The 8:55 to Baghdad
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The 8:55 to Baghdad

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  209 ratings  ·  45 reviews
In 1928, Agatha Christie, the world's most widely read author, was a thirty-something single mother. With her marriage to her first husband, Archie Christie, over, she decided to take a much-needed holiday; the Caribbean had been her intended destination, but a conversation at a dinner party with a couple who had just returned from Iraq changed her mind. Five days later sh...more
Hardcover, 403 pages
Published June 16th 2005 by The Overlook Press (first published January 1st 2004)
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This is some of the best travel writing that I have ever read. This book is not only informative but also amusing and exciting.

In 1928, the young author Agatha Christie was divorced by her first husband Archie Christie. Soon after this, she embarked on a trip to the Middle East, travelling mainly by train. Travelling via the Balkans and Turkey, she reached what is now Syria, and then went on to what is now Iraq. There, she met up with archaeologists working on the sites of ancient cities such as...more
Such a great premise, but, unfortunately, poorly executed. The author is not an Agatha Christie fan, knew virtually nothing of her fascinating life before embarking on his journey and adds almost nothing to her biography through his excursion.

His references to Christie's famous disappearance are needlessly speculative with no purpose or affection for the woman.

He has neither enthusiasm or curiosity for his subject, which makes this a boring read. Even as a train travel book, there is no meat, ju...more
If you know much about my reading habits, you know I like Agatha Christie novels. A lot. So this book, in which the author recreates a journey Agatha Christie took many times over her lifetime, to Baghdad, intrigued me. Agatha was going to accompany her husband on archaeological digs. Eames is going to trace that journey, but also to see what it's like in Iraq on the eve of war. This is in 2002, right before the U.S. invasion/liberation/whathaveyou.

The book took FOREVER to read. It just wasn't a...more
Shonna Froebel
Andrew Eames is a travel journalist and he was in the ancient city of Aleppo in Syria when he discovered a side of Agatha Christie that he hadn't previously been aware of. As he learned more of her life in the Middle East, he decided to retrace the 1928 trip she took on her own to Baghdad, and beyond, the trip that completely changed her life. It was on this trip she met Max, who became her second husband and led her to spend many winters in this part of the world as she accompanied him on his a...more
My favorite obscure non-fiction genre is travelogue retracing famous historical routes. They tend to be a third history, a third anthology and a third pure wanderlust, and I will read every single one I can get my hands on. Wandering along the Inca Trail? Please write a book so I can read it. Recreating Captain Cook’s famous voyage? I will definitely read about it. Following any major river from the sea to its source? I’ve read two like that this year. Safe to say, I was predisposed to like The...more
Duncan Irvine
A superb read and a must for any lover of Agatha Christie and travel to exotic places I have read it twice and loves every word.
Picked up as an Audiobook from Audible, and read by the author, who does a decent job of it.

This book's concept started out as a "let's follow Agatha Christie's journeys to the middle east by train" story, but morphed into part travelogue, part history lesson and part Christie autobiography.

Eames attempts to do a trip between England and Baghdad, previously done several times and almost completely by train by Agatha Christie (and much on the Orient Express). This book is the result of when Eam...more
Ashland Mystery Oregon
Fascinating, multi-level work - biography, history, travelogue, mystery. Leaving from London on the 8:55 to Baghdad, Andrew Eames follows the trail of Agatha Christie, when she mysteriously disappeared from her English life in 1929.

Eames' journey starts in contemporary London: posh, busy, modern. The farther he travels by train from the centers of Western culture - England, France, Switzerland - into the mysteries of Eastern Europe - Trieste, Zagreb, Sofia - the more dilapidated and curious the...more
The really long break I took while reading this book was due to travel & returning it to the library, and then having to remember to check it back out again, and had nothing to do with the quality of the book.

This is a travelogue with biographical comments, and a good choice for Christie fans (although perhaps not for very casual fans of Christie's work). Eames' voice is excellent - none of the condescension or arrogance of Paul Theroux. Eames teaches the reader about the places he visits by...more
The premise of this book seemed great--we get to know more about the fearless lady adventurer side of Agatha Christie and we get to read about a fascinating train ride through several vastly different geographic and cultural regions via train--let's go!

However, the author seemed to know surprisingly little about Agatha Christie before he set out on this journey besides the fact that she wrote mysteries that were popular in many different countries. OK, sure, this was set up as a sort of detecti...more
Gerald Sinstadt
A chance encounter in an Aleppo hotel leads to a curious journey of investigation, a journey over several thousand miles by train and bus from Sunningdale in leafy Surrey to dusty Ur of the Chaldees close to the easternmost border of Iraq. Andrew Eames was prompted to make the trip in 2002 to retrace the journey that changed the life of Agatha Christie in the 1920's and after. It was in Mesopotamia (as Iraq then was) that the world-renowned writer of mystery stories met the archaeologist who bec...more
Kristy Bryson
This book was a pleasant surprise. I expected a recounting of Agatha Christie's "Second Spring," in which she transformed herself from a genteel, "golf-widow," depressed and lonely crime novelist, to a globe-trotting, archaeologist-dig assistant, newly-re-married, crime-novelist who spent the remainder of her life half in the Middle East (Irag and Syria). And Eames does deliver that. But he also created a personal travel diary of his own experiences attempting to retrace her actual steps, which...more
A travel book is a success if it makes you want to follow in the footsteps of the author. In this case Andrew Eames follows in the steps of Agatha Christie from London to Baghdad, & by the end of his journey I was inspired to follow in his - it goes without saying that trains are my favourite mode of travel.

What's really enjoyable about the journey that Eames takes is that he goes to places I'd never really read about before - this, he says, is what travel writers should do, exploring &...more
This is one of the all-time best travel books I have ever read. Eames keeps a delicate balance of pacing between Christie's story and that of the Orient Express and the various place he's visited. His prose is well-balanced and must cover somewhat realistic situations and nonrealistic situations (NATO began bombing while he was in Iraq).

In the end I want to evaluate this book on its literary value and I felt like it struck all of the chords that should have been struck. This was a journey that w...more
Jennifer Daly
As a piece of travel writing this book is wonderful. Eames deftly breaks down hundreds of years of the history of multiple countries in neat, crisp sentences. He describes his encounters with the local citizens he encounters with care.

However, as a huge Agatha Christie fan, I was disappointed at how little he knew about her as he set off, but also that I did not learn anything new about her from his journey. I did enjoy that he put her travels in context of the larger world but still I was hopi...more
4.5 stars. Eames, from a love of Christie's works and a fascination with her history, travels from England to Baghdad in her footsteps, but in a changed world. With rising tensions, he arrives in Baghdad months before the start of the Iraq War. His time in Iraq is definitely an intriguing climax to the book, but the whole journey is fascinating. Eames does a fantastic job of relating both history and current events of the locations he's journeying through as well as of the modes of transportatio...more
This book made me think more about the current situation in Iraq and Afghanistan from a different perspective. Also, it did make me sad to think that as an American, I probably couldn't safely travel to many of the countries described so wonderfully in the book, because my 'lovely' government has made being an American akin to being a big butthead. This book did inspire me to start rereading the Christie books that are set in or around the Orient Express and that area of the Middle East.
Great book - part travelogue through some lesser known tourist destinations - the Balkans, Turkey, Syria, Iraq as well as rich on biographical detail on Agatha Christie's life. If you have read some Agatha Christie, but is not an expert on her life, this book does an excellent job to increase your knowledge of the famous author. It will be interesting to find out how much of what he found in Iraq still remains since his journey was completed days before the American bombing started in 2004.
Barbara Roden
Eames starts with something that appears to be little more than a gimmick - trace Agatha Christie's journey from England to Iraq in the 1930s - and teases from it something deeper, not only illuminating a good deal about the reclusive author's life and works but paying a modern visit to some of the world's more troubled spots, and examining how things have changed - or haven't changed, as the case may be - over the last seven decades.
I was a big fan of Agatha Christie when I was a kid. This book retraces a seminal trip Christie took in 1928 as a recently divorced woman, on train from London to Bagdad. Andrew Eames, a journalist, followed the same route as Christie, mixing in his narration the history and geography of the lands he crosses, along with contemporary history of the time Christie travelled through there. He made it to Badgad a few months before 9/11.
Part travelogue, part history, part biography, this book takes the reader on the trail of Agatha Christie travelling from London to Iraq.

I am ont a particular fan of the Balkans, Balkan politics or Iraq history but the interplay between the journey and how Christie accomplished it some 70 years earlier maintains the interest with the references back to Christie's journey the best part of the book.
I want to take a trip on the Orient Express, putting it on my list. Learned interesting details about Agatha Christie that I did not know. After my trip to Turkey I was able to understand the author's amazement about the Iraqis as very generous hosts in spite of the timing of the book, with the author travelling right before America went in the first time.
I wanted to like this one more than I did - the balance was much more heavily weighted towards travelogue than Christie, which, while not awful, simply wasn't what I was looking for. It's a bit meandering and aimless, with an occasional tidbit about Christie popping up here and there - I don't think it really succeeds on either front.
Jo Marie
I really enjoyed this book. It's part history book, partly a travelogue and partly a biography of Agatha Christie. Have to admit I skimmed some of it because it was due at the library and I had other things I wanted to read,but I might re-read it sometime. It's very interesting.
Nicole Marino
FINALLY someone wrote this book...I was afraid I'd have to be the one. Ole Agatha traveled to Baghdad on her own, which was rather unusual...that, and her later Middle East sojourns with her archaeologist husband influenced some very creative (or at least atmospheric) mysteries.
You can love Agatha Christie, and follow her all the way to Baghdad, but mere doggedness is not enough, More passion, please, I was always relieved when her hotel room was unavailable to visit. Once they all arrive in Baghdad, however, the pace picks up.
More of a 2.5* for me. The first half was very slow, but from Syria onwards it held a bit more interest. I had no real knowledge of (or interest in) Agatha Christie, so that probably didn't help hold my interest.
Jan 07, 2013 Hannah marked it as did-not-finish
DNF. Not a bad book (there was actually some excellent information to be found between its pages). Just not holding my interest at this time. May check out at a later time when I'm in the mood.

Mar 06, 2014 ☯Bettie☯ rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: BBC7 listeners
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Part travel guide, part history and a glimpse of what made Agatha Christie tick. In parts it was a struggle to read, but overall, I learned some things. Among them, that I don't know enough history!
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Andrew Eames is a travel writer with his articles appearing in the Daily Telegraph and The Times.

He is an authority on Istanbul and the Nile.

He lives in London with his family.
More about Andrew Eames...
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