I have got off to a flying start with my Agatha Christie re-read and the danger is that I will blitz the lot so I am trying, not totally successfully, to limit them.
This week I have read three but first up is Murder on the Orient Express. Mention this and most people I know have responded 'oh yes I saw the film'. Well that is fine but the book is one of Dame Agatha's best and if you have not read it yet, then please do. I quite enjoyed the film but it was hugely glamorous, packed full of movie stars and was flogged as a star vehicle all super costumes and wonderful luxurious carriages and, of course, Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot. Now I say here and now, I found his portrayal of Hercule not to my taste though I was very much in the minority at the time. I have not watched this movie for years so now I have re-read the book I shall have to see if I can get hold of it.
Then we had the TV version with the sublime David Suchet who I think is THE Poirot just as I think Joan Hickson is THE Miss Marple. Again, others may differ. When the TV series first started the scripts and storyline stuck religiously to those of Dame Agatha but as the years went by they began to deviate somewhat. Now I can understand that for sake of drama some leeway should be allowed, but it began to get rather silly at one point. One of my favourite titles Appointment with Death changed the method of the murder, the victim who was a vile evil woman was portrayed by Cheryl Campbell as a fussy neurotic female and, somewhere along the line, a nun with visions was introduced, who certainly was not in the original story. There was even one episode when the identity of the murderer was changed and for no good reason.
OK I am rambling but the reason for my ramble is that, once again, the producers of the TV version could not resist introducing a little extra. We had Poirot boarding the train after a distressing case in which he had to balance out justice with his strong held convictions that murder was wrong no matter the circumstances. At the end of the two hour screening we had Poirot again agonising over his solution to the crime. David Suchet felt that this was in keeping with the book and Hercule's character but I felt it was totally unnecessary.
Now to the book. Difficult to review a Christie as I have to remember that though her books sell in millions there are plenty of people discovering her or who have never read her and I must not give away the ending.
The story is this: Hercule Poirot boards the Orient Express. He has difficulty in obtaining an apartment as for some reason the train, usually half empty at this time of year, is packed and with a curious mixture of nationalities and types who would never come together in a normal situation. Clue. This is a clue, please note. Why are they all together?
On board is a rather unpleasant American Mafioso type, Ratchett, and it is he who is found dead in his compartment one morning. He has been stabbed many times and in many different places and the doctor on examining his body is puzzled at some of the cuts, some deep, some superficial. There is deep snow and the train is stranded and it is clear that the murderer is still on the train as there are no footprints in the snow.
The scene is set for a classic crime that is one of Christie's best. Poirot is left puzzling the motive and the identity of the murderer as each person on the train has an alibi given by another passenger.
Of course, he solves the mystery and I am not going to tell you who, how or why. Just remember to note there is a grease spot on a passport, there is a handkerchief with the initial H on it discovered in the dead man's apartment and who owns the scarlet dressing gown?
Quite quite brilliant and I well remember the first time I read it and how the ending took my breath away. if you have not read it, you are in for a treat.