Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express Study Guide

Of her over 70 novels, Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express is her most famous, and possibly the most widely read mystery novel ever published. Published in novel form in 1934, it was first released as a serialized story in the Saturday Evening Post in 1933, under the name Murder in the Calais Coach. The book's central character is the detective Hercule Poirot, who makes an appearance in 25 of Christie's novels, as well as a good many short stories. Murder on the Orient Express takes place almost entirely within the space of a train moving between Istanbul and Calais. Its plot concerns the murder of a wealthy passenger, who turns out to be an infamous American gangster. Poirot, a passenger on the train, is asked to solve the case. The bulk of the novel consists of his interrogation of a diverse group of passengers, and his examination of evidence on the train car.

The book has been beloved by mystery devotees since its release. Isaac Anderson wrote in The New York Times Book Review that "although both the murder plot and the solution verge upon the impossible, Agatha Christie has contrived to make them appear quite convincing for the time being, and what more than that can a mystery addict desire?" Times Literary Supplement also praised the book, saying "Need it be said—the little grey cells solve once more the seemingly insoluble. Mrs. Christie makes an improbable tale very real, and keeps her readers enthralled and guessing to the end."

The book's enduring popularity is reflected in the number of adaptations it has inspired for the stage, the big and small screen, and the radio. These include the 1974 film version directed by Sidney Lumet, which critic Roger Ebert called "splendidly entertaining," and a 2017 film version directed by Kenneth Branagh. Ken Ludwig directed a stage adaptation of the book in 2017, and foreign-language versions have included a 1966 Soviet radio play and a 2015 Japanese television version. The novel has also been reprinted numerous times, including in a recent "facsimile edition" reproducing its original cover.