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The 8:55 to Baghdad: From London to Iraq on the Trail of Agatha Christie and theOrient Express Paperback

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 401 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook TP (May 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585678023
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585678020
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,440,640 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Agatha Christie fans, as well as connoisseurs of fine travel writing, will relish British journalist Eames's gripping, humorous and eye-opening account of his train and bus trip across Europe and the Middle East on the eve of the second Gulf War. A chance stay in a Syrian hotel where Christie once stayed prompts Eames to attempt to follow in the bestselling author's footsteps. Despite the awkward timing, Eames (Crossing the Shadow Lines: Travels in South-East Asia) finds many friendly faces, even in Iraq, where a close call with a mysterious explosion curtails his journey. Admirers of the creator of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot will learn more about her relationship with the peoples of the region (Kurds, Armenians and Palestinians), as well as the real-life inspiration for her classic 1934 novel, Murder on the Orient Express: a blizzard that stranded the historic train for nine days in 1929. Especially engaging is the way Eames describes his traveling companions on the last leg of his odyssey as if they were the cast of characters in a typical Christie mystery. (May 31)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

In 1938, when she was 38, Agatha Christie took a 3,000-mile train ride on the Orient Express from London to Baghdad. Eames retraces her journey, describing many of the places and events that influenced Christie's fiction. Along the way, he offers some background on her early life: her father died when she was 11, she later married Max Mallowan, an archaeologist. Eames relates a brief history of the Orient Express and recounts his visits to Baghdad, Damascus, Trieste, Zagreb, Belgrade, Sofia, Istanbul, and other cities. Throughout, he writes about the people he met--fellow passengers, taxi drivers, hotel managers, guides, and military escorts--and the hotel rooms he stayed in. Armchair travelers will enjoy the journey. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

I enjoyed the author's style of writing and the humor he sprinkled throughout his story.
Author Eames is in Aleppo, Syria, when he hears a reference to Agatha Christie coming regularly to Aleppo to "have her hair done."
Indian Prairie Public Library
Many interesting people are met along the way and the fascinating history of the various countries is told in a new fresh light.
Seth J. Frantzman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Journalist Andrew Eames follows in the footsteps of Agatha Christie as he retraces her route from London to Baghdad on the Orient Express. Christie traveled to the Middle East many times and enjoyed her visits there. When she visited, before World War II, places such as Damascus and Cairo and even Baghdad evoked romantic and exotic images. Eames's journey takes place in 2003 when even Lawrence of Arabia might think twice about going.

Eames sleeps through the European part of the trip, eager to get to the more challenging Belgrade and Serbia and beyond. On the way, he recalls what it would have been like in Christie's time and observes what it is like now. Sometimes, as in the London suburb where he begins the journey, not much has changed. Often, as in Belgrade and certainly Baghdad, things are much different.

8:55 to Baghdad hurtles from familiar to exotic to frightening and back again. When things start to get too gritty and real in Serbia, Eames takes us back to the days of luxury aboard the Orient Express. When the company of pre-WWII upper class snobs threatens to become boring, we are whisked onto a bus to cross the border into Iraq on the eve of war in 2003.

All along the way, Eames recalls Christie's career and her life. She enjoyed accompanying her archaeologist husband to the Middle East and didn't mind roughing it from time to time. Roughing it back then meant camping out at a dig in the desert without running water. Roughing it in Baghdad in 2003 meant dodging bombs.

Even if you are not a Christie fan, there is a lot to enjoy in this narrative. The Orient Express, archaeology, modern history, travel essay, it's all here. It reminds me of Beyond the Blue Horizon by Alexander Frater, another British writer.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By karriela on October 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I'm a big fan of Agatha Christie and travel books and this book seemed like it would be a great combination of the two. It was and it was much more. Eames deftly handles the bio-history of Christie, the juxtaposition of her trip 75 years earlier with his modern day experience, as well as giving very sharp insight into the people and history of today. I was especially interested, and surprised, to read his detailed accounts of traveling through the recently peaceful Balkans and the people he encountered. I had not expected that element of the travelogue and was intrigued by his experiences.

Also of interest were his travels along what was the Taurus Express--the rail line that ran between Istanbul and Baghdad. These now mainly muslim countries that still held so much evidence of the imperialist occupation by European countries were of great interest to read about--especially given that many of those countries are not safe to travel.

Christie's remarkably brave trek from London to Baghdad as a lone female in 1928 was equalled by Eames' much more hazardous trip on the brink of a major war.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Susanne Pleines on August 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is a real treat. A journey by train all the way from London to Baghdad, just before the invasion of Iraq. In the footsteps of Agatha Christie. At first sight it seems an odd mix of travel adventure and literary biography, and it does change pace regularly, just like the trains Eames travels with. But there are some real insights in here, and some great pieces of observational writing. I particularly liked the bits in Slovenia and Serbia, and of course the final bus trip across the desert to Baghdad. Highly recommended.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By heyjude on September 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I would definitely recommend borrowing this from the library as opposed to purchasing. The author attempts to follow the route that Agatha Christie would have taken en route to the Middle East via the Orient Express. He provides bits and pieces of information both about Christie and the various points where she may have stopped along the way. Unfortunately, they are just that - bits and pieces.

The vignettes about Christie are interspersed with a modicum of detail about the various countries and points of interest. Perhaps there is more detail at the beginning of the trip but by the end of the journey he almost seems to gloss over the countries and archaeological sites in favor of discussing his rather unfortunate fellow travellers.

There are a few black and white pictures interspersed: some of Christie and her husband Max Mallowan, some of the ancients sites as they are today.

The ending is a complete let down - after arriving back at his initial inspiration, Aleppo, the book just ends. Nothing further to fill out what happened with his fellow bus companions, nothing about a return journey.

If at all intrigued by either Christie or the archaeology of the area, this might be a beginning overview, but I would suggest looking up more indepth (auto)biographical material on Christie and definitely other "travelogues" or historical works on the wonders of the Middle East.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By B. Case TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 6, 2007
Format: Paperback
Why would anyone still read a travelogue in this, the beginning of the 21st century, when it was so easy to find outstanding independent film travel documentaries, many prepared by only one or two individuals at most? Certainly this visual medium combined with well-edited documentary realism and well-scripted travel guide dialog would serve better than print for the purpose of introducing a novice to a new culture, people, or place. But a modern-day print-based travelogue was what our book club leader assigned for our next book. That is how I came to read "The 8:55 to Baghdad" by Andrew Eames. I am glad I did.

In 2003, on the eve of the second Gulf War, seasoned English travel-writer Andrew Eames retraced the famous train trip that Agatha Christie made 75 years earlier on the Orient Express from London to Baghdad. Thus this book is a delightful hybrid--part history and biography of Christie, part travelogue concerning a unique trip through parts of the world where few Westerners choose to travel, and part transcribed candid conversations with strangers and interviews with local dignitaries that the author hooked up with during this travels.

Thankfully, Eames knew better than to bore us with the familiar. Most of the travelogue deals primarily with the wholly unique--parts of the trip where the typical Western traveler has little to no experience. I am speaking of countries like Croatia, Serbia, Syria, and Iraq, as well as little travel portions of Hungary and Turkey.

Personally, I was only mildly interested in the Christie history. What interested me most was the candid conversations that the author was able to have with strangers everywhere along his travels. These conversations often open up a whole new perspective on world politics.
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