- The Mystery of the Blue Train
The Mystery of the Blue Train
Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
Author(s) Agatha Christie Cover artist C. Morse (pseudonym of Salomon van Abbé) Country United Kingdom Language English Genre(s) Crime novel Publisher William Collins & Sons Publication date March 29, 1928 Media type Print (Hardcover & Paperback) Pages 296 pp (first edition, hardcover) ISBN NA Preceded by The Big Four Followed by The Seven Dials Mystery
The Mystery of the Blue Train is a work of detective fiction by Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by William Collins & Sons on March 29, 1928 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year. The UK edition retailed at seven shillings and sixpence (7/6) and the US edition at $2.00. The book features her detective Hercule Poirot.
Poirot boards Le Train Bleu, bound for the French Riviera. So does Katherine Grey, who is having her first winter out of England, after having inherited a huge sum. While on board she meets Ruth Kettering, an American heiress bailing out from a marriage to meet her lover. The next morning, though, Ruth is found dead in her compartment, a victim of strangulation. The famous ruby, "Heart of Fire", which had recently been given to Ruth by her father, is discovered to be missing. Ruth's father, the American millionaire Rufus Van Aldin, and his secretary, Major Knighton, convince Poirot to take on the case. Ruth's maid, Ada Mason, says she saw a man in Ruth's compartment but could not see who he was. The police suspect that Ruth's lover, the Comte de la Roche, killed her and stole the diamonds, but Poirot does not think he is guilty. He is suspicious of Ruth's husband, Derek Kettering, who was on the same train but claims not to have seen Ruth. Katherine says she saw Derek enter Ruth's compartment. This also throws suspicion on Derek when a cigarette case with the letter K on it is found.
Poirot investigates and finds out that the murder and the jewel theft might not be connected, as the famous jewel thief The Marquis is connected to the crime. Eventually, the dancer Mirelle, who was on the train with Derek, tells Poirot she saw Derek leave Ruth's compartment around the time the murder would have taken place. Derek is then arrested. Everyone is convinced the case is solved, but Poirot is not sure. He does more investigating and learns more information, talking to his friends and to Katherine, eventually coming to the truth. He asks Van Aldin and Knighton to come with him on the Blue Train to recreate the murder. He tells them that Ada Mason is really Kitty Kidd, a renowned male impersonator and actress. Katherine saw what she thought was a boy getting off the train, but it was really Mason. Poirot realized that Mason was the only person who saw anyone with Ruth in the compartment, so this could have been a lie. He reveals that the murderer and Mason's accomplice is Knighton, who is really The Marquis. He also says that the cigarette case with the K on it does not stand for Kettering, but Knighton. Since Knighton was supposedly in Paris, no one would have suspected him. Derek did go into the compartment to talk to Ruth once he saw she was on the train, but he left when he saw she was asleep. The police then arrest Knighton, and Van Aldin thanks Poirot for solving the case.
Influence and Significance
The novel's plot is based on the 1923 Poirot short story The Plymouth Express (much later collected in book form in the US in 1951 in The Under Dog and Other Stories and in the UK in 1974 in Poirot's Early Cases).
This novel features the first description of the fictional village of St. Mary Mead, which would later be the home of Christie's detective Miss Marple. It also features the first appearance of the minor recurring character of Mr Goby who would later appear in both After the Funeral and Third Girl. Book also features first appearance Poirot's valet George
Literary significance and reception
The Times Literary Supplement gave a more positive reaction to the book than Christie herself in its issue of May 3, 1928. After recounting the set-up of the story the reviewer concluded: "The reader will not be disappointed when the distinguished Belgian on psychological grounds declines to suspect the arrested husband and, by acting on the suggestion of an ugly girl who consistently derides her preposterous mother, builds up inferences almost out of the air, supports them by a masterly array of negative evidence and lands his fish to the surprise of everyone".
The New York Times Book Review of August 12, 1928 said, "Nominally Poirot has retired, but retirement means no more to him than it does to a prima donna. Let a good murder mystery come within his ken, and he just can't be kept out of it."
Robert Barnard: "Christie's least favourite story, which she struggled with just before and after the disappearance. The international setting makes for a good varied read, but there is a plethora of sixth-form schoolgirl French and some deleterious influences from the thrillers. There are several fruitier candidates for the title of 'worst Christie'."
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
Agatha Christie's Poirot
The novel was televised in 2005 as a special episode of the series Agatha Christie's Poirot, and was aired by ITV on December 11 starring David Suchet as Poirot, Roger Lloyd Pack as Inspector Caux and Elliott Gould as Rufus Van Aldin.
The television film includes several changes from the original novel. In the film, Ruth's lover is traveling on the train with her, and they are both fleeing her husband. Lady Tamplin, Corky and her daughter Lennox also travel on the blue train.Ruth becomes friends with Katherine Grey. They switch train compartments, and when Ruth is bludgeoned to death, making her features unrecognizable, Poirot speculates that the intended victim may have been Katherine. Rufus, Ruth's father, has a wife in the film, who became insane after the birth of Ruth, and Rufus has ensured her (his wife's) safekeeping at a convent, where she has become a nun. New characters were added to the film; at one point, one of the other passengers visits Rufus' wife, who mistakes the passenger for her daughter Ruth. At the end of the film, the murderer commits suicide, instead of just being arrested by the French police as in the novel. Also, the television film shows a love interest of Lady Tamplin's by the name of Corky who acquires a ruby for her. In the novel, Chubby is Lady Tamplin's fourth husband in the novel, and he has nothing to do with the ruby.
Graphic novel adaptation
The Mystery of the Blue Train was released by HarperCollins as a graphic novel adaptation on December 3, 2007, adapted and illustrated by Marc Piskic (ISBN 0-00-725060-6). This was translated from the edition first published in France by Emmanuel Proust éditions in 2005 under the title of Le Train Bleu.
- 1928, William Collins and Sons (London), March 29, 1928, Hardcover, 296 pp
- 1928, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1928, Hardcover, 306 pp
- 1932, William Collins and Sons, February 1932 (As part of the Agatha Christie Omnibus of Crime along with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The Seven Dials Mystery and The Sittaford Mystery), Hardcover (Priced at seven shillings and sixpence)
- 1940, Pocket Books (New York), Paperback, 276 pp
- 1948, Penguin Books, Paperback, (Penguin number 691), 250 pp
- 1954, Pan Books, Paperback (Pan number 284)
- 1956, Pocket Books (New York), Paperback, 194 pp
- 1958, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 248 pp
- 1972, Greenway edition of collected works (William Collins), Hardcover, 286 pp, ISBN 0-00-231524-6
- 1973, Greenway edition of collected works (Dodd Mead), Hardcover, 286 pp, ISBN 0-39-606817-0
- 1974, Dodd, Mead and Company (As part of the Murder on Board along with Death in the Clouds and What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!), Hardcover, 601 pp, ISBN 0-39-606992-4
- 1976, Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover, 423pp, OCLC 2275078
- 2007, Poirot Facsimile Edition (Facsimile of 1928 UK First Edition), HarperCollins, March 5, 2007, Hardback ISBN 0-00-723438-4
The writing of this book (part of which took place on the Canary Islands in early 1927) was an ordeal for Christie. The events of 1926 with the death of her mother, her husband's infidelity and her breakdown and ten-day disappearance had left a deep psychological scar and now separated from Archie Christie and in need of funds she turned back to writing. The story did not come easily to her and she referred to this novel in her autobiography stating that she "always hated it". Her biography recounts how the total number of words in the book were carefully tallied up, showing what an ordeal Christie found it to be. It had its effect on her in the middle of wartime when, nervous that at some future point she might be in need of funds and need a fallback, she wrote Sleeping Murder and locked it securely in a bank vault for future publication. Curtain was written at the same time and similarly locked away but publication of this latter book would not be possible until the end of her writing career as it recounts the death of Poirot.
The Mystery of the Blue Train was first serialised in the London evening newspaper The Star in thirty-eight un-illustrated instalments from Wednesday, February 1 to Thursday, March 15, 1928. The entire first two chapters were omitted from the serialisation and it therefore contained only thirty-four chapters. There were slight amendments to the text, either to make sense of the openings of an instalment (e.g. changing "She then..." to "Katherine then..."), or omitting small sentences or words, especially in the opening instalment where several paragraphs were missed. A reference to the continental Daily Mail at the start of chapter six (chapter eight in the book) was changed to "the newspaper" to avoid mentioning a competitor to The Star. Three chapters were given different names: chapter nine (eleven in the book) was called Something Good instead of Murder, chapter twenty-six (twenty-eight in the book) was called Poirot hedges instead of Poirot plays the Squirrel and chapter twenty-eight (chapter thirty in the book) was called Katherine's letters instead of Miss Viner gives judgement. The final chapter, called By the Sea in the book, was unnamed in the serialisation.
This is the only major work by Agatha Christie where the UK first edition carries no copyright or publication date.
Christie's dedication in the book reads: "To the two distinguished members of the O.F.D. - Carlotta and Peter".
This dedication is a direct reference to the events of 1926 which included the death of Christie's mother on April 5, the breakdown of her marriage to Archibald Christie and her famous ten-day disappearance in the December of that year. These were events which disturbed her for the remainder of her life and Christie found that people she expected to be allies in her time of need turned away from her. One person who didn't was Charlotte Fisher (1901? - 1976) who had been employed by Christie as a secretary to her and governess to her daughter Rosalind in 1924. When the events of 1926 were starting to recede, Christie states that she "had to take stock of my friends". She and Fisher (whom Christie referred to affectionately as both 'Carlo' and 'Carlotta') divided her acquaintances into two separate categories; the Order of Rats and the Order of Faithful Dogs (O.F.D.). Chief among the latter group, Christie put Carlo for her steadfast support.
Also named in this latter group and the second subject of the dedication of the book is Peter, Christie's beloved terrier who had been purchased for Rosalind in 1924. Peter's devotion to Christie at this time was never forgotten by her and she returned that affection, writing to her second husband, Max Mallowan in 1930 that "You've never been through a really bad time with nothing but a dog to hold on to." Peter was also the subject of the dedication of Dumb Witness (on the dustjacket of which he is pictured), published in 1937, one year before his death.
Charlotte Fisher, together with her sister Mary, also received a second dedication in a book in And Then There Were None in 1939.
The blurb of the first edition (which is carried on both the back of the jacket and opposite the title page) reads:
"Since the beginning of history, jewels have exercised a baneful spell. Murder and violence have followed in their wake. So with the famous Heart of Fire ruby. It passes into the possession of the beautiful American woman, Ruth Kettering, and doom follows swift upon it. Whose hand was it that struck her down? Were the jewels the motive for the murder, or were they only taken as a blind? What part did the beautiful foreign dancer play? These are some of the questions that have to be answered, and the story tells also how these strange and dramatic happenings effect the life of a quiet English girl who has felt convinced that "nothing exciting will ever happen to me." She uses very nearly those words to a chance acquaintance on the Blue Train - a little man with an egg-shaped head and fierce moustaches whose answer is curious and unexpected. But even Hercule Poirot, for it is he, does not guess how soon he will be called upon to unravel and complicated and intricate crime when the Blue Train steams in Nice the following morning and it is discovered that murder has been done."
- Dutch: Het Geheim van de Blauwe Trein (The Secret of the Blue Train)
- French: Le Train bleu (The Blue Train)
- German: Der blaue Express (The Blue Express)
- Hungarian: A kék express (The Blue Express), A titokzatos Kék Vonat (The Mysterious Blue Train)
- Italian: Il mistero del treno azzurro (The Mystery of the Blue Train)
- Swedish: Mysteriet på Blå tåget (The Mystery of the Blue Train)
- Finnish: Sininen juna (The Blue Train)
- Romanian: Misterul trenului albastru (The Mystery of the Blue Train)
- ^ The Observer March 25, 1928 (Page 11)
- ^ John Cooper and B.A. Pyke. Detective Fiction - the collector's guide: Second Edition (Pages 82 and 86) Scholar Press. 1994. ISBN 0-85967-991-8
- ^ a b American Tribute to Agatha Christie
- ^ The English Catalogue of Books. Vol XII (A-L: January 1926 – December 1930). Kraus Reprint Corporation, Millwood, New York, 1979 (page 316)
- ^ The Times Literary Supplement May 3, 1928 (Page 337)
- ^ The New York Times Book Review August 12, 1928 (Page 17)
- ^ Barnard, Robert. A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie - Revised edition (Page 200). Fontana Books, 1990. ISBN 0006374743
- ^ Morgan, Janet. Agatha Christie, A Biography. (Page 164) Collins, 1984 ISBN 0-00-216330-6.
- ^ Christie, Agatha. An Autobiography. (Page 358). Collins, 1977. ISBN 0-00-216012-9.
- ^ Morgan. (Page 164)
- ^ Morgan. (Page 163)
- ^ Thompson, Laura. Agatha Christie, An English Mystery. (Page 168) Headline, 2007 ISBN 978-0-7553-1487-4
- ^ Morgan. (Page 358)
- ^ An Autobiography. (Pages 339-340).
- ^ Morgan. (Page 192)
- The Mystery of the Blue Train at the official Agatha Christie website
- The Mystery of the Blue Train (2005) at the Internet Movie Database
Works by Agatha Christie Detectives NovelsThe Mysterious Affair at Styles · The Secret Adversary · The Murder on the Links · The Man in the Brown Suit · The Secret of Chimneys · The Murder of Roger Ackroyd · The Big Four · The Mystery of the Blue Train · The Seven Dials Mystery · The Murder at the Vicarage · The Sittaford Mystery · Peril at End House · Lord Edgware Dies · Murder on the Orient Express · Why Didn't They Ask Evans? · Three Act Tragedy · Death in the Clouds · The A.B.C. Murders · Murder in Mesopotamia · Cards on the Table · Dumb Witness · Death on the Nile · Appointment with Death · Hercule Poirot's Christmas · Murder Is Easy · And Then There Were None · Sad Cypress · One, Two, Buckle My Shoe · Evil Under the Sun · N or M? · The Body in the Library · Five Little Pigs · The Moving Finger · Towards Zero · Death Comes as the End · Sparkling Cyanide · The Hollow · Taken at the Flood · Crooked House · A Murder is Announced · They Came to Baghdad · Mrs McGinty's Dead · They Do It with Mirrors · After the Funeral · A Pocket Full of Rye · Destination Unknown · Hickory Dickory Dock · Dead Man's Folly · 4.50 from Paddington · Ordeal by Innocence · Cat Among the Pigeons · The Pale Horse · The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side · The Clocks · A Caribbean Mystery · At Bertram's Hotel · Third Girl · Endless Night · By the Pricking of My Thumbs · Hallowe'en Party · Passenger to Frankfurt · Nemesis · Elephants Can Remember · Postern of Fate · Curtain · Sleeping Murder As Mary
collectionsPoirot Investigates · Partners in Crime · The Mysterious Mr. Quin · The Thirteen Problems · The Hound of Death · The Listerdale Mystery · Parker Pyne Investigates · Murder in the Mews · The Regatta Mystery · The Labours of Hercules · The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories · Three Blind Mice and Other Stories · The Under Dog and Other Stories · The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding · Double Sin and Other Stories · The Golden Ball and Other Stories · Poirot's Early Cases · Miss Marple's Final Cases and Two Other Stories · Problem at Pollensa Bay and Other Stories · The Harlequin Tea Set · While the Light Lasts and Other Stories
PlaysBlack Coffee · And Then There Were None · Appointment with Death · Murder on the Nile/Hidden Horizon · The Hollow · The Mousetrap · Witness for the Prosecution · Spider's Web · A Daughter's a Daughter · Towards Zero · Verdict · The Unexpected Guest · Go Back for Murder · Rule of Three · Fiddlers Three · Akhnaton · Chimneys Radio and
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