The Mystery of the Blue Train is the 6th in Agatha Christie’s series featuring famous oddball Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. Published in 1928, this installment sees a murder almost fall into Poirot’s lap- a fellow passenger on the (famous at the time) Le Train Bleu, an express train from Calais to the French riveria. The murder victim is American heiress Ruth Kettering, who was on the way to meet her continental lover,. The immediate suspicion is a robbery gone wrong, as some very expensive rubies that Ruth had with her also disappear.
Ruth’s father, the American millionaire Rufus van Aldin, hires Poirot to investigate and Poirot convinces a fellow passenger, Katherine Gray, to unofficially join his inquiries. Gray has recently come into money and is taking her first pleasure trip to the French coast; she had the (un)fortunate distinction of having had the last substantial conversation with Ruth, revealing motives aplenty for Ruth’s murder, among them Ruth’s lover, the unsavoury lover with a history of using wealthy women and her jilted and unfaithful husband.
Apparently this was one of Christie’s least favorite novels, but that may be due more to its timing in her life than the story itself, with the drafting the publishing bookending her own real life ‘disappearance’. I only just heard about this event this year, as it was the subject of an old Unsolved Mysteries episode (one of our pandemic pleasures). It deserves its own novel and not a paragraph in a book review, but here goes: in late summer 1926, Christie’s marriage was falling apart and her husband asked for a divorce so he could marry his mistress. Christie’s car was found abandoned and a 10 day hunt for her finally found her in a spa/hospital hundreds of miles away registered under a pseudonym. Christie disappeared to her sister’s and never addressed the event publicly, with the conjecture being that she had a nervous breakdown, intended to throw murder suspicion on to her husband or was truly the victim of some sort of nefarious plot.
Mystery on the Blue Train wasn’t my favorite Christie novel- I love a good locked room/train murder mystery but this one felt a little looser and harder to follow than other Christie novels I’ve read. More than that, once I closed this book I stopped thinking about it almost immediately, something I didn’t do with her stronger entries (The Murder of Roger Ackryod and And Then There Were None both come to mind).
Cbr13bingo Old Series