Murder on the Orient Express – Turkey, The Balkans -Croatia – Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie

Why a booktrail?

Perhaps the most iconic train journey of all time…ends in murder

Story in a nutshell

Private Detective Hercule Poirot arrives at the Tokatlian hotel in Istanbul where he receives a message causing him to change his plans and return  to London. He books a first class compartment on the famous Orient Express which is due to leave that night.

Once on board, he meets an American business man Mr Ratchett who had also been at the hotel earlier. He explains his life is in danger and that he wants Poirot’s help. Poirot however refuses.

On the second night of the journey, the train gets stuck in a snowdrift near Vinkovci and so they are forced to sit still for a while. However in the morning, it becomes clear that the snowdrift is the least of their worries – the body of Mr Ratchett is found in his bed.

Place and Setting

Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah Mesrutiyet Cad No: 52, Tepebasi Room 411 at the hotel is where Agatha Christie often stayed and legend has it that she wrote the novel Murder on the Orient Express here. The room is very evocative of the time and mood of the novel https://www.jumeirah.com/en/hotels-resorts/istanbul/pera-palace-hotel-jumeirah/rooms-and-suites/agatha-christie-room-king/
Turkey – Istanbul – Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah
Mesrutiyet Cad No: 52, Tepebasi
Room 411 at the hotel is where Agatha Christie often stayed and legend has it that she wrote the novel Murder on the Orient Express here. The room is very evocative of the time and mood of the novel
https://www.jumeirah.com/en/hotels-resorts/istanbul/pera-palace-hotel-jumeirah/rooms-and-suites/agatha-christie-room-king/

The setting of the closed room murder, a body found on a train  in a locked compartment….a train aught up a snow drift miles from the nearest station…

The classic train is one full of individual compartments and dark wooden panels. First class passengers have dinner in the posh dining car, women dress in stylish outfits and the mood is set for a calm and peaceful journey through various countries with the landscape flying by….

Poirot like many others on the train has an individual compartment. During the night of the murder, he hears a few strange noises such as a scream,someone talking in French and the bell calling the porter. The train stops – in the remote and dark countryside – with only the trees and the snowy landscape for company. When the body is found – with the door locked from the inside and all passengers still on board, the mystery of the Orient Express begins…

The room is examined as is the sighting of a woman in a kimono earlier that night. The dead man had been stabbed 12 times and a broken pocket watch is found on his person. The passengers all come from  different  backgrounds and are of varying nationalities so the international aspect of the murder adds a unique layer. Poirot agrees to take on the case in the hope that he can find some answers before the Yugoslav police have to take over.

A train – everyone trapped both in the snow and the scene of the crime….

Real life inspiration

The  story was apparently inspired by a journey Agatha Christie actually had on the very train. (Her biography includes a letter about the time she took the train and got stuck in a flood). The case which starts the story – that of the missing girl – is said to have been inspired by the Lindbergh Case of 1932.

Strike of the Cobra – UK, Turkey, Singapore – Stephen Heubach

COBRA

A true-life story of crime, subterfuge and drug smuggling in Britain, Turkey and Singapore.

Story in a nutshell

Based on a true story. Boat trader Daniel Cassidy is approached by a Turkish businessman who offers him a lucrative international deal but he soon has suspicions about just how lucrative this deal really is. is he getting exactly what he thinks he is?

Never mind the boats – what else is involved with the deal? What is the hidden cargo on board for example?

When the deal goes sour, Daniel is trapped between those who threaten him and his family if he says anything, and the authorities who are hot on his trail. It’s just a question of who gets there first – if Daniel doesn’t think of something first.

Place and setting

The Trail that takes an innocent business man around the world - From Earls Court Boat show in London, factory visits in Istanbul in Turkey and lunch time deals in  Singapore
The Trail that takes an innocent business man around the world – From Earls Court Boat show in London, factory visits in Istanbul in Turkey and lunch time deals in Singapore

Starting with a author note saying that he hopes this story shows people just how easy it is for innocent people to get involved in the shady world of drugs etc, then you can only imagine the horrors that await inside.

Britain

We see just how easy and quickly Daniel gets himself involved . but even as the book opens, we are on a plane to Singapore in order to make a deal with the hope of helping the company Daniel co-owns which has run into financial problems. Walking straight into a trap so carefully planned –

How did the accused initially make contact with you?

“At the boat show in Earls Court, London via information from a colleague of his in Singapore.”

Turkey

Where the deal is struck on a  batch of new boats and where he travels to inspect the factories:

It has the beginning of another fabulous day over Istanbul with temperatures hovering about freezing,  a beautiful deep blue sky.

The followed the coast road round the edge of  large harbour…

But in a sentence that shows the full extent of the horror that is unfolding –

“Istanbul is very sociable and I can assure you that while you are here you will not sleep”

All in all a trail that leads Daniel half way across the world and to a dark place that he might never escape from.

Holland Village where Daniel lives when there. Orchard Road where the offices of the boat company were and the Shangri La club where deals are made
Holland Village where Daniel lives when there. Orchard Road (Shaw House) where the offices of the boat company were and the Shangri La club where deals are made

Singapore

The main location of the story with the offices of United European marine located here and the home of Daniel and family in Medway Park. The landscape here is one of deals, late night chats in hotels and discussions over dinner. The food they enjoy add to the Asian ambience and allude to the way business is done here  – none more so that the drunken prawns which are prawns marinated in white wine whilst still alive.

It is the mystic here that despite Daniel living here and having a lot of experience here that there are still parts of the culture which are closed off to those not in the know . Strange dealings start at the Raffles hotel where a dinner has been arranged but then the guests leave early –

I thought you were joining us? Daniel said with some surprise

Only for the drink we thought? And we do not want to gatecrash the meal with your friends. With that , he spoke to Doris, who picked up her handbag and  stood up downing the rest of her champagne in one.

A journey that one man takes but which show the pitfalls of international business deals and a gradual descent in to absolute horror –

“Ladies and gentlemen, Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise are waiting outside the aircraft doors, would you please all ensure that you have your passport readily available for inspection as you exit the aircraft. Thank you.”

Turkish Delight

We at BookTrail Towers have sadly never been to Istanbul. We would like to go that’s for sure so when we came across this little book of ‘ Perfect gems of City writing’ we thought ‘ooh this sounds interesting’

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The book is a veritable Turkish smörgåsbord  of writing of all flavours for all tastes presented in various courses for your delectation. Various writers or should I say ‘word chefs’ cook up a feast for all your senses –

  •  What is it about Istanbul?
  • Traveller’s tales
  • The glorious past
  • The city in all its moods
Istanbul - waiting to be discovered. Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Istanbul – waiting to be discovered. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

This resonated with us very strongly since the cities we have been to DO change via season, part of history and we all have a tale to tell of our own experience of a city.

Travel writers, local writers, novelists who have used Istanbul as a setting backdrop or even character in their novels are brought together in a tempting mix  – to get the real flavour, spice and bite of a city across to the City pick reader

 

The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul - image courtesy of Wikipedia
The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul – image courtesy of Wikipedia

We were keen to read on and meet the guides of Istanbul –

Orhan Pamuk who makes his own museum

Elif Shafak experience of shopping in the Grand Bazaar

Ride the Bosphorus ferries with William Dalrymple

See why Geert Mak enjoys the Galata Bridge

Listen to Yashar Kemal recalling a moving tradition

 and of course, travel on the same ‘magic bus‘ as  Rory Maclean

Particular favorites of ours (although there are many to choose from ) include a 19th century visitor’s journey into the Basilica Cistern, plus the various people crossing Galata bridge in different ages.

 

Galata Bridge 

Galata Bridge - image courtesy of Wikipedia
Galata Bridge – image courtesy of Wikipedia

 

Taste the city – 

To me, Istanbul is the most fascinating , most ravishing city on earth,a felling that hasn’t wavered since I first ate a peach on the Galata Bridge twenty years ago.

Anya von Bremzen ‘ eating in Istanbul’

 

Sultan Ahmed Mosque also known as the Blue Mosque brought to life by Rory Maclean - image courtesy of Wikipedia
Sultan Ahmed Mosque also known as the Blue Mosque because of its blue tiles  – brought to life by Rory Maclean – image courtesy of Wikipedia

Experience the atmospheric rain and fog –

 At this hour the mist would lie so thick that the domes of Santa Sofia and the rest would seem to be afloat; gradually the mist would uncover them;the bubbles would be seen to be firmly fixed;there would be the river; there the Galata Bridge…

Virginia Woolf

The atmospheric cover of River of the Dead by Barbara Nadel
The atmospheric cover of River of the Dead by Barbara Nadel

See the city from a detective’s eyes – 

 Everything in Istanbul has a fake something or other. Inspector Çetin Ikmen himself had beee given a counterfeit Rolex watch by his youngest son for his last, his fifty-seventh, birthday. The child Kemal, has purchased it fro one of the many scruffy-looking vendors of such things who plied their trade underneath the Galata Bridge

 

Barbara Nadel is an English novelist (who has written the introduction to this city pick guide herself)  and who has set her series of crime novels in the city featuring the  detective  Çetin Ikmen

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The city pick guides are tour guides with a difference and a mix of short and longer passages gives the whole recipe of what can only be described as Turkish Delight

 

Find out more about the City Pick guides here – http://thecity-litcafe.typepad.com/

For the novels of Barbara Nadel – http://www.barbara-nadel.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last train to Istanbul – on a train through Turkey

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The last train to Istanbul is the story of  two Turkish sisters just before and during WWII. Sabiha is married to Macit, and through his government position, we gain an insight into Turkey’s politics of that time.

Selva has gone against her family’s wishes to marry her Jewish lover, Rafo.

They move to France and become caught up in the Occupation there.

These two sisters and their situations act as the dual narrative adopted in this novel where we move from the view point of each of them, from Turkey to France and the fate of the Jews during the war.

I like most people have studied and read a lot about the war and what happened to the Jewish people but I haven’t read anything from Turkey’s point of view. Despite this being a fiction book, it relies heavily on real events and this is what makes it so interesting – to think of what Turkey and the Turkish people must have thought of the powers fighting to get them on side and how to protect its nationals despite the politics.

I enjoy finding about history and how people dealt with the day to day reality of a war which overshadowed so much for so long. I know little of Turkey and have not read any literature from this part of the world so I am pleased I was given this copy to review as my first introduction to this fascinating country. I can’t decide which of the two book covers picured above represent the book the best – perhaps they both do in their own way –  memories of the train which is the focal point of the novel. The other one pictures the beauty to be found in Turkey and  which should never be lost or forgotten despite the horrors of war.

I once had to do a language test where a made up language was presented with some of its rules and you had to translate a piece of text based on that new language. Turns out it was half Turkish and I have always been interested in the language and the thought process of its people having since studied a little of the proper language for my own entertainment.

I’m grateful that this has been translated and so is available to so many more people than it would have been.

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The trip on the train – the last train to Istanbul was an amazing part of the book and so vividly described. Those heart stopping moments and the joint despair of all those on that train. All those forged papers, all those nationalities and personalities with one goal –  to escape Hitler’s Army.

The book is a story of not only a train journey but a story of hope and of human resilience in one of the worst periods of recent world history.