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.

The Lady from Zagreb – Germany, Switzerland and Yugoslavia -Philip Kerr

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Why a booktrail?

The tenth Bernie Gunther mystery  and the search for a German actress hiding in Zurich. Under Goebbels orders…..

Story in a nutshell

In 1942, there are many worse places to be than Zurich, and detective Bernie Gunther has seen his fair share of them. So when a superior asks him to track down a glamorous German actress believed to be hiding in Zurich, he takes the job. Not that he has much choice: the superior is Goebbels himself.

Soon Bernie finds himself involved in something much more sinister for the actress turns out to be the daughter of a fanatical Croatian fascist, the sadistic commandant of a notorious concentration camp.

Now the Swiss police ask for Bernie’s help on a cold case they have. One with connections to some powerful people back in the Reich.

Place and setting

FRANCE - La Ciotat - http://www.edentheatre.org/ The Eden theatre which is the oldest cinema in Europe and was where the Lumiere brothers showed their first film according to the novel. Where the novel opens GERMANY - Berlin - Babelsberg studios - http://www.studiobabelsberg.com/en/ Where the actress Dalia in the novel works and where Goebels meets her CROATIA - Zagreb The Church of St Mark in Zagreb is one of the old roman catholic curchs tat Gunther says there are more of here than in the VAtican telephone directory. St Marls is the one with the fairystory roof which seems to be made from haribo sweets. CROATIA - Pula,  Istria - where Dalia was born SWITZERLAND - Zurich Gunther often walks near Lake Zurich to people watch and visits the town of Rapperswill which he describes as a charming cuckoo clock town on the north shore
FRANCE – La Ciotathttp://www.edentheatre.org/
The Eden theatre which is the oldest cinema in Europe and was where the Lumiere brothers showed their first film according to the novel. Where the novel opens
GERMANY – Berlin – Babelsberg studios – http://www.studiobabelsberg.com/en/
Where the actress Dalia in the novel works and where Goebels meets her
CROATIA – Zagreb
The Church of St Mark in Zagreb is one of the old roman catholic curchs that Gunther says there are more of here than in the Vatican telephone directory. St Marls is the one with the fairystory roof which seems to be made from haribo sweets.
CROATIA – Pula, Istria – where Dalia was born
SWITZERLAND – Zurich
Gunther often walks near Lake Zurich to people watch and visits the town of Rapperswill which he describes as a charming cuckoo clock town on the north shore

Locations – – 1943 and 1954

Berlin to Zurich to Zagreb

Bernhard  (Bernie) Gunther has a dark and troubled past. He has worked for some shady people and some shady organizations in previous books and now he now finds himself working for none other than Goebbels.

As Goebbels moved his head in an avian sort of way, I realized that with his black hair and beaky nose he reminded me most of a carrion crow

Goebbels orders Gunther to help him with his latest mistress/love interest. The lady in question  is an actress at the famous Babelsberg studios and he has had his eye on her for a long time. In those days, Goebbels eye on you meant that your future was decided by him instantly and so it’s a matter of time before this lady’s future is decided.

She needs help in tracing her father who is thought to be a monk somewhere in Croatia,  and so Gunther is sent to Yugoslavia to find him. Of course the setting and time period of the scenes in this part of the world is hard to read about

The state of Croatia was established as a Nazi state, ruled by the militia known as the Ustase.

And it’s probably no exaggeration to say that outside of Croatia, and away from the influence of the Axis powers, Yugoslavia is now in total chaos

The tapestry is richer when the author mixes both fictional and real characters together. As well as Goebbels, we meet General Walter Schellenberg, and ‘Joey the Crip’ – real characters from history where we gain an insight into their personalities.

The historical settings are both horrific and fascinating. We didn’t know anything about the Ustashe movement in Croatia during WW2, or the positions of the Swiss for that matter but the crimes against humanity are evoked in brutally raw detail to illustrate the reality of it all.

Russians will do to this country and to our people what they are doing now in Croatia

A moral maze of countries, cities and people all trying to get through the horrors of war. And at the centre – a man – Goebbels who wants a certain actress to star in the next picture he produces at the famous Babelsberg studios.