For immediate clarity, The Woman on the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford is not a Girl on a Train type of situation. The woman in the title is, in fact, Agatha Christie (you guys… Agatha Christie! Pause for nerd girl freak out) and she is a character in this lovely new book coming out soon. (thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the advance copy) The story is loosely based on real events and takes place after the terrible and public breakdown of Christie’s marriage and her disappearance and amnesia, which really should be a book on its own, but isn’t as far as I know. Read more about that here. After that nightmare, and hoping for some time away and a new start, Agatha boards the Orient Express under an assumed name. Once on board, she meets two women, Katharine Keeling and Nancy Nelson, both of whom have plenty of secrets of their own.
The descriptions of the train journey and the cities they passed through were amazing. It made me desperately want to visit Baghdad, and Syria, and Turkey (but… you know, like in 1928). While they all have separate plans in the beginning, they all eventually end up in Ur at an archeological dig site, where they meet new people (like Max Mallowan, a man fifteen years younger than Christie that eventually becomes her second, less horrible husband) and where all of their secrets collide in drama and tragedy.
I loved this book. I am not sure how much is real or imagined, and I have been reluctant to find out, because I just enjoyed all of it. I especially liked how Ashford’s details remind me so much of later Christie novels, my favorites of which have centered around archaeology. It’s a great book about female friendships and about life in the twenties for women, and it feels a lot like a mystery. I wanted to immediately go devour some Hercule Poirot, but really that’s nothing new. I stayed up way past my bedtime for this one.
Grade – A-