Murder on the Orient Express

Get your book club together to read a classic Agatha Christie book ahead of the new star-studded movie.

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'Murder on the Orient Express' movie poster

For some books, the sure-fire way to jumpstart or re-ignite sales is with a movie tie-in. But with Agatha Christie’s classic whodunnit “Murder on the Orient Express,” no help is necessarily needed. According to its paperback publisher, William Morrow, “it’s the most widely read detective novel of all time.”  In fact, Christie has sold more than two billion total books—only surpassed by the Bible and Shakespeare.

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Still, the star-studded movie—starring Kenneth Branagh! Johnny Depp! Judi Dench! Leslie Odom Jr.! (I guess all us “Hamilton” fans would say he’s on the train where it happens)—is likely to create a new generation of fans. Even knowing how the crime is committed does not take away from the pleasure of reading her crisp little tale.  

“Murder on the Orient Express” captures a bygone era and the romance of train travel, even with the introduction of a dead body. And though (obviously) there was nothing near to our modern technology—no Snapchatting, selfies or internet sleuthing, just Hercule Poirot’s “little grey cells” working overtime—Christie made sure her plotline left her travelers isolated and cut off from communication. Otherwise moustache-twisting Poirot (played by Branagh) could not keep gathering his suspects and employing his magnificent deductive reasoning. Listen to an audio clip of the book below.

While I have not yet seen the movie, I am interested to know whether the book’s ending remains intact. (No spoiler alert needed.) Having solved the case, Poirot leaves the next step in the hands of others. He is only interested in the crime, not the punishment. This support of what could be construed as vigilante justice seemed shocking and out of step with the upright, proper world Christie had created. Then again, perhaps not, as that part is not as tidy.  Regardless, it is a world worth escaping to. All that’s required is a few hours and a steaming cup of Earl Grey or a Hot Toddy to be transported. Watch the trailer below and then get your friends together soon to read the book before you check out the movie. It opens November 10.

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Another Christie Fun Fact
A collection of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple series is supposedly the thickest book ever published. A highlight reel of what it contains, according to The Guinness World Records: “68 crimes; 11 philandering lovers; 22 false accusations; 59 red-herrings and 21 romances. 43 murders are solved: 12 poisonings; 6 strangulations; 2 drownings; 2 stabbings; a burning; one blow to the head; one death by an arrow and 2 people pushed.” For the complete list check out the Guinness site.

Murder by the Numbers

  • Early 1930s: Christie travels on the Orient Express to Iraq by herself. The train was delayed due to rain, which she learned was not uncommon, especially during snowstorms.
  • 1934: Published as “Murder on the Orient Express” in the UK and “Murder in the Calais Coach” in America (to avoid confusion with another novel that had a similar name).
  • 1974: An earlier star-studded affair—Albert Finney! Ingrid Bergam! Sean Connery! Lauren Becall! The movie received 6 Oscar nominations. Its Royal Premiers was also Christie’s last public appearance.
  • 1992-’93: Five-part radio adaptation on the BBC.
  • 2006: Released as a video game.

Christie's Best Sellers

  • Murder on the Orient Express
  • And Then There Were None
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
  • Hercule Poirot the Complete Short Stories
  • Death on the Nile
  • The ABC Murders
  • Hallowe’en Party
  • Crooked House
  • Five Little Pigs
  • Miss Marple The Complete Short Stories

With additional reporting by Hattie Hayes