In this mystery, Poirot starts off in the Middle East solving an apparently brutal murder, but is called back to London just as it resolves. He finds himself taking the lengthy train trip on the Orient Express in a very downtrodden mood, mostly because of the results of his last mystery.
As usual, Poirot observes and evaluates many of his fellow passengers, and when one is killed in the middle of the night, Poirot finds he must solve the murder. Meanwhile, the train itself is stuck in a massive snow drift and both heat and power start to become a concern. Early in the investigation, Poirot uncovers the fact that the dead man is Samuel Ratchett (Toby Jones), a known murderer of children who got off on a technicality in America. This information alone means that most people on the train are happy to see the man dead, but which one of these people actually did the deed? As with most Poirot investigations, the detective uncovers lies and deceit behind most of his suspects' stories and, quite frankly, more than a couple of possible connections to the murder victim.
"Murder on the Orient Express" contains a surprising number of well known actors. Besides Jones (Captain America, The Hunger Games, The Harry Potter Films), this episode also contains Brian J. Smith (Stargate Universe), David Morrissey (The Walking Dead), Jessica Chastain (The Help and Zero Dark Thirty), Stewart Scudamore (Son of God), Eileen Atkins (Beautiful Creatures), Barbara Hershey (Black Swan) and Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey and The Monuments Men).
While this well known mystery is in this collection, it also contains three other stories that are both intriguing and entertaining. One of these, "Three Act Tragedy," has Poirot visiting an old friend, actor Sir Charles Cartwright (Martin Shaw, Inspector George Gently, Judge John Deed) at a dinner party. During the party, a local vicar dies after drinking a cocktail. While a lot of people quickly suspect poison, the dead man's lack of enemies rules out any motive and the man's glass contains no trace of drugs.
Some time later, word reaches Poirot of another, very similar death. One of Cartwright's guests, Doctor Bartholomew Strange (Art Malik, Upstairs Downstairs) was hosting a dinner party with almost the exact same attendee list (the only people missing were Poirot and Cartwright himself). This time it was Dr. Strange who died after taking a drink and Cartwright asks Poirot to investigate his friend's death.
Poirot and Cartwright are joined by a young lady nicknamed Egg (Kimberley Nixon), a guest at both parties and the trio begin questioning everyone involved trying to determine what they might gain from the doctor's death. Can Poirot uncover what's really going on? How is this tied to the vicar's death or a seemingly unrelated death at a sanitorium? Besides Shaw, Malik and Nixon, "Three Act Tragedy" also features Kate Ashfield (Shaun of the Dead) and Tom Wisdom (300), both as party guests and key figures in the investigation.
In "Hallowe'en Party," mystery writer (and recurring Poirot character) Ariadne Oliver (Zoe Wanamaker) calls Poirot to help with the murder of a young teenage girl. At a Halloween party, this young girl confesses that she once saw a murder but only recently realized that it was a murder she saw. Before the night is up, she is found drowned in an apple-bobbing tub. Oliver and Poirot join forces to find out not only who killed young Judith Butler, but also what murder she might have seen since it could easily have been her confession to witnessing such an act that led to her death.
Agatha Christie's Poirot: Series 12 also contains an episode called "The Clocks." This mystery starts when a temp agency in Dover sends a secretary to a job site. When Mrs. Webb (Jamie Winstone) shows up, she finds a man stabbed to death. Poirot happens to be in town during these events and is asked to help by a friend, Lt. Colin Race (Tom Burke), since Race was walking by the house that Webb ran out of when she discovered the body. Poirot finds he has to navigate some interesting waters this time. Not only does he have to deal with Race's superiors who fear the death is related to their Naval maneuvers, but he also has to deal with a local cop, Inspector Hardcastle (Phil Daniels).
Early investigations turn up some odd facts. For one, the blind woman that works at the murder scene claims that she made no call for a temp worker; for another, when Mrs. Webb entered the house, there were several clocks of different design all set to the same incorrect time. As Poirot digs deeper, he finds several people on the street that are more than they appear to be and it seems he might just uncover a spy ring, but does that have anything to do with the death Mrs. Webb stumbled upon and is being accused of committing? I'll just say that this is definitely a mystery with several interesting moving pieces that fit together quite well.
Agatha Christie's Poirot: Series 12 comes with two special features, a photo gallery and a 40+ minute long featurette where Suchet travels on the Orient Express from London to Prague. Along the journey he talks with travelers and staff and recounts to the viewer the history of the line and how it played a part in both World Wars and was eventually auctioned off one train car at time before it was built back up again.
Like most collections, Series 12 contains some solid Poirot mysteries, and while you can buy "Murder on the Orient Express" on its own, having it as part of the Series 12 set should be considered for anyone looking to complete their collection of this great series.