The Woman on the Orient Express

Written by Lindsay Jane Ashford
Review by Michael I. Shoop

In October 1928, noted mystery novelist Agatha Christie boarded the Orient Express, bound for Mesopotamia. Still smarting from her divorce and wanting to be out of England when her former husband remarried, Agatha was emotionally drained and craved privacy. Traveling under the name Mary Miller, she didn’t suspect that during the trip she would meet two other women with secrets of their own. Mild-mannered, attractive Nancy Nelson and Agatha’s beautiful and intelligent cabin mate, Katharine Keeling, form a friendly trio with Agatha. As Agatha gets to know these newfound friends, she learns they too are hiding secrets, and she seeks to uncover them. The widowed Katharine, on her way to marry the noted archaeologist Leonard Woolley, is terrified to disclose her past. The newly married Nancy is pregnant—but with another man’s child.

Deception, despair, and even danger are present throughout this tale, as Agatha and her companions make their way across Europe, through Istanbul, and on to the exotic city of Baghdad and the archaeological digs at Ur, where more shadows lurk and dangers lie in wait for the unwary. To further complicate matters, there is young Max Mallowan, one of Woolley’s aides, with whom Agatha feels a certain connection. When truths are revealed and tragedy befalls one of them, the other two must decide the best course of action. Ashford creatively uses known facts about Christie’s visit to the Middle East, fleshes out her narrative with vivid descriptions of the locale and its challenges to visitors during that era, throws in some nods to Christie’s works, and skillfully weaves her various plot strands into a satisfactory conclusion. Adventure, mystery, a little romance, and Agatha Christie–who could resist?