Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Mystery of the Blue Train: Review

The Mystery of the Blue Train (1928) by Agatha Christie

Ruth Kettering's father, the wealthy Rufus Van Aldin, loves only one thing more than he loves making money--his beautiful, willful daughter. The only time she really disappoints him is when she becomes involved with men. Her first love affair was with a scoundrel, Armand the Comte de la Roche. He managed to break that up successfully, only to watch her marry Derek Kettering--a British man in line for a title but badly in need of money. When Kettering breaks her heart by becoming entangled with a Parisian dancer, Van Aldin purchases a priceless necklace containing the famous ruby, "Heart of Fire," hoping it will distract her enough to enable him to persuade her to sue for divorce.

It seems to work, though Ruth seems curiously reluctant to be rid of her husband, and he puts things in motion--notifying Kettering that he may want to consider a settlement. Kettering knows that a divorce suit may ruin him financially and that it will be difficult to fight a case supported by the Van Aldin wealth, but he refuses to consider coming to terms, telling Van Aldin that he may find that Ruth has a counter-suit to answer. Ruth is evasive when her father asks her to be honest with him about her affairs and the matter is far from resolved when she sets out on a trip to the Riviera aboard the luxurious Blue Train.

There is plenty of intrigue on the train. Ruth has her own affairs to sort out and is on her way to meet her own lover, Armand who she never really got over. And, unknown to her, Derek and his dancer Mirelle are also on the train. Monsieur Hercule Poirot, the famous detective, has also chosen the train for a journey. There is a possibility that a famous jewel thief, the Maquis, is on the train as well--perhaps with his sights set on the legendary ruby. Katherine Grey, a young woman setting out on her first adventure after coming into a small inheritance, may find herself in the middle of a much bigger adventure than she could have imagined. Ruth Kettering will die. The rubies will disappear as will her maid. And Katherine Grey will find herself attracted to two men--one of whom might be a murderer. Poirot is, naturellement, called upon to give his expert aid to solve the crime.

One of the things I like best about this Christie novel is the characterization--particularly of Katherine Grey and Derek Kettering. Katherine is a very strong character and Christie gives her a more complete background than many of her characters get. She is a very solid, down-to-earth person who has played the supporting role for most of her life and is just now getting a chance to spread her wings on her own. But there is a sense of humor and a strain of knowledgeable common-sense running through her that makes her very interesting. She is amused at Poirot's interest in her reading habits and she is perfectly aware of the ulterior motives behind her distant cousin's invitation to stay. Kettering, while being presented as an aristocratic wastrel, begins to make us wonder whether the spoiled daddy's girl was more to blame for the marriage going bad than he. I particularly like that he says no to the pay-off (bribe, as he calls it)--knowing that daddy can bury him in court no matter what evidence of counter-suit he might bring should he stoop to do so.

Poirot is, of course, Poirot and follows his own path even when the police are at first convinced that the Comte is the villain of the piece and then, when that falls through, going so far as to arrest Kettering. Poirot is not so sure that the motive is as evident as it appears and he produces the correct one...and the correct villain... with his usual panache. ★★★★

[Finished on 5/28/18. I spy with my little eye through the magic of Goodreads that Kate @ crossexaminingcrime has read this in the past and it would be a blunder of the first order if Agatha's biggest fan, Brad @ ahsweetmysteryblog, had neglected one of her stories (he hasn't)--so this counts for the "read by a fellow blogger" category on the Just the Facts Challenge.]

1 comment:

Timdani said...

I haven't read an Agatha Christie book in a long time. Maybe I should check this one out! Really enjoying doing your keyword reading challenge as well as Mount TBR. Thanks for hosting!