This Hercule Poirot mystery from the 1930’s is one of Agatha Christie’s most famous mysteries.
It begins with Poirot having just solved a very difficult case for the French Army in Syria. From there he travels to Istanbul (Stamboul) on the Taurus Express. On that train he encounters Mary Debenham and Colonel Arbuthnot.
He arrives in Istanbul and discovers that he must change his plans. He intended to stay some days in Istanbul, but now he must get on the very next train to Calais, the Istanbul-Calais coach, part of the Simplon Orient Express.
Unfortunately there are no sleeping rooms available on the train. Fortunately his friend, M. Bouc, forces the conductor to give Poirot the only berth where the passenger has not yet arrived.
The full train sets off for Calais. On the second day out Mr. Ratchett approaches Poirot and asks for his protection. Poirot refuses on the grounds that he does not like Ratchett’s face. The next day Poirot awakes to discover that the train has been stopped by a snowdrift. Shortly thereafter he learns from M. Bouc that Ratchett is dead, stabbed in his berth, and it is worse. The murderer is still on the train.
The story is told wonderfully and the solution is a classic. The entire story is impossible, as both M. Bouc and the Greek doctor declare several times. Despite that while reading the story it is easy to forget just how absurd it is. The interactions, the series of clues, the way each clue comes in without being forced in all combine to give the mystery a magnificent force.
Well worth reading for anyone that enjoys mysteries or interesting characters. Not for those that can’t abide stereotypes. Also not for those that want something more active than talk, which is just about all folks can do without getting off the train when it is stuck in a snowdrift.