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.
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.
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!
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.