Saturday, July 29, 2017

Review of Murder on the Orient Express

On a whim, I bought Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express at a used bookstore, in Julian CA, of all places. It was a perfect book for traveling. I had read it years ago and in fact about 1/3 of the way through remembered the solution, but several things stood out for me anyway.

First, it begins in Aleppo, then quickly discusses Mosul and Baghdad. Right away it is showing you the places involved in the current fight against ISIS. And of course everyone in the novel sees the area as both a necessary part of the British Empire and a nuisance because of the locals. Later the British train official doesn't want the "Jugo-Slavian" police involved because they get all puffed up and indignant when talked down to.

Second, it engages in the worst stereotypes about "Latins" (in this case an Italian, but obviously it could be a Spaniard, Chilean, or anyone else). Of course they would be more likely to stab someone 20 times. That's what they do!

Third, it makes the same sorts of stereotypes about women, who also are more likely to get crazy and stab someone in his train bed. Couldn't be the stiff-upper lip British guy because they're so non-violent.

At least it is true, though, that the stereotypes are used to distract the reader because the truth is not so clear. Nonetheless, those stereotypes are accepted as generally accurate anyway.


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