Monday, December 14, 2009

All Aboard For Murder: 10 Mysteries and Thrillers On Trains

After 126 years, the famed Orient Express has taken its final journey. As such, we thought it would be fun to highlight some of the mysteries and thrillers in which a train plays a major role. Included in our survey are entries starring Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, James Bond, railway detective Jim Stringer, and a couple of books that were adapted into classic films by director Alfred Hitchcock. Also below are links to murder mystery trains.

01. The Mystery of the Blue Train (1928) by Agatha Christie
The Mystery of the Blue Train (Hercule Poirot)In one of his early whodunits, the great detective Hercule Poirot is bound for the French Riviera on Le Train Bleu. Soon, he must solve a murder and recover some priceless rubies. The novel, which takes its plot from the 1923 Poirot short story "The Plymouth Express," also features Christie's first description of the fictional village St. Mary Mead, later the home of Miss Marple.

02. Stamboul Train (Orient Express) (1932) by Graham Greene
Stamboul Train: An Entertainment (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics)One of his forays into what the literary author classified as "entertainment," this thriller set on an Orient Express train was renamed Orient Express when published in the U.S. As the train makes its way to Istanbul, the story focuses on the diverse group of passengers -- including a shrewd businessman, an exiled socialist leader, and a murderer.

03. Murder on the Orient Express (1934) by Agatha Christie
Murder on the Orient Express: A Hercule Poirot Mystery (Agatha Christie Collection)(First published in the U.S. as Murder in the Calais Coach to avoid confusion with the U.S. edition of Graham Green's Orient Express.) One of the author's most famous mysteries finds Hercule Poirot a passenger on the luxury train when a snowdrift stops the Orient Express in its tracks. By morning, one of its passengers has been stabbed to death in his compartment -- which is locked from the inside. The book is notable for the author having combined some factual events into its plot. Made into a 1974 film directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Albert Finney as Poirot, the all-star cast of suspects included Anthony Perkins, Sean Connery, Michael York, and Ingrid Bergman, who won an Oscar for her performance.

04. The Wheel Spins (1936) by Ethel Lina White
The Lady Vanishes (Dales Mystery)The basis for the Alfred Hitchcock thriller The Lady Vanishes, this novel concerns a young woman who is traveling Europe by train and meets an elderly spinster -- who soon disappears from the moving train. In her attempts to find the old lady, the woman finds herself caught in a web of intrigue and danger. Good luck finding a copy of the book, but the film The Lady Vanishes is one of Hitchcock's early triumphs. (The basic plot device has been used numerous times since, including the 2005 thriller Flightplan starring Jodie Foster.)

05. Strangers on a Train (1950) by Patricia Highsmith
Strangers on a TrainThe first novel by the author of the popular Ripley series, Strangers on a Train is a psychological thriller about men who meet on a train -- architect Guy Haines and playboy Charles Anthony Bruno -- who discuss the people in their lives they wish were out of the way. The psychotic Bruno hits upon the idea that they exchange murders to avoid either of them being suspects. Also the basis for a classic Hitchcock film starring Farley Granger and Robert Walker. The novel and the film have significant differences.

06. From Russia, With Love (1957) by Ian Fleming
From Russia with Love (James Bond Novels)The fifth James Bond novel, From Russia, with Love involves a series of elaborate plots and counter-plots between the British and the Russian intelligence agencies -- and a showdown aboard the Orient Express between Bond and SMERSH executioner Red Grant. The book became a best-seller in 1961 when listed as one of U.S. President John F. Kennedy's ten favorite books. Made into a film starring Sean Connery.

07. 4.50 from Paddington (1957) by Agatha Christie
4:50 From Paddington: A Miss Marple Mystery (Agatha Christie Collection)This detective story starring Miss Marple -- which also goes by the titles What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw! and Murder, She Said -- finds a woman named Elspeth McGillicuddy riding the rails down from Scotland when she witnesses a woman strangled in a passing train. Miss Marple believes her story -- but there's no evidence any murder has been committed. Made into the 1961 film Murder, She Said starring Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple.

08. The Seven Percent Solution (1974) by Nicholas Meyer
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution: Being a Reprint from the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D. (Norton Paperback)Written as a "lost manuscript" of Watson's, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution: Being a Reprint from the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D. recounts Sherlock Holmes' recovery from cocaine addiction with the help of Sigmund Freud. In the process, Holmes stumbles across a kidnapping plot, which leads the three men on a breakneck train ride across Austria in pursuit of a foe about to launch a war involving all of Europe. Also a film starring Nicol Williamson as Holmes, Robert Duvall as Watson, and Alan Arkin as Dr. Freud, with Sir Laurence Olivier as Professor Moriarty.

09. The Great Train Robbery (1975) by Michael Crichton
The Great Train RobberyA fictionalized account of the Great Gold Robbery of 1855, Crichton's historical novel details a massive gold heist which takes place on a train traveling through Victorian era England. Made into a 1979 film directed by Crichton starring Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland. (Yes, this makes Connery's third appearance on this list of books.)

10. The Necropolis Railway (2002) by Andrew Martin
The Necropolis Railway: A Jim Stringer Mystery (Jim Stringer Mystery Series)The first of a series of historical mysteries featuring railway policeman ("steam detective") Jim Stringer, the story involves a mysterious graveyard line. Followed by The Blackpool Highflyer, The Lost Luggage Porter, Murder at Deviation Junction, Death on A Branch Line, and The Last Train to Scarborough. The author was shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Dagger In The Library Award 2008 for the entire series.

Related links: Murder Mystery Trains
Murder Mystery Trains | The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad
Seminole Gulf Railway Dinner Train Theater
The Old Road Dinner Train
Keith & Margo's Murder Mystery Train: Los Angeles - San Diego, CA
Murder Mystery Train (Chicago to Milwaukee)
Cass Scenic Railroad State Park - Dinner Trains
Murder Mystery Trains | Maryland Mountainside
Murder Mystery on the Royal Gorge Route
The Mystery Train (Kansas City)
Mount Hood Railroad - special events
Cape Cod Central Railroad - Mystery Train

Related links:

Complete JAMES BOND novels by Ian Fleming
Complete Guide To James Bond Songs


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Die Laughing: Funny Crime and Mystery Fiction

SHE'S THE SHERIFF!

A woman with a complicated past returns home to become the small town's new sheriff. Best Mann For The Job is by the writer/artist team of Chris and Erica Well. Read it from the beginning at StudioWell.com. Watch the trailer on YouTube.