Agatha Christie is responsible for writing some of the most popular books of all time, with more people flocking to check out her work every day. The most recent adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express hit theaters in 2017. Actor Kenneth Branagh played the iconic French sleuth Hercule Poirot, whose train journey is derailed by the murder of a notorious passenger. As one might expect from one of the Queen of Crime's works, there are as many red herrings as there are potential suspects, and such close quarters creates a palpable sense of menace. Once violence breaks out on board, there's nowhere to run—forcing predator and prey to sit side by side.
Our love for the novel and movie versions has us thinking about our other favorite mysteries—especially those set on trains. From a Patricia Highsmith classic to Poirot's very first investigation, these books are perfect reads for fans of Murder on the Orient Express.
The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Before he sleuthed aboard the Orient Express, Hercule Poirot launched his career with a poison case. With no definitive clues pointing to a killer, Poirot is forced to take to the streets of an English village and question its eclectic residents. But who among them is the culprit? Is it the nurse with easy access to poisons? The unfaithful husband with an axe to grind, or the stepsons robbed of their inheritance? Narrowing this pool of suspects will hone the skills Poirot uses to solve Samuel Ratchett’s murder years later.
In the Balance
If anyone is Poirot’s sleuthing equal, it’s Miss Maud Silver. She, too, finds herself in a Murder on the Orient Express-style whodunit in this Patricia Wentworth classic. While on a London Train, a frightened bride comes to Silver claiming her new groom, Dale Jerningham, wants her dead. She wouldn’t be first the Mrs. Jerningham to wind up six feet under—his previous wife also met a sudden end, with all evidence pointing to Dale’s involvement. Can Miss Silver help the imperiled newlywed and prevent “til death do us part” from coming much too soon?
Dine and Die on the Danube Express
Similar to the Orient Express, the Danube was once the finest train on the continent before automobiles and airplanes ran it out of business. After years of neglect, it’s finally up and running again—though now it's a mecca for rich and famous travelers. When an actress vanishes during the Danube's 25th anniversary trip, it's up to London's premiere gourmet detective to sniff out which of his fellow passengers has a taste for murder...
The Deadly Travellers
All things considered, escorting a girl from Rome to England should’ve been a cinch for aspiring adventuress Kate Tempest. But her mission gets unexpectedly derailed when her charge, 7-year-old Francesca, disappears without a trace. No other train passengers saw Francesca on board, but her favorite doll—which has been suspiciously left behind—indicates a kidnapper, not a runaway. If Kate hopes to find her, she must steam straight ahead and take a detour into a world of danger and deception.
Mr. Moto Is So Sorry
Calvin Gates and Sylvia Dillaway have no idea that they’ve become key players in Mr. I.A. Moto’s latest scheme. As Japan’s top agent, Moto has been entrusted with the delivery of a secret message—hidden within a precious cigarette case—into the correct hands. Because the case is currently in Sylvia’s possession, she and Calvin have become the prime targets of the Japanese, Russian, and Chinese governments who want it for themselves. Now, Mr. Moto must not only protect the case, but the two passengers’ lives as well, in a time and place when enemies are around every corner.
Murder on the Ballarat Train
After being chloroformed on a railway trip to Ballarat, Miss Phryne Fisher wakes to find the first-class carriage in utter chaos. The wealthy Mrs. Ann Henderson has been found dead, and it’s up to Phryne, now hired by the victim's daughter, to identify the elusive killer. Throw in rumors of witchcraft and a young amnesiac—not to mention Phryne's glitz, glamour, and gumption—and you’ve got yourself a sexier, lighthearted take on Christie’s 1930s mystery. You can catch the television adaptation of Murder on the Ballarat Train in the second episode of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries.
Related: Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries and the Femininity of Strong Female Characters
Strangers on a Train
Architect Guy Hands and closeted psychopath Charles Bruno both have people they could do without. For Guy, it’s his current wife, who stubbornly refuses to finalize their divorce. For Charles, it’s his mogul father—a wealthy but cold man whom he’s always hated. The pair meet on board a Texas train, and their boozy commiseration eventually moves their minds to murder. The solution to their shared plight? Charles will kill Guy’s wife, if Guy kills Charles' father...
An Expert in Murder
Nicola Upson's 1930s heroine, Josephine Tey, makes her sleuthing debut in this historical mystery set in post-war England. It’s the closing week of Josephine’s politically-charged play, Richard of Bordeaux, and she’s traveling to London for the final performances. On the train, she befriends Elspeth Simmons, a young but enthusiastic fan of Josephine’s work. But in a twist straight out of a West End production, Elspeth is killed in her railway car—quite possibly for the work she so admired. Feeling responsible, Josephine teams up with Detective Archie Penrose to track down “who-done-it” before the curtain closes on Josephine's reputation forever.
The Necropolis Railway
The year is 1903, and country boy Jim Stringer wants "in" on the sudden railway boom. He nabs a position on the South East Railway, only to discover that he’ll be transporting a peculiar set of passengers—corpses, to be precise. Nicknamed the "Necropolis Railway," the train ships coffins to burial grounds on the outskirts of London. To make matters worse, Jim's predecessor disappeared on the job, and he believes his hostile coworkers may be at fault. Is it possible that he’s unwittingly booked a ticket to his own grave?
Lady to Kill
When Julie Edwards embarks on a journey to visit an old friend—Martha—she meets fellow passenger Chance Molloy. As the two get to know each other, they discover they have something in common: They both know Martha. Or they think they do.
Chance shows Julie a picture of their mutual friend, only to discover it’s not the face of the woman that Julie knows. To make matters more unnerving, an unknown assailant knocks Julie unconscious on her way back to her train car. Stuck on the train barreling toward New York, the two of them dive into a business deal gone bad and race to evade the killers among them.
This multifaceted mystery starts with the classic conflict of infidelity. Private detective Steve Ericson is hired by Dolly DePereyra to follow her two-timing husband Michael on his overnight train ride from Chicago to New York. It’s all very routine—what’s a P.I. without a cheating husband to trail—until it’s not. This time, the P.I. also has to clear Dolly’s name when her husband turns up dead.
Ericson is unsurprised to discover that Michael was indeed having a sordid affair. But he’s a little more surprised to discover Michael’s involvement with a meeting of four atomic scientists.
The Lady Vanishes
This thrilling novel was the source material for Alfred Hitchcock’s classic . Wildly attractive and criminally bored, socialite Iris Carr boards a train home to England alone. Aboard the train, Iris’s interest is piqued by the delightfully gossipy spinster Miss Froy. But Iris becomes truly intrigued when Miss Froy mysteriously disappears.
As Iris searches for her new companion and speaks to the other passengers, she discovers that no one else aboard the train can remember Miss Froy at all. Following a trail of danger and madness, Iris is determined to get to the bottom of this bizarre disappearance.
The Girl on the Train
Each morning Rachel rides the commuter train, finding a simple joy in “people watching” the couple that lives in a house by one of the stops. She’s named this couple Jess and Jason. Jess and Jason are perfect. Jess and Jason are reliable and routine, just like the train. Until one day they’re not.
After Rachel sees something peculiar at the house she passes every morning, a twisting, thrilling mystery begins to unravel. When the police refuse to take her seriously, Rachel investigates the odd happenings around the not-so-perfect Jess and Jason on her own.
Night Train to Rigel
This Timothy Zahn novel melds high-stakes science fiction with thrilling mystery. An exotic species called the Spiders run the Quadrail–an extensive intergalactic railroad. When former government agent Frank Compton is contacted by the Spiders, he is brought into a mystery that holds the fate of Earth in its balance.
The Spiders believe an unknown enemy is achieving the impossible—smuggling battleships on the Quadrail. This slippery foe is primed to attack civilizations across the galaxy and drag them into slavery. Now, Compton is the only thing that stands in the way of large scale disaster.
Featured still from "Murder on the Orient Express" via Twentieth Century Fox