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on 12 November 2006
After her marriage broke up, Agatha Christie made a trip to Iraq to see some archeologist friends, taking the Orient Express most of the way. For a single woman to make that trip on her own in the 1920s was adventurous and fairly unusual. At the end of her journey she met her second husband, Max Mallowan, an archeologist. Almost 80 years later, Eames retraces her journey from England through Western Europe, the Balkans, Turkey and the Middle East, staying--whenever he could--in the hotels she stayed in. When Christie travelled to Iraq, it was still a protectorate of the English. When Eames made his journey, the US was threatening to bomb Iraq and the Balkans had been through a vicious war. It's a fascinating travelogue, full of contrasts and links between the past and the present, which Eames weaves seamlessly together.
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on 5 July 2004
This book is really two stories; Agatha Christie's life-changing journery to Iraq, and a modern-day odyssey through some of the world's most talked-about troublespots. Andrew Eames writes with great style and compassion about the many characters that he meets en route, as he traces Agatha Christie's footsteps (or rather railway lines) across Europe to the Middle East. It certainly brings into perspective the news that we hear everyday about the Balkans or Iraq, and shows that people are just people, wherever they are. Every politician should be required to read this.
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on 13 March 2008
I came across this book by chance, browsing through the withdrawn books on sale in my local library. It turned out to be a very fortunate whim since this book is really very good. I was initially attracted to it because of it's Agatha Christie connection (being a fan of her). I already knew a fair amount about Agatha Christie's life (her divorce, her trip to the Middle East and subsequent encounter with Max Mallowan) when I started reading it but Andrew Eames' treatment of this period in the crime novelist's life is by far the best account of it I've read. He clearly reveals how significant the trip was as a turning point in her life. He also made it romantic and adventurous which other accounts have not tended to do.

But even if you aren't a fan of Agatha Christie there is much more to the book to make it thoroughly interesting. In the book Eames says a travel writer should bring to the reader an insight to countries that, apart from the terrible things reported in the news such as war and genocide, we would know and hear very little about. This he successfully does, whether it's Serbia after the NATO bombings or Iraq before the current conflict, providing another view of life there other than the one we see on the news.
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on 14 September 2012
This is a fascinating travel book, cleverly combining past and present as the author re-traces Agatha Christie's 1928 sojourn via Orient Express and Taurus Express to the great archaeological sites of the Middle East. Here, the Queen of Crime's big 'find' amongst the sun and sand was her second husband, Max Mallowan, allowing her to get her life back on track and to become the global best-seller she now is. Andrew Eames duly plots biographical details and references to her various famous books as they emerge from the route followed - Murder On The Orient Express is the obvious one, but lots of her books were inspired by places and people encountered en route to her ultimate destination at Ur. So the book's journey starts with an amiable-enough jaunt on the Venice Simplon Orient Express - a well-trodden experience, so not that illuminating. Things get more interesting as the author has to start fending for himself and tries to make sense of the Balkans. He works his way through Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Bulgaria before arriving in Turkey with lots of interesting historical discussion along the way. From here, he heads further east into Syria and finally Iraq - just as the 2nd Gulf War is about to be launched. If this was an Agatha Christie novel, then the pace of the book would be spinning inexorably towards the thrilling denouement on the final page - Eames doesn't have the benefit of that sort of conclusion. Instead, he sort of grinds to a halt in the desert sand, pretends he's being bombed by NATO, then flies home. A disappointing and sudden end to an otherwise compelling journey.
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on 8 December 2008
I was drawn to this book as I had just returned from Aleppo in Syria having travelled by train from Damascus. It begins with a description of the 'Barons Hotel' where Agatha Christie and TE Lawrence both stayed and where I too, had also spend a wild and rainy night in the faded 20s glamour of this old establishment. I found I couldn't put this book down. The writer's descriptions of the Arab world and its people including the descriptive visit to the Aleppo souk was exactly what I had just experienced in October 2008! I'm a great lover of train travel and recommend this book to anyone thinking of travelling overland across Europe and the Middle East. It puts your mind at rest knowing that it can really be done, and many adventures can be had on the way, from the mundanity of Trieste to the sensual exoticism of the old souk. The interesting references to Agatha Christie's life are a fascinating read as a supplement to a riveting armchair travel book.
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on 2 March 2009
While this is a serious book in that it's not meant to be funny funny, the author's great sense of humour does shine through. I laughed out loud at times but woven in are serious discussions on serious issues, and some very imaginative descriptions. But it's the journey itself, all the way to Iraq, which takes prime position and rightly so. During it I learned a lot about Agatha Christie (and now want to read her books) and I learned even more about some of the troubled but beautiful parts of the world and their people (and now want to go there more than ever). Part history book, part travelogue, both seamlessly linked, this book truly deserves its five star rating. It is a cracking read.
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on 2 December 2004
Someone gave me this book, and I didnt expect to like it because i'm not a fan of Agatha christie. But actually there's a lot of great stuff in here and all the Christie bits are a bit of an excuse, really. I now understand the whole Yugoslavia disintegration - well I think I do. And Iraq in the last months before war sounds so different to what we hear about at the moment.
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VINE VOICEon 1 July 2010
A chance encounter in an Aleppo hotel leads to a curious journey of investigation, a journey over several thousand miles by train and bus from Sunningdale in leafy Surrey to dusty Ur of the Chaldees close to the easternmost border of Iraq. Andrew Eames was prompted to make the trip in 2002 to retrace the journey that changed the life of Agatha Christie in the 1920's and after. It was in Mesopotamia (as Iraq then was) that the world-renowned writer of mystery stories met the archaeologist who became her second husband, opening a whole new vista to her way of life.

Eames takes longer getting from here to there than Christie did and so, in a sense, does his book. Essentially the author brings a travel-writers eye to every stop and every passing landscape on his way. Often the pursuit of Christie recedes into the background while, say, Trieste is explored or the history of the Balkans is analysed. Sometimes, the reader has to be given a slightly contrived reminder of where he is going and why. The end, in Iraq almost on the eve of the war, contrives to marry the two themes. Perhaps it is almost too contrived, more like a novelist's neatness than a journalistic coincidence of time and place.

Ultimately, the possibility that something mysterious may be revealed about the life of Agatha Christie is not fulfilled. But diversions and digressions can enliven any journey and, in that respect, Eames does not disappoint.
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on 1 November 2007
Andrew Eames a British journalist recounts his travels by train in 2002 from London to Baghdad. He replicates the journey that Agatha Christie took back in 1928. Eames interweaves the account of his own adventures in the tumultuous Middle East with Christie's life story, providing background on the culture and history of the places en route. This is an interesting travelogue that is informative and worth reading.
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on 2 March 2012
Travel writers these days often have a 'theme' to their journeys, such as following in the footsteps of a famous person. Eames has chosen Agatha Christie, and as a result his journey takes him from suburban London to the Middle East (where the Queen of Crime's second husband spent much of his career as a distinguished archaeologist) via the Balkans.

Taking in two of the most notorious war zones of the recent past - the former Yugoslavia and Iraq (the journey was made just before the 2003 war), Eames discovers far more than interesting aspects of Christie's life (although those are there too). This is a well-written travelogue full of interesting encounters and surprise discoveries.
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