The Woman on the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford | Rating: ★★★★☆
As a note, an e-galley of this novel was sent to me via NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.
The relationship between reader and novels set in historical time periods can be a tricky one to navigate. Often, you lose interest in the pages and wonder where they got there information. Moments that seem to fictional or too out of the general story path. Taking a reader to specific times and places is always a sticky matter but when it comes to incorporating much of the central plots, not a lot of authors can do so coherently.
The Woman on the Orient Express is not one of those published pieces and instead, is a refreshing turn to both its timeline and the familiar material inside its story. I remember looking at the description and thinking, oh, this could go so wrong. You have a 1920s setting and a fictional spin on Agatha Christie. Queen of mystery novels. That's what is going to make most readers do a double take of both good and bad varieties: we've got Agatha Christie as a character rather than an author.
It has that doting, appealing path of "I need to get away" (her husband has remarried) that we can all relate to and a strong sense of character. Lindsay Jayne Ashford handles every little thing gracefully, not dulling the story down in anyway and pushing us through her words in a grace that is not easily obtained. Her writing is smooth and captivating from the get-go and completely enjoyable in the way that will make you want to read it all day and all night until you've finally flipped to the final pages.
I love that there is this level of sensitivity that often lacks in historical fiction and truth that parallels what we know, or rather knew, about Agatha. It's so well-written it doesn't turn her into some sort of caricature of herself and it instead just feels right as rain. There's this sense of optimism and romance that just feels... indescribably, really. Ashford is the type of writer who will lull you into a velvety feel of comfort and intrigue. I don't think that any other author could pull that off in the way she did--she quite literally breathes life into this novel and it's impossible to compete with that.
You don't necessarily have to be an Agatha Christie fan to enjoy this one--I do think it will spark another interest in her iconic catalog of mysteries, but it's not required. Much like the real Christie's work, the novel takes a few unexpected turns... because, why not?
There are just so many layers in The Woman on the Orient Express that it would be impossible for me to list them all to you without spoiling the entire novel. If you love Agatha Christie, Ashford does justice to who she was as a person and captures that feeling of magic that comes when you pick up an incredible book. If you love historical fiction, this is doubly for you--you won't turn a page to more and more disappointment.
I highly recommend this for your autumn-winter reading list. Kick back, relax and take a little trip.