Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Mystery of the Blue Train: Agatha Christie


The daughter of an American millionaire is unhappy in her marriage. She wants a divorce and embarks on a trip to the south of France. Traveling on the same train are her estranged husband, his former mistress, and a young woman who has recently inherited a large amount of money. Someone will die before the journey's end. And Hercule Poirot will be engaged to solve the murder.

I have read that this was not one of Christie's favorites of her novels. Robert Barnard, in A Talent to Deceive, thinks it is not so bad, but cites "some deleterious influences from the thrillers." He does not care for her thrillers, which are mostly among her early novels. I have liked all the thrillers by Christie that I have read so far, and I like this novel quite a bit.

First of all, it features a train and many scenes on a train. That right there would push it to the top for me. I also like the variety of characters; the rich, the not so rich. Thieves and those who prey on the wealth of others. I will admit many of them are stereotypes, but I still enjoyed them.

I especially liked Katherine Grey, a woman in her thirties who has the opportunity to see more of the world after inheriting a substantial sum of money. She is traveling to visit distant relatives who live on the Riviera. They hope to share in some of her wealth, and she is willing to take them up on their offer to launch her into society.

Poirot and Katherine meet on the train and have a conversation about the mystery novel she is reading, or as he calls it, a "Roman Policier."
    "Some day, who knows, you might be in the thick of things," he went on. "It is all chance."
    "I don't think it is likely," said Katherine, "Nothing of that kind ever happens to me."
    He leaned forward.
    "Would you like it to?"
    The question startled her, and she drew in her breath sharply.
    "It is my fancy, perhaps," said the little man, as he dexterously polished one of the forks, "but I think that you have a yearning in you for interesting happenings. Eh bien, Mademoiselle, all through my life I have observed one thing - 'All one wants one gets!' Who knows?" His face screwed itself up comically. "You may get more than you bargain for."
    "Is that a prophecy?" asked Katherine, smiling as she rose from the table.
    The little man shook his head.
    "I never prophesy," he declared pompously. "It is true that I have the habit of being always right - but I do not boast of it. Good-night, Mademoiselle, and may you sleep well."
    Katherine went back along the train amused and entertained by her little neighbour.
And, of course, there is some romance, without being too intrusive. One element of Christie's books that I had forgotten was the romance. And I have been surprised to enjoy it so much.

Poirot is much less annoying in this book than I found him to be in the last Poirot novel I read (Murder on the Links). Egotistical as always, but much more likeable.

So, all in all, a very enjoyable read for me.

I  read this book for the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge, hosted by  Mysteries In Paradise. If you are interested in joining in, here are instructions on how to do that. Links to other reviews for this month will be found here.

Also submitted for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VIII event, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. That event celebrates reading of books of mystery, suspense, and horror. The event continues through October 31, 2013. Reviews for that event are here.


26 comments:

  1. Tracy, I don't know why but I tend to confuse this book, which I haven't read yet, with ORIENT EXPRESS, which I have, perhaps because both have to do with trains. I think Christie liked trains for there's "4.50 From Paddington" too. Poirot's charm lies in his self-importance, his civility, and his manners and etiquette, all very prim and proper. He'd have been a nice man to know.

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    1. Prashant, you are right, Poirot would be a nice person to get to know. But I would hope it would not be because he was investigating a crime. I am looking forward to reading 4.50 From Paddington but I have 4 more Miss Marple books to read before that one, since I am reading those in order.

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  2. A very fair point you make about Poirot being more likeable though it's a shame that the plot is really rather thin - great review TracyK as it's been ages since I read this one - ta!

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    1. Sergion, the only complaint I had plot-wise was that it was too drawn out. It seemed like they should have resolved it earlier. But since I enjoyed the story overall, I just ignored that.

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  3. I have not read this Christie yet, I will be on the look out for it.

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    1. Peggy, I have yet to run into a Christie I haven't enjoyed, so I think you would like it.

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  4. Tracy, glad you enjoyed it. I have my quote of Christie's on the TBR pile - 2 in fact, that I will get to sometime in the next few years - Pigs and Roger Ackroyd.

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    1. Col, Five Little Pigs is way down my list because I am reading in order and there were a lot of Poirot books. Roger Ackroyd I skipped because I have read it long ago, but may come back to. Hope you like them.

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  5. I love the cover image you used! I read this one recently as well, and I agree with you about it being a good one. I love Poirot, I find his ridiculousness very funny. I haven't read Murder on the Links and am curious to see how Poirot appears in that. My Blue Train review is at http://bibliographicmanifestations.blogspot.com/2013/08/review-mystery-of-blue-train.html

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    1. Mary, I love that cover too. I collect book covers with skulls or skeletons, but I am sure I just lucked into that one at a book sale. I checked out your review... I don't know how I missed it earlier. (Although work has been hectic for months.) I agree with you about missing Hastings in this book and I liked your quote.

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  6. I completely agree with you about trains, they seem to be the best way to get a 1930s - 40s - 50s atmosphere. Mind you those exact carriages were still being used when I used trains in England in the 1970s. I'm looking forward to reading this one.

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    1. Katrina, I love movies about trains too, and we are watching Night Train to Munich tonight, released in 1940, I think. I would have loved to travel on those trains in the 70s, you must have been young then. I hope you like this book.

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  7. Tracy - What a great review - thanks! I'm so glad that you enjoyed this novel. One of my favourite characters in it is Lennox Tamplin. So delightfully outspoken, and such a terrific, fun person. And she adds that wry note of humour to the novel that I think works quite well.

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    1. Thanks, Margot. I like Lennox Tamplin and her mother is entertaining also. A great set of characters in this book.

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  8. Tracy, I read this many years ago and have completely forgotten about it. And yes, I too love novels (esp mysteries) set in trains.

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    1. Neer, reading this book motivated me to look for more mysteries set on trains. I found that I have a couple of books in one series by Andrew Martin and my husband has the start of a series by Edward Marston. There are lots more for me to look for.

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  9. Just now catching up and what do I see? you've read Agatha Christie just when I have finished reading her myself. I just finished reading 4:50 to Paddington and enjoyed it. My first time reading her. I was told to stick to Miss Marple by another Agatha Christie fan but I am so looking forward to exploring more of her backlist. Thanks for this review.

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    1. Keishon, in the small sample of Christie books I have read recently, I have found the Miss Marple books more "realistic" than the Poirot books, but they both have their pluses. And the fact that the books are often around 200 pages (although often tightly packed, small print in the versions I am reading) make them quick, easy reads.

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  10. I don't think I've read any of Christie's thrillers, but I love all of her Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries :) I don't especially remember the romance in them either, so perhaps it's time for some re-reads!

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    1. Katie, among Christie's thrillers are the Tommy and Tuppence books, which are favorites of mine, but many readers don't care for them. I am still trying to warm up to Poirot, but Christie's genius with plot and hiding the clues keeps me interested no matter who the protagonist is.

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  11. I'm with you on this one Tracy - Christie may not have liked it, but I very much do. Anything on trains is good, and I like the sense of movement as we go from London to Paris to the south of France. And, exactly as you say, Poirot is slightly more rounded and real than normal.

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    1. Moira, I keep forgetting to put publication date on the books I review and this one was 1928. Which was a point in her life where she was unhappy after separating from her husband? Which may have affected her attitude about the book. Anyway I am glad she wrote it.

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  12. One of my favorite Poirot books, and mainly because he's not on every page. Which makes him more likable.

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    1. Ryan, I agree. The last Poirot I read, he was front and center all the time, and it did not work as well for me.

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  13. big collection here:http://classicalnovels.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html

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    1. Thanks, I liked the Suggested Reading order list on that page.

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