on 16 April 2014
The Queen of Crime is back with another classic tale of murder and intrigue, in which the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot investigates the murder of a millionaire’s daughter and the theft of her valuable diamonds. It’s a similar story-line to most of Christie’s other work, but there are a couple of things to make this particular novel stand out.
The characterisation, for example, is fantastic – each character is believable and easy to relate to, even eighty five years after its publication. Sure, there’s no real equivalent to the eponymous ‘blue train’ (unless you count the Eurostar), but it’s easy to picture the train as it chugs across Europe with a murderer on board.
It’s also easy to read – I powered through it with a constant headache, and though I didn’t see the ending coming, I had a good guess. That’s exactly what you want from a detective story – it keeps you on tenterhooks throughout, then delivers the coup de grace at just the right time to keep you interested and engaged throughout.
Miss Christie wrote over ninety novels (though some were under her pen name of Mary Westmacott) and you’re hardly spoiled for choice, so start elsewhere and move on to this when you’re ready.
on 21 October 2012
Oh this was so so good!! The Heart of Fire, a precious gem is at the centre of this puzzle and murder most foul takes us from London to Paris then on to the South of France for this story. We are treated to jewel thieves, murderers, the filthy rich and a bunch of innocent passengers who just happen to be aboard the Blue Train, Poirot included when the first murder occurs. Employing his ittle grey cells with gusto, Poirot investigates this confusing case with his usual fussiness and flair giving us a wonderful insight into the mind of a ruthless killer and eventually bringing them to justice. Fantastic!!
Luxury trains travelling to holiday resorts provided an irresistible setting for novelists and filmmakers in the decades between the two world wars. Agatha Christie's 1928 murder mystery features the Blue Train, travelling across France to the Riviera, and a cast of travellers that includes Hercule Poirot.
There has to be motivation for the murder that occurs, and so expect a lot of business concerning precious jewels, international intrigues and complicated human relationships. There is also a former lady's companion who has lived for several years at that famous Christie location, St Mary Mead. She is not Miss Marple.
Agatha Christie considered this her worst novel. Colouring her judgment were recollections of several unhappy events in her own life that occurred during the time she wrote it: the breakdown of her Christie marriage and the death of her mother. I think its best quality is the considerable exposure it gives to Hercule Poirot. Seldom is he seen in the pages of an Agatha Christie novel as much as in "The Mystery of the Blue Train".
It would be hard to create a concept more dramatic than this one -- illicit affairs, murder and a cursed ruby stolen from a dead millionaire's glamorous daughter.
And that almost soap-opera glamour permeates all of Agatha Christie's "The Mystery of the Blue Train," where Hercule Poirot finds himself (once again) on a train where a murder has been committed. As the little Belgian sleuth slowly unwinds the crime, Christie darts among the intertwining stories of the various suspects -- from a philandering playboy to a serene small-town girl -- although she sometimes stretches the logical deductive process a little thin and lingers too long on the superfluous layers of the story.
American millionaire Rufus van Aldin gives his daughter Ruth Kettering a necklace of supposedly-cursed rubies, including the legendary Heart of Fire... right before he discovers that Ruth is planning to divorce her unfaithful husband Derek, and is secretly having her own affair with her old lover, the Comte de la Roche. When detective Hercule Poirot stays aboard the Blue Train headed for the French Riviera, a murder inevitably follows -- Ruth is found strangled, with her famous ruby missing.
With a little nudging from van Aldin, Poirot begins investigating the case. And he has no shortage of suspects -- Derek, the Comte, Derek's lover Mirelle, and even the quiet and pleasant Katherine -- who might have killed Ruth for the stolen jewels, or for love, or both. And though the debt-ridden Derek seems like the obvious suspect, since he inherits all of his wife's wealth, Poirot soon comes to believe that a more complicated and sinister crime has taken place.
"The Mystery of the Blue Train" was written during a period when Christie was suffering from a plethora of personal problems, including her mother's death, psychological problems and her crumbling marriage. The book was effectively written for money rather than out of inspiration, and in some ways it shows -- the glitzy, melodramatic focus of the story (cursed gems, an ostentatious jewel thief, a sultry dancer, gender-bending disguises, lots of infidelity) feels like a different person plotted it out. Perhaps she was trying something flashier to appeal to the masses.
Under the gloss and glitz, Christie's plot is a pretty decent mystery, with some unexpected twists and inverted tropes, and some quirky characters to leaven the murder story (the much-widowed Lady Tamplin and her bimbo husband). Her dialogue tends to be a little awkward at times ("Katherine's got all the makings of a beauty in her. All she wants is clothes!"), with some sharp-edged descriptions filled with nuance and little details that explain more than obvious descriptions of feelings or thoughts possibly could. A gesture of the hand, a trailed-off sentence, or a sudden laugh.
Furthermore, she balances out the mystery with the personal stories, mostly the rapidly intertwining stories of Katherine and Derek; her pleasant, unjudgemental nature seems to inspire him to leave his old ways behind, but without the disillusions of his first marriage. The only problem is perhaps that Poirot seems to generate the correct theories with too little basis, conveying some of the strain that the usually-airtight Christie was probably under at the time.
The most comfortable aspect of the story is perhaps the subplot about Katherine, a kind, simple girl from Miss Marple's town of St. Mary Mead who suddenly finds herself in a more moneyed, glamorous lifestyle. In a way she feels like an anchor to the more romantic, soap-operaish parts of the story, as she is for the flighty playboy Derek Kettering and even at times for Poirot himself. Poirot navigates the complicated waters of the mystery with his usual deftness, occasionally with the help of a young lady or even a clever, awkward teenager.
Despite the odd sensation of being generated by someone other than Christie, "The Mystery of the Blue Train" has her deft writing and intricate knowledge of human nature. If nothing else, enjoy it for the jewels, drama and infidelity.
Ruth Kettering is an American heiress who receives a set of valuable rubies as a gift from her father. Despite his warnings to keep them somewhere safe, Ruth takes the jewels with her on a trip to Nice. During her journey through France on the famous Blue Train, Ruth is found strangled to death in her compartment - and the case containing the rubies has disappeared. Hercule Poirot, who also happens to be travelling on the same train, promises to help Ruth's father solve the crime and identify the killer. Suspicion falls first on Ruth's husband, Derek Kettering, whom she had been about to divorce, and then on the mysterious Comte de la Roche. Is one of them the murderer?
I chose The Mystery of the Blue Train without really knowing anything about it. A bit of research now tells me it's one of Agatha Christie's less popular Poirot novels and now that I've read it I think I can see why. It was written quite early in her career and at a troubled time in her personal life, and apparently the author herself was unhappy with it. The book does have all the elements that should have added up to a classic Christie novel (a rich heiress, a journey on a luxury train, jewel thieves, the South of France - and Hercule Poirot himself, of course) but while I did enjoy it, I still felt there was something missing.
Compared to the other Agatha Christie books I've read, which admittedly isn't all that many, this one was much longer and seemed to take a while to really get started (the actual crime doesn't take place until about 100 pages into the book). There was a very long wait before Poirot made his first appearance and instead we spend a lot of time being introduced to other characters, which would have been okay had I liked these characters, but I found them a bit stereotypical, from the American millionaire to the French count to the old antiques dealer.
There were also a few sub-plots that I felt didn't really add much to the story, although I did enjoy the dialogue between Poirot and Katherine Grey, a young woman he meets on the train who becomes involved in the murder investigation. The mystery itself kept me guessing, though I think there were probably enough clues to be able to work out at least part of the solution, if you were paying more attention than I was! The Mystery of the Blue Train was entertaining in places but is probably my least favourite Christie novel so far.
on 6 June 2010
In this adventure, Poirot investigates a murder that takes place on the 'Blue Train' - en route to the south of France. A surprising number of people who knew the victim are also aboard, and it's down to Poirot to work out who dunit.
This novel starts off a little differently to a lot of Poirot stories, with the focus on a diverse group of other characters and the great detective himself not putting in an appearance until fairly late. Almost the entire story is told from the points of view of the guest characters, with Poirot flitting in and out of their daily lives throughout. I thought it became obvious quite early in the story who the murderer was, but maybe that's just me getting better at this sort of thing.
The mystery was fairly standard fare. Poirot didn't seem to be particularly bothered about solving it, which was awkward. There was an interesting tie-in with the world of Miss Marple, and quite a collection of comic moments, particularly with a young female laughing at the outdated ideas of the elderly. Really it's a bit frustrating though as there is not a lot of action and the events don't really seem to advance the plot.
Most irritating of all is the blurb on the back of my copy, which as good as gives away the ending, and refers to a rather minor event as if it's the entire plot. Overall, it was an okay read, but nothing special, and still not nearing the best of Christie's work that I've read.