The Mystery of the Blue Train (Hercule Poirot #6) by Agatha Christie

“Everyone looked respectfully at Poirot. Undoubtedly the little man had scored heavily. The Commissary laughed – on a rather hollow note.
‘You teach us all our business,’ he cried. ‘M. Poirot knows more than the police.’
Poirot gazed complacently at the ceiling, adopting a mock-modest air.
‘What will you; it is my little hobby,’ he murmured, ‘to know things. Naturally I have time to indulge it. I am not overburdened with affairs.'”

My college senior seminar project dealt with detective fiction, and when I was preparing for the project I read a lot of mystery novels (so the next ten reviews I post may be all mystery novels, unless I decide to mix it up a bit). When I started the project, it had been almost ten years since I last read an Agatha Christie, and I must admit I’m tempted to give this book a higher rating than it deserves just because of how much nostalgia I got from reading it. When I read Murder on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express in 7th grade, I missed a lot of the subtleties of Christie’s writing. Specifically, the characterization of Hercule Poirot, who has to be the most ridiculous person ever to be taken seriously by every single character in a novel. I had completely forgotten about his broken English and silly phrases, or the fact that nothing on this earth could impress him as much as he does. He is a silly man, and I adore him.

The plot of The Mystery of the Blue Train combines all the elements of a great Agatha Christie mystery: a rich heiress is found murdered on a train, and the three priceless rubies she had in her possession are missing. The rubies themselves were acquired not-so-legally by her rich father, who wants her to divorce her husband (who only married her for her money), and the husband is cheating on her with an exotic dancer (“exotic” here means “Asian” rather than “stripper”) who also loves expensive jewels. In play as well are an old lady’s companion who’s recently inherited a lot of money, a scheming antiques dealer, and lots and lots of secret identities. It all makes for a fun read, but it’s not one of Christie’s best. My favorite mysteries are the ones where the reader knows everything the detective does, and still can’t figure out the solution. In The Mystery of the Blue Train Poirot actually withholds information from everyone, including the reader, until the very end where he can reveal it in a more dramatic fashion. It felt sort of like a cheap trick, and left me thinking, well, if I’d known that I could have figured this out myself!

Verdict: three out of five stars

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