details I had imagined were still misunderstandings. I originally thought the plot was "the murderer cleverly arranged for each of the twelve people to do a careless thing, and the mechanism just happened to kill the victim." (Maybe this is another story?) I was surprised when I saw the victim stabbed to death with random knives. 

I thought to myself: Could it be that the murderer took advantage of a certain passenger's sleepwalking... 

Unexpectedly, Poirot finally revealed that this was a well-planned murder in which twelve people (plus one person) killed one person. What a horror story. Think about twelve people lining up to enter the room one after another. 

Each person stabs the torso lying motionless in the dark room, thinking that this is what he deserves. This is a revenge jointly decided by the twelve people. …

It’s hard not to think of some kind of creepy ritual. In this ritual, there are no human lives, only sacrifices. 

Although the novel assumes that this person committed a heinous crime and escaped legal punishment through bribery, the feeling conveyed is really terrifying. Poirot said: "There are also twelve members of the jury." 

Even so, this cannot be denied: the deceased was killed unconsciously. No one looked at him, announced the crime to him word by word, and then executed him. 

It should be admitted that the emotional rendering of this book is not enough, so that I only saw the murder, but did not feel the revenge. If there is a clever pen that makes it not only a mystery story but also a revenge story, my feelings may be different. 

However, even in the revenge story I wrote myself, I could not allow an avenger who was cruel for cruelty to live his life calmly after his body was covered with the blood of his enemies. 

Perhaps for the same reason, these twelve people chose a revenge method that seemed to share the responsibility, but no one felt the responsibility. This method is so clever. 

If it weren't for Poirot, this matter would have become a headless case. The twelve people could be at peace, both in the world and in conscience. 

Justice was promoted, and I didn't pay the price. Who knows the fatal consequences? Who stabbed me with the knife? However, there is a strange sense of imbalance here. 

A human life disappears without a trace, but there is no corresponding thing - whether it is courage, cruelty, or anger - to fill this gap. 

Let me put it bluntly, behind this exquisite layout, there is a cowardly complacency: I participated in the killing, but I am not responsible! I read the ending again, and I believe that if this is a revenge story, among the twelve people, there will still be a few who dare to kill their enemies in front of them and take responsibility calmly - whether it is conscience or legal. 

In Mrs. Armstrong's last explanation, they had thought of drawing lots to decide who would do it. 

She said maybe they were all crazy at that time - it was possible that in the heat of the crowd, everyone was shouting: Kill him, kill him! But after calming down, how many people will be willing to become potential murderers? However, there are fewer dark speculations: maybe everyone really wants that bastard to die from the bottom of his heart, but not everyone has the courage to take the life of a living body. 

Indeed, some people are born with soft hands or soft hearts. Can't even kill a chicken. But in such a revenge ceremony, everyone gained the courage to step forward and hold the dagger. 

No matter how kind and fair people are, driven by the will generated by the collective (especially if the source of this will is one they identify with), they will calmly take up the knife and insert it into the people who have been planning for countless times. Become the enemy of the ghost under the sword. 

I remembered a story that had no beginning and no end: after killing the sinner, he cut him into pieces and threw him into a big pot to cook with pork and radishes. 

The whole village lined up to receive a few pieces of meat for each person. , eat it. I don’t remember the context of this incident or the causes and consequences. Maybe it was meant to illustrate another problem. 

But in my opinion, it is consistent to spread the name of the murderer evenly among everyone. 

The cowardly use this to escape responsibility, the weak use this to implement their will, and the truly courageous use this to gain greater glory - the ritual crowns murder with the light of holiness and justice, and the more people participate, the more The person who thinks that he is the initiator in his heart will feel that the will of God is running through him. 

Even if the final result is a failure and he will be responsible for it, he will have the self-confidence and glory of a martyr in his heart. 

As I read the last few pages, pride and death came face to face. The delicate decisions made in the shadows were executed with ease in the darkness. 

A dozen people were like a net laid by one person. The kidnappers who had no control over the laws of the world, This carriage of the Orient Express was his doom and hell. 

If they saw the doomsday and hell with their own eyes, how many people would be able to avoid being frightened? How many people would be able to say that this is not a horror story?

Book Analysis

To briefly summarize this incident: a wealthy American was mysteriously murdered in a car, and the great detective Poirot took over the case. 

As the investigation deepened, more details emerged: the rich man was a kidnapper who continued to get away with using bribes after brutally murdering a little girl. 

The little girl's mother was pregnant at the time and soon gave birth to a stillborn child and died of a serious illness. The little girl's father also died of depression. 

The nanny of the little girl's family committed suicide because she was suspected of being a serious suspect and could not bear to be questioned. 

However, the truth about the final murder is shocking: except for Poirot, the chairman of the train company and the autopsy doctor, everyone in the carriage, including the conductor, a total of twelve people were the murderers. 

They all knew the tragic family and decided to lynch the victim after seeing him escape the full force of the law. 

After learning the whole story of the incident, Detective Poirot decided to forge another reason to convince the police who came to investigate. The story ends here.

At first glance, nothing seems wrong. This victim was extremely vicious and deserved to die, so he did not deserve sympathy. After hearing about the old case he committed, many readers will feel happy: a good death. 

But if you think about it carefully, there seem to be two problems. These two questions are enough to shake the foundation of this "just murder".

First, does the victim have to die? The answer is probably yes. It is mentioned many times in the novel that he caused the family to be destroyed. 

Even at first, when Poirot saw the victim, he subjectively believed that he was a beast. The reader is bound to dislike the victim. 

However, the limited evidence cannot actually tell whether he is guilty or innocent. After all, that old case was not directly described in the novel. 

Therefore, the author seemed to intentionally bring these murderers to the moral high ground when writing.

Second, could this murder case have been solved in a better way? The answer is probably no. The victim used the power of money to excuse himself, and these murderers planned to use this desperate method to obtain justice. 

However, the novel does not actually mention how the victim escapes his own guilt. In other words, there may be other ways of bringing the victim to justice.

Of these two questions, one said that the victim's crime was so heinous that he had to die, and the other said that there was no other way but for the murderers to kill him. In this way, a high-sounding logical line seems to be formed:

  1. It is known that A must die, and the reason is just.
  2. It is known that A has no other possibility of being killed except by B.

It can be seen from 1 and 2: A must be killed by B, and the reason is just.

Among them, A is the victim and B is the twelve murderers.

Since it is a logical circuit, let's try to find the loopholes.

1. Does A have to die? Is the reason necessarily just?

Since the author gives very little information, it can be concluded from the limited information: Yes, the victim deserves to die. 

But let us carefully analyze whether there is such a possibility: the victim was wrongly accused. He may have really participated in the kidnapping case, but he was not the main culprit. To be more extreme, he is just a passerby. 

If this logic is followed, not only should the victim not be killed justly, but he will instead become an innocent scapegoat.

2. Can A be killed only by B?

Let’s think about it, assuming that the victim is really guilty and the crime must lead to death, then why didn’t these twelve murderers use a gentler way to bring them to justice? Since the victim had bribed the court, is it possible to treat this as a felony and comfort the tragic family in the kidnapping case in a more rational way?

These two issues mentioned above are not mentioned in detail in the novel. Therefore, there is a loophole in Shicai's logic, and as long as this loophole exists, the twelve criminals cannot be said to be doing justice for Heaven.

As I write this, the author vaguely feels that something is missing in this case, and this missing thing is the key to this case: the law. 

Therefore, this murder case is not so much the victory of justice over evil, but rather the result of the lack of law and the abuse of lynching.

A kidnapper, after receiving the ransom, killed the kidnapped little girl and was able to walk away and travel around the world with the money in his hand. 

Isn't this a legal failure? As for the two points of logic just mentioned, the former represents conviction and the latter represents sentencing. 

The contribution of the law that is supposed to be comprehensive and meticulous can be said to be almost zero. 

In this case, the only way is for the murderer to kill the victim himself. Doesn't this force the murderers to commit crimes?

On the one hand, can the actions of these twelve murderers really be said to be completely just? The novel describes that the victim was stabbed to death by twelve people each in his sleep. 

Therefore, the victim did not know why he was killed, let alone defend himself. Even if he is full of evil, shouldn't he be tried first and then executed? And the lynching of these twelve people cannot be regarded as a trampling on the legal system? What's more, since there were twelve people lynching this time, there was exactly one person on the jury. 

If there was only one person, wouldn't he be able to kill one person according to his own likes and dislikes?

This murder must not be regarded as a victory of lynching against the law. Even the concept of "doing justice for heaven" has been problematic from the beginning. 

What is "heaven"? Morality? conscience? But aren’t these two the most subjective things? It is impossible for a person to write down his morals line by line, like a law. 

If such a subjective way is used to judge a person's guilt or innocence, life or death, it is not a reverence for justice, but a disregard for life.

Using the law (of course, it must be a normal judicial procedure, not a black-box operation like in the article) may be less efficient and the results slower, but the process is clear and the results are well-founded. 

Most importantly, since the law is clearly stated, human emotions have little influence on it. As the saying goes, "The law is ruthless and the people are ruthless", perhaps we should replace it with "The law is ruthless, but the people are ruthless".

At the end of the novel, the main criminal asks Poirot what he plans to do with them. Poirot kicked the ball to the train chairman and the autopsy doctor. Both of them believe that the crime should be kept secret (or rather: covered up?). 

Poirot was "honored to withdraw from the case" after learning about it. Maybe, this is not the best solution, but it is indeed the most humane solution. 

However, even if justice prevails in the end, I still hope that there will be fewer such cases, whether they are murders or kidnappings.

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