murder on orient

Couldn’t we at least have a train on the cover?

It has probably not escaped your notice (unless you are living in Antarctica with penguins) that there is a new film out of Agatha Christie’s MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. It hasn’t escaped my notice because there are ads for it on the side of London buses and when the 22 stops in traffic outside my flat (which it has been doing a lot recently due to heavy plant activity – not triffids),  I have a very nice view of the cast. Kenneth Branagh, sporting luxuriant moustaches, is playing Poirot and directing it. In preparation for this wildly exciting event I read the book and here is my imagined dialogue between Agatha and an unnamed modern day literary agent after the agent has read it.




Agent: Is this a first draft?

Agatha: Oh dear, well no I didn’t see it as such.

Agent: (sighs) But where are the descriptions? As it stands it might just as well be MURDER ON THE 7.15 CROYDON TRAM. You say the train is stuck in a snowdrift but where is the snow? There is no indication of the snow anywhere. Does it melt immediately? Does no one look out of a window and see it? Does no one scrunch a snowball or throw it?

Agatha: Oh dear you obviously don’t like it at all.

Agent: It’s not that I don’t like it but  there are no descriptions. I want to be able to see it. I want snow, I want lush interiors. I mean frankly you wouldn’t really know it was taking place on a train. What do the cabins look like? And if it comes to that what do the people look like.

Agatha: I do describe the people I think.

Agent: You describe Poirot a little bit – huge moustaches …egg-shaped head …ridiculous-looking but as for what’s her name … What is her name? The Countess …

Agatha: The Countess Andrenyi?

Agent: No.

Agatha: No?

Agent: She’s a drag queen or something.

Agatha: Oh you mean the Princess Dragomiroff.

Agent: Oh yes, that’s right – well simply telling us she’s ugly doesn’t tell us much. What kind of ugly?

Agatha: But there’s the yellow toad-like features and the toque.

Agent: The what?

Agatha: The toque, the toque, I describe her as wearing a toque.

Agent: What is that – some sort of otter?

Agatha: It’s a hat.

Agent: Oh. And there’s another thing. Poirot …

Agatha: Yes?

Agent: Well, can’t he fall in love with one of the suspects.

Agatha: No, that wouldn’t do at all he is a sexless individual with a large brain.

Agent: Whatever made you think that would be a good idea, darling?

Agatha: Well, my sales. So far Poirot has appeared in seven novels one play and one  short stories and he has always been the same. I can’t change him now. My fans wouldn’t like it.

Agent: Oh, you have fans do you? Hmm…

A long silence ensues …

Agatha: Are you still there?

Agent: Yes, I’m thinking.

Time passes …

Agatha (tentatively): What did you think of the plot?

Agent: The plot is OK as far as it goes although it sort of falls off the end of a cliff doesn’t it? Couldn’t we have a scene when they are all saying goodbye to each other on the platform, something to round it off. Now let  me see how can we salvage this … could we have longing perhaps … yes, that’s it, longing …

Agatha: For what?

Agent: For pretty much anything darling. Yes, that’s it longing… Now then I can’t hang on here sorting this out for you but basically it’s plot B+ and all the rest C-. Have another go at it and bung it back to me in a month.

Agatha looks down at the notebook in which she’s been making notes of the conversation and sees the following words: Lush Snow, Lush Interiors, Toque, Longing … Otter????? She picks up her pen and begins:

Poirot scrunched the lush snow into a ball and filled with longing threw it playfully at the Princess. It struck her toque and she laughed gaily galloping through the snow towards him. She might have been the ugliest woman in the world but to him her yellow toad-like features were the epitome of beauty … Suddenly, out of nowhere an otter appeared scything through the lush snow. It threw itself at his face. It latched onto his lush moustaches. Poirot screamed as it dawned on him too late – the otter had done it!

Agatha threw down her pen and went and poured herself a large gin …

So here’s the question. Are you a fan of Agatha, Poirot, the books the films? And what kind of Poirot do you think Ken will be. I can’t imagine him playing him as a sexless brain can you? After all, Ken is always the hero – so what’s going to happen? My guess is a bit of longing and some manly striding. Anyway, I’m off to see it tomorrow and I can’t wait. Apparently there is an outrageous piece of product placement which produces this piece of dialogue from Poirot: ‘Ah, lerve theeese leeetle cecks’. The cecks incidentally are of the Great British Bake Off variety. And so that you can excercise yeur leetle greh cells which I know you long to do, answer this. What was the title of the German version of the book?






  1. This encounter between an agent and Agatha is hysterical. We writers need to laugh every once in a while at the ludicrousness of agents and publishing and GETTING OUR WORK OUT THERE. Thank you – after the long laugh, I feel better….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Pam I read the book and was struck how it really read like a screenplay. The level of description is very low but all the dialogue is there so you can see why they adapt well for filming. The ending of the book however was so abrupt I wondered if I’d downloaded a pirated copy by mistake! I have to say I love these kinds of films. Even if they’re atrociously bad they always make me laugh. I’m guessing Ken won’t stint on the snow drifts or the moustaches … roll on tomorrow!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hated to admit it, but I have never been an Agatha fan. Perhaps the reason is in your description of her writing. Looking forward to reading your review of the movie! Ken generally brings gravitas to a role.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. My best friend devoured Agatha Christie novels when he was dying – they had the right kind of simple story-telling that he could cope with. No need for descriptive language, perhaps, just getting on with the plot… I would flick through his books and never once did I want to read one (although I think I read one or two when I was about 14). I loved Poirot and Marple on the telly but I’m not sure I have the patience for the (anticipated) broad strokes of this new film…

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    • I can understand why your friend might have found a sort of refuge in them. The books are weirdly drained of any kind of emotion – the absolute opposite of the fashion now which is for psychological thrillers. It was interesting to read this one because I haven’t read any for a long time. I can’t wait for the film. I just find something incredibly camp about them and ridiculous and the idea of Kenneth Branagh as Poirot is just so weird it has to be seen!

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  3. Hahaha! Too brutal! I’m all for dumping the endless descriptions and as for longing – well, you know my opinion of angst-filled misery-fests! Give me the plot, darling, and feed all the rest to the otter! Personally I think Branagh (whom I love) looks utterly ridiculous in his Poirot guise – I doubt I’d be able to take him seriously. I still haven’t decided whether to see it or not…

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    • No lush interiors for you FF? No condensation on the windows? I can’t wait. The idea of Ken playing Poirot is just so weird I have to go. I expect he will make him utterly heroic which is not at all how he is portrayed in the books. Longing … I’m sure there’s going to be longing …

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    • I want those snow drifts Madame Bibi and lush interiors and lush moustaches and toques. Bring on the toques and the utter (or should that be otter) weirdness of Kenneth Branagh playing Poirot. I’ve read some shocking reviews but still I can’t wait!

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    • Paddington seems a very good choice but I have to say I can’t wait to see a ‘heroic’ actor like Branagh crank himself into a very non-heroic role like Poirot. Maybe I’ll end up watching through my fingers in horror!


  4. Loved the dialogue – would she get published today I wonder? I love her mysteries, particularly the Miss Marples with Margaret Rutherford, but I’ve read surprisingly few of her books. I’m very much looking forward to the film, but I’m afraid Kenneth Branagh completely irritates me!

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    • Kenneth Branagh completely infuriates my partner as well so I have been priming her for months that we are going and that’s that. The excuse being that the film coincides vaguely with my birthday. We struck a deal she could laugh in the film but no sneering but she could sneer on the journey home – about an hour on the bus so quite a long time … I love those Margaret Rutherfords as well she’s fantastic as Marple.

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  5. Loving the dialogue, Darling – I feel a new book coming on …

    I think Murder is a fantastic plot and I loved the 1974 film version. I thought Finney was superb as Poirot.
    I was very excited when I first heard of this latest version, especially with the likes of Colman and Dench, but having seen the trailers I’m not sure I could sit through Branagh as Poirot – it just doesn’t seem to work and the accent seems wildly over enthusiastic.
    It’s not that I have a problem with Branagh – I saw him the as greatest Hamlet in the 80s. But this … it has the whiff of, dare I say it, a vanity project.

    I look forward to hearing your verdict!

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