The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie

The Mystery of the Blue Train: “It was close on midnight when a man crossed the Place de la Concorde.”

 

Detective: Hercule Poirot

Published: March 1928 (9th published book)

Length: 317 pages

Setting: St. Mary Mead, England; Nice, France

 

 

Coming off the terribly constructed, overdramatized plot of The Big Four, I was very hesitant to continue my chronological Christie reads, but continue I have with The Mystery of The Blue Train.  Fortunately, Christie redeemed herself somewhat in my eyes and I did quite enjoy this mystery.

The Blue Train

Aboard the Blue Train bound for Nice on the French Riviera, detective Hercule Poirot meets Katherine Gray, a companion who has come into money and is now curious about discovering a life she had only ever imagined.  Also aboard is a daughter of an American billionaire, Ruth Kettering, carrying a precious jewel on the way to meet her lover.  Yet unbeknownst to her, her husband is also on board and, unbeknownst to him, his paramour, a dancer, rides the rails too.  Such a cast is certain to become part of a murder and a robbery and it is up to Poirot, who enlists Katherine’s help to attempt to discover the motive that will lead him to a cold-blooded killer and consummate thief.  From London to Calais to Paris to Lyon to Nice, has the real killer been found, or will an innocent man hang for a crime he did not commit?  Poirot and Katherine use both brains and instinct to discover the ultimate truth.

French Riviera

Interestingly, this novel features the first mention of St. Mary’s Mead, the fictional village of Christie’s later sleuth, Miss Marple.  It also contains Mr. Goby, who is Ruth’s father’s detective or informant; Mr. Goby will later appear in After the Funeral and Third Girl, so I’ll have to keep a look out for him!

Village Hall East Ayrshire

Village Hall East Ayrshire ~ source Wikimedia Commons

Christie did not enjoy creating this mystery, later stating that she had always hated this novel.  Perhaps her dislike of it was rooted in the fact that she was writing it before and after her ten-day disappearance which appears to be occasioned by the breakdown of her marriage and other struggles that Christie was having at that time.  In fact, in the dedication at the beginning of the book, Christie wrote: “To the two distinguished members of the O.F.D. – Carlotta and Peter”; during the time of her troubles, Christie was astounded by the realization that she had a good number of friends who appeared to desert her.  Carlotta, or Charlotte Fisher, was employed by Christie as both a secretary and governess, and she felt that Carlotta was the only person who had stood by her, as well as Peter, her faithful terrier dog.  They (meaning Christie and Carlotta, not Peter) made a two-column list entitled both The Order of the Rats and The Order of the Faithful Dogs (O.F.D), Carlotta and Peter obviously being in the latter.  Later, Christie wrote to her second-husband, “You’ve never been through a really bad time with nothing but a dog to hold on to.”

Yet, in spite of Christie’s negative feelings, while the book wasn’t exemplary, I enjoyed the plot and progression.  It’s definitely a Poirot-mystery worth reading.

Photo #1 courtesy of hpgruesen on Pixabay

29 thoughts on “The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie

  1. I agree with you – I think that Agatha is too hard on this mystery. It’s not her best, but it’s by no means terrible. I liked the relationship between Katherine Grey and Poirot, which is the first of many such refreshing and charming interactions between Poirot and various young women he meets in the course of his investigations.

    So, by my calculations, you should be reading The Seven Dials Mystery, which goes back to her “thriller” mold – and you get Superintendent Battle and Bundle Brent again.

    • I really enjoyed the interactions between Katherine and Poirot too. She was a good temporary replacement for Hastings.

      The Seven Dials? Rats! I thought I should be reading Partners in Crime. Am I out of order?

  2. It’s a long time since I’ve read this one, but I’ve heard it dramatised on the radio, more recently. It’s interesting that you say she never liked it, as I remember thinking that it had a different tone to most of her other novels. That background information you provide is certainly suggestive.

    • I do agree about the tone but I wonder if that was because it was missing Hastings as the narrator. I really love digging into the background history with Christie. She was such an interesting person!

  3. every once in a while i try something different, who knows? i’ve read this a couple of times and liked it quite a bit; anything with Poirot seems pretty good, normaly… Hastings is fun also

    • Ah your comment made it through! I really like Poirot even the books that aren’t as good. So far The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is my favourite.

  4. I really like the setting for this one….maybe this weekend!!! Great review and I had no idea that this was written during one of the more difficult period of Christie’s life….they do tend to color things!

    • This chronological reading is so interesting. I’d love to have enough time in my life to read every classic author in chronological order but I can’t see that happening. Perhaps in heaven. I hope you had lots of fun reading this past weekend!

  5. I just love Poirot. I haven’t read Christy in a while. I’m working through my collection of Ngaio Marsh and Leslie Charteris. I don’t care for the Saint as much as Poirot. The Saint is just a little too perfect, not to mention he’s got the morals of an alley cat.

    • sharon; i’m amazed that someone else has ever read the Saint… i’ve read his books quite a bit and enjoyed them: lots of fun, but i don’t know about his morality…

    • I remember loving Ngaio Marsh but that was decades ago. I wonder how I’d feel about her mysteries now? I should pull one out. I haven’t read The Saint, just seen it on T.V. I love your description: morals of an alley cat, lol!

  6. I’m happy to hear the Christie’s are picking up for you. The Mystery of the Blue Train is one I’ve heard of but I don’t believe I’ve ever read, or even seen an adaptation of. Sounds fun, though! (I’m still back on Secret of Chimneys, which is currently waiting on the hold shelf for me to get around to picking it up…)

    • The Secret of Chimneys was fun! I hope you enjoy it. I think my next Christie read or the one after has some of the characters from SoC in it. Can’t wait to keep reading!

  7. I’ve only read a few Agathas (and that many years ago) but your review reminds me how much fun her work can be. The setting and character interaction of this one sounds particularly attractive and who could resist that dedication, especially after learning that one of the dedicatees is her dog? That little tidbit made the book for me!

    • I know exactly what you mean! If one has lived long enough, perhaps many of us can relate to the faithful dedication of an animal in any circumstance. And all this extra information is making me want to read her biography. But first, on to the next mystery!

  8. Hi Cleo! Popping over to say hi! I’m trying to get caught up in my blog reading after a long absence. How are you doing?

    I have only read one Agatha Christie novel – “Murder on the Orient Express.” My mom was a huge Christie fan. When she passed not long ago, I got to bring home some the Christie novels she had on her bookshelf. This year I wanted to read some more Christie’s works because she was such a favorite author of my mom’s but I’ve yet to do it. Haven’t been able to pull those books off the top of my shelf yet…..but I will at some point. “Murder on the Orient Express” is one of them. But the other ones I got to keep are titles I’ve not heard of: “By the Pricking of the Thumb”, “Mrs. McGinty’s Dead”, and “Evil Under the Sun.” Have you read any of these?

    • Hey Karen! So glad to see you “out and about”! 🙂 I’ve been really busy …. lots going on. But things are getting settled and life is good! What about you?

      Your mom had good taste. While I love reading classics, Christie is an excellent diversion! I’ve read all of those three books eons ago. I don’t have clear memories of them, but I do remember really enjoying By the Pricking of My Thumbs because I felt it was very different. I hope you pick up a Christie mystery soon and let us know what you think!

  9. I’ve read one Christie book this year (Murder at the Vicarage) & it was my first introduction to Miss Marple. My daughter keeps saying I should read The Secret of Chimneys next. I’ve tended to enjoy her stand alone books more but I’ve got to be in the right mood to read her books so waiting for the inspiration to hit me.

    • I love Murder at the Vicarage. The Secret of Chimneys was fun …. not my favourite but a good one. I know what you mean about being in the mood for something. I tried to read the Moomin books this summer and just couldn’t get a groove on them. Perhaps in the fall. Happy reading!

  10. Hm I don’t think I’ve ever read this one. I think it would have me yearning to return to Nice – not possible in the current chaotic travel restrictions. You’ve made an interesting connection to her personal life – how long elapsed before she wrote the next one? Perhaps she had recovered from her breakdown by then and she was happier with the writing

    • I’d love to return to Nice too! Such wonderful memories …..

      It was less than a year to her next novel. If anything, no matter what happened, Christie’s writing ability and output seemed to be consistent. I’ll have to see if I can find what she says about the next mystery. I made an error and grabbed Partners in Crime when I should have gone to The Seven Dials Mystery. However Christine set me right and I’m back on track! With The Seven Dials, she’s returning to familiar characters from the Secret of Chimneys. I wonder if that made her feel better to have old friends to write about. I’ll see what I can dig up after I finish it. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. OMG, I didn’t realize we were doing the same project, though I do through audiobooks.
    I just finished listening to The Big Four – the narrator is the actor who plays Hastings in the TV series, so that’s really cool.
    I’m surprised so many people have that reaction to The big Four. Ok it’s more involved that lots of other books by AG, but I think it’s really neat that she was able to write such an amazing variety of plots. And there are definitely so many indirect references to Sherlock Holmes.
    I alternate audios, now I’m listening to a French thriller by Franck Thilliez (Pandemia), which he wrote 5 years ago, and that’s so so close to Covid!!! After that, I’m getting on the blue train!

    • That great! And we’re even nearly at the same point! We’ll have to keep track of each other’s reading.

      I do agree with you that it’s interesting to read works that are so different from Christie. She deserves respect for trying to vary to a degree the types of books she wrote. However for me, I thought she could have developed The Big Four more. It was a mish-mash of wildly improbable happenings with little development. She was still in a tumultuous part of her life though; I will be interested to see what her writing is like once she begins to experience a more peaceful existence.

      Ooo, that thriller sounds good! Enjoy your journey on The Blue Train!

  12. I must say that I found the review incisive and compelling.

    I am new author of the block and my first book, a compilation of four stores, is currently under publication. I was wondering if you would be willing to review one of the stories.

    Thanks

    Shakti Ghosal

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