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The Mystery of the Blue Train (1928)

by Agatha Christie

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Hercule Poirot (6)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,532622,757 (3.56)162
The daughter of an American millionaire dies on a train en route for Nice... When the luxurious Blue Train arrives at Nice, a guard attempts to wake serene Ruth Kettering from her slumbers. But she will never wake again - for a heavy blow has killed her, disfiguring her features almost beyond recognition. What is more, her precious rubies are missing. The prime suspect is Ruth's estranged husband, Derek. Yet Poirot is not convinced, so he stages an eerie re-enactment of the journey, complete with the murderer on board...… (more)
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» See also 162 mentions

English (53)  Spanish (3)  Danish (2)  Indonesian (1)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (62)
Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
Not one of Christie's standouts, but quite enjoyable, and the mystery had a nice interesting solution though it was without much emotional motivation. I also liked Katherine and Lenox as characters, and Poirot is amusing as always. Hugh Fraser did his job as narrator in his usual capable way. ( )
  misslevel | Oct 1, 2021 |
I was right! For once in my life I caught on to Agatha Christie. Almost. I'll admit I only had 1/2 of the picture. And I was slightly disappointed in myself. I much prefer the dawning realization of my idiocy as Poirot begins to elucidate. But it was still a marvelous journey into motives. And it was nice to have someone genuine like Katherine to share it with. ( )
  OutOfTheBestBooks | Sep 24, 2021 |
Another novel that I have read many times, as well as seen numerous tv versions of. However it is one of those novels where the precise details become a bit blurred.

The novel has two major events: the theft of a ruby and the death of its owner while they are on The Blue Train which is taking holiday makers to the French Riviera. It reveals glimpses of the French underworld, a description of the lifestyle of the well to do in post-war Europe, and the plot is characterised by a lot of misdirection and red herrings. Poirot has some doubt that theft and the murder are done by the same person.

Poirot goes into "partnership" with Katherine Grey, who recently has acquired wealth after a decade as a companion. She meets Ruth Kettering on the Blue Train. This "partnership" foreshadows a method Poirot will often use in the future.

There does not appear to be a narrator in this novel (i.e. no Hastings who is not even mentioned). Poirot is described as a famous detective of bygone years who is now retired. Ruth Kettering's father offers him a huge sum to take on the case, but then becomes frustrated with what he thinks is inaction on Poirot's part.

As with many other of Agatha Christie's full length novels, THE MYSTERY OF THE BLUE TRAIN was based on an idea originally used in an earlier short story: The Plymouth Express.

It was also serialised over a 6 week period in 1928 in a slightly shorter version with 34 daily instalments. This may explain the relative shortness of each chapter.

This novel features the first mention, in a novel, of the fictional village of St. Mary Mead, which had originally appeared in "The Tuesday Night Club" published in December 1927, which was the first short story of Christie's detective Miss Marple. It also features the first appearance of the minor recurring character, Mr Goby, who would later appear in After the Funeral and Third Girl. The book also features the first appearance of Poirot's valet, George ( )
  smik | May 12, 2021 |

Had I not been reading 'The Mystery Of The Blue Train' as part of a monthly group read with the Appointment With Agatha community on GoodReads, I'd probably have abandoned it before I was halfway through. I'm glad I didn't because the second half of the book was entertaining but getting there was a slog.

I'm told that Christie didn't like this book and that she wrote it while going through a divorce and while she was distracted by caring for her young daughter. Perhaps that goes some way towards explaining why parts of the book felt so thinly written and why the narrative was so unfocused.

For the first third of the book, the writing had patches where it was quite threadbare. The dialogue was OK but the text is very lacklustre. It felt like a boilerplate text the was put in for a first draft to move the story along and was then never revisited.

The thin writing made me more irritated than usual by the way foreigners were depicted. The text has English exceptionalism bred in the bone. The foreigners in 'The Mystery of the Blue Train' were so cartoonish that they seemed straight off the pages of a Tin Tin comic strip. At least Hergé was trying to be funny.

To be fair, Derek Kettering, the only English nobleman in the book, was an absolute horror. He was also quite believable. Under the present government, a philandering, financially reckless, misogynist like Kettering, prone to lying and betrayal, would probably be made a Cabinet Minister. This perhaps shows that I only dislike Christie's prejudices when they differ from my own.

Where I parted company with Christie was when she presented Kettering as a man ready to be redeemed by the love of a good woman and suggested that such a woman would easily fall in love with him. Bullying narcissist as romantic lead? Not a great choice.

I think Christie gave herself a problem with the 'The Mystery Of The Blue Train' that she wasn't able to solve. She had a big cast, multiple locations, a complex plot and no narrator to pull them all together. This made it hard for me as the reader to know what to focus on. We followed different actors in multiple locations as they crossed each other's paths and affected each other's stories but there was no intensity, no sense of things coming together in an inevitable but as yet unknown pattern. Poirot appeared and then disappeared. All the characters popped in and out of the plot like actors in a French farce. Normally, in Poirot books, Christie uses a central narrator, typically Hastings, to give a cohesive view. Even when Hasting's has fundamentally misunderstood what is going on, the story remains focused.

An unexpected side-effect of not having Hastings as the teller of the tale was how Poirot was presented. It turns out that Poirot, without the soft-focus filter of Hasting's admiration, comes across as insufferably arrogant.

The second half of the book, where we finally got down to the business of solving the mystery, worked reasonably well, although the very elaborate plot was rather clumsily revealed.

There were some very good scenes in the book. Whenever the action moved to St. Mary Meads, everything was suddenly in focus. The dialogue improves and the characters felt real. I also liked watching Poirot extracting information through a mixture of bullying, blackmail and trading favours.

The ending of the book made me roll my eyes. It has Poirot advising a woman who has proven to be intelligent and insightful and who has, in her thirties, become wealthy for the first time, to find a good husband - what superb advice for a life-long bachelor to give. He uses a train metaphor to describe life and falling in love. The basic message was 'something will turn up.' He ends with:

'Trust the train mademoiselle for it is le bon Dieu who drives it'

That may be the stupidest thing I've ever heard Poirot say.

Oh well, next month's Christie book is 'The Seven Dials' which has the grimly determined Inspector Battle rather than Poirot, a murder in a manor house and a plucky heroine, so it's almost bound to be better.


( )
  MikeFinnFiction | May 8, 2021 |
I'm starting to feel hopeful that reading Christie in publication order will give me one of my favorite reading experiences: watching an author hone her craft. Christie's skill is noticeably improved in this novel. Her characters are more distinct, she writes Poirot's idiosyncrasies with a lighter touch, and her "lady detective" is genuinely likeable (and her main goal is not marriage, a refreshing change). ( )
  ImperfectCJ | May 4, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
Cuando el lujoso Tren Azul llega a Niza, un guardia intenta despertar a Ruth Kettering para anunciarle su parada. Pero ella no despertará nunca más, ya que un disparo de gran calibre la ha matado, desfigurando sus rasgos hasta volverla casi irreconocible. Además, sus valiosísimos rubíes han desaparecido. El principal sospechoso del crimen es el arruinado marido de la dama, Derek. Pero Poirot no está convencido, y decide hacer una reconstrucción de ese día hasta llegar a la clave del asesinato...
added by Pakoniet | editLecturalia
 

» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Christie, Agathaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fraser, HughNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mallorquí Figuerola, JoséTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moffatt, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pipinen, AarreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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It was close on midnight when a man crossed the Place de la Concorde.
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This is a reworking of the plot of the short story "The Plymouth Express."
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The daughter of an American millionaire dies on a train en route for Nice... When the luxurious Blue Train arrives at Nice, a guard attempts to wake serene Ruth Kettering from her slumbers. But she will never wake again - for a heavy blow has killed her, disfiguring her features almost beyond recognition. What is more, her precious rubies are missing. The prime suspect is Ruth's estranged husband, Derek. Yet Poirot is not convinced, so he stages an eerie re-enactment of the journey, complete with the murderer on board...

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