Before Hercule Poirot took the Orient Express, he found himself on the Blue Train, sans Hastings, in a mystery that has a murder, missing jewels, stagecraft, thieves, divorces, a love story, rich Americans, and devious criminals.
While not quite the romp of Poirot’s previous tales, this story was fun, and while most of the clues are there to be seen and puzzled over, it feels like the reader isn’t given all the information that Poirot has to solve the crime, so instead of actively trying to sort and figure it out, we are simply along for the ride, making the reader more passive in the mystery than some of the other tales Christie has written.
A young woman, on the verge of a divorce is travelling with her recently acquired rubies (thank you daddy) to the Riviera for a get away, but she doesn’t survive the journey, and Poirot, who is also on the train, is hired by her rich American father to find the killer, whom he believes is the husband, who stands to benefit from her death.
But there are other threads woven into this story, a young woman, with newly acquired means who teams up with Poirot, a masterful jewel thief, a renowned French dancer, cigarette cases, jewel cases, and past jewellery.
There are some funny moments, Christie is very clever in her writing and her skewering of class structure, and the mystery, itself, is well constructed given a dose of extra flavour by having the characters travel across the Continent. We get glimpses of Calais and Monte Carlo before returning briefly to England.
The story has threads that go back to the Great War, and revelations that will affect new and blossoming relationships as well as those built on anger.
This one took a while for me to sink into but once I was about halfway through it, I was hooked on it and had to see how things played out for Poirot and the lovely Miss Grey who finds herself caught up in the mystery, and learns whether or not they are truly like the mystery novels she fancies.
Poirot continues to be a vastly entertaining character, so brilliant, self-assured, and occasionally a bit of an egotist, but, he’s always right, so I guess he has a right to be so confident in his abilities, though this one took him a little while to figure out completely. I like that it is with the aid of a couple of the supporting characters that he sees his way to the truth.
Next time out we join Superintendent Battle, who we last encountered in The Secret of Chimneys as he deals with The Seven Dials Mystery.