Thank you, Hercule Poirot

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The room at the Hotel Pera Palace in Istanbul where Christie may have written her novel

Eyes focused on a gouge in the old wooden table in our meeting room in the library, I reluctantly shook my head when my writing group asked if I had read Dame Agatha Christie’s novel, Murder on the Orient Express. I was bombarded from all sides with instructions to read the novel. Posthaste. I nodded my head, finally able to make eye contact with the other five members of the group. 

In preparation for my snowbird flight to Arizona (total travel time from door to door: twelve hours), I downloaded the novel onto my Kindle app. I travel with at least four new novels on my Kindle because you just never know. What if I don’t like one or two of the books? (That’s not an uncommon occurrence.) What if we are stranded in an airport for an extra day or two? (With the weather we are having this winter, that was a distinct possibility.) What if I read really, really fast and I run out of books? (Combine this with the first two scenarios and I would be faced with a travel disaster, right up there with lost luggage.)

The short flight from Manchester, NH, to Baltimore, MD, leaves just enough time to get settled and drink a cup of coffee yet I pulled out my Kindle from my bag as soon as my seatbelt was buckled. A commitment is a commitment, after all. I had just started to unzip the Kindle carrying case when the woman sitting in the aisle seat forced me into a conversation.

I usually keep my eyes and mouth turned away from my traveling neighbor but for some reason I was driven to mind my manners and responded when spoken to. (Was I avoiding Ms. Christie? Unimaginable.) Turns out we had much in common: parents with dementia, parents in nursing homes, daughters with weddings, Sandbridge, Virginia, and much more. We talked and laughed all the way to Baltimore, where we said farewell.

Once my husband and I disembarked and found our gate, lunch became our number one priority. I walked around the terminal several times then settled down with my phone to see what I had missed while at 35,000 feet. All the while, the novel gnawed away at me. Was I running out of time to finish it before we touched down at Sky Harbor airport?

Confession time: I overestimate how much I can accomplish in the time available. I didn’t want to fall victim to this character flaw one more time.

Luckily, my aisle neighbor for our final leg of the flight was a man. I find that when men sit next to me on an airplane they ignore me, except for the occasional unintentional elbow jab. Once again I brought out my Kindle, fired it up, and started to read. Aside from a short nap (mouth open—I am my mother) and one trip to the bathroom, I spent the flight to Phoenix devouring Murder on the Orient Express.

As I came closer and closer to the resolution of the crime, I thought “this is an enjoyable book but who in the world could have done it?” Once I reached the end of the book, I realized that never in a million years could I have figured out the ending without the assistance of the admirable Hercule Poirot.

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There is more good news beyond the fact that I finished the book before the wheels touched down in Phoenix. In November of this year, a new film adaptation of the book will be released. Once again, I anticipate that I will be glad that I read the book first.

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About Karen Whalen

A contemporary fiction writer with an accumulation of incomplete novels and short stories, I consider NH "home," spending the summer through Christmas there with my husband. My youngest daughter and her family live nearby (as well as my mother and other family members). January finds us venturing to VA to visit our middle daughter and her family before we make our way to sunny AZ to live with our oldest daughter and family. We spend time in VA on our way home. I am fortunate that my daughters live in places I would have retired to all on my own! My 87 year-old mother asks if I will finish my novel (which one, I wonder) before she dies.....Even with that for a goal, I manage to excel at procrastination!

Posted on January 9, 2017, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I believe my tongue was protruding into my cheek when I wrote that so I’ll pass on that bridge. Thanks anyway, Heidi! Also, I think that the movie’s release date is right around Thanksgiving.

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  2. That movie has to be a writing group excursion for us! And how gracious of you to let us know how right we were. BTW, if you think the male tendency to hog the arm rest is “unintentional” I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

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