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The Monogram Murders: A New Hercule Poirot Mystery Paperback – June 9, 2015
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“Sophie Hannah does an egoless, silky job of reviving Agatha Christie’s beloved Belgian detective Hercule Poirot...enough so to hope that Hannah turns to Miss Marple next.” (USA Today)
“Christie herself, some might say, could do no better.... Enough twists, turns, revelations and suspects to cook up a most satisfying red-herring stew. Literary magic.” (Washington Post)
“Does Sophie Hannah’s Poirot live up to our expectations? Yes, he does, and markedly so.... As tricky as anything written by Agatha Christie. The Monogram Murders has a life and freshness of its own. Poirot is still Poirot. Poirot is back.” (Alexander McCall Smith, New York Times bestselling author of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency)
“Perfect...a pure treat.” (Tana French, New York Times-bestselling author of The Secret Place)
“Terrific.... uncanny. As Hercule Poirot himself would say, ‘Bravo, Madame Hannah. Bravo.’ ” (Boston Globe)
“Sophie Hannah is a prodigious talent. I can’t wait to see what she does next.” (Laura Lippman)
“Sophie Hannah’s idea for a plot line was so compelling and her passion for my grandmother’s work so strong, that we felt that the time was right for a new Christie to be written.” (Mathew Prichard, grandson of Agatha Christie)
“Sharply written and rigorously plotted, this Poirot mystery rivals many of Christie’s own.” (NPR)
“Equal parts charming and ingenious, dark and quirky and utterly engaging…I was thrilled to see Poirot in such very, very good hands. Reading The Monogram Murders was like returning to a favorite room of a long-lost home.” (Gillian Flynn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Gone Girl)
“Sophie Hannah’s The Monogram Murders does Christie proud. Our favorite detective is back and in impeccable form!” (Charles Todd, New York Times bestselling author of An Unwilling Accomplice)
About the Author
Sophie Hannah is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous psychological thrillers, including Woman with a Secret, as well as The Monogram Murders and Closed Casket, the first novels to be authorized by the estate of Agatha Christie. Her books have received numerous awards, including a UK National Book Award, and are published in twenty-seven countries. She lives in Cambridge, England.
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In fact, I hadn't ever before realised just how psychic Poirot was. How remiss of Ms Christie never to reveal this fact! All these years she led us to believe he came to his conclusions based on his reading of the clues, his ability to see through the red herrings to the facts, the superior power of his little grey cells. Ms Hannah kindly lets us in on the true secret though. Clues are unnecessary. Poirot just knows what has happened. At each stage, as other people flounder to make sense of the plot (well, I certainly did!), Poirot sees straight through to the truth without the need for any pesky evidence or suchlike nonsense. What a gift! Unfortunately not one that makes a detective novel work very well though...
If this book had been written about a detective called Smith, it might have rated maybe three stars. The plot is convoluted, psychologically unconvincing and over-padded. The list of suspects is far too small, meaning that there are no big surprises come the reveal. But the writing style is quite good, some of the characterisation is fine and the descriptions of the places involved in the plot are done reasonably well.
BUT...there is a great big 'Agatha Christie' on the front of the book, so this should really read like one of hers, shouldn't it? It doesn't. From the very beginning Poirot is not right. For a start, he has moved into a lodging house because he wants to escape from his fame for a while and be anonymous. Doesn't sound like the Poirot I know! Secondly we hear almost nothing about his little foibles - his vanity, his moustaches, his rotundity, his endearingly egg-shaped head, his patent leather shoes. We do get to hear a little about his passion for order but just as a sop. Thirdly he goes about searching rooms and seeking out physical clues like Holmes on an eager day. The real Poirot, as we know, is actually much more interested in the psychology of the crime. Fourthly, when the real Poirot speaks French, he kindly only uses words we're all going to get without resorting to a French-English dictionary - mais pas ce prétendant. Fifthly, at the end he actually participates in a formal police interview in a police station - but I was past the stage of caring long before then anyway. So I'll be kind and spare you sixthly, seventhly...etc.
I saw Sophie Hannah being interviewed about the book on the BBC News channel, and she said that she had decided not to try to recreate Christie's style. So she created a new character, Catchpool, to be the narrator so that he could bring a new voice to the story. I was willing to go along with this idea, though it seemed a shame not to have Hastings along for the ride. But firstly (sorry), Catchpool is extremely annoying. He can't stand dead bodies, keeps walking away from the investigation, is as thick as a brick and basically hands the entire investigation over to Poirot (mind you, with Poirot's amazing supernatural abilities, who wouldn't?). Secondly, he's struggling not to reveal that he's gay - that's never spelled out, but it's quite clear from the unsubtle hints that are dropped all over the place. Now I know it's obligatory that every police officer in detective fiction is either gay or drunk these days, or both, (I suppose I should be glad that at least he was sober), but this is supposed to be a Christie-style book. I'm certainly not arguing that all gay men should be portrayed like Mr Pye in The Moving Finger, but the idea of Ms Christie having a gay policeman is frankly ridiculous. And Poirot's psychic powers let him down on that one, since he seems determined to pair Catchpool off with a nice woman. Thirdly, Catchpool tells the story in the first-person (past tense, thankfully), and yet knows every detail of what happens when he's not there. So he can describe all of Poirot's conversations verbatim, tells us when people stand up, sit down, blush, etc. - clearly Poirot's psychic abilities are catching.
The last fifth of the book is taken up with the traditional get-together where Poirot reveals what happened, but it goes on for ever and is mainly just Poirot telling us the whole story, with no reference as to how he came by all these amazing insights. As I said before, he just knows! And considering how silly and unlikely the plot is, that seems beyond miraculous.
I can only say that I sincerely hope there won't be another of these. If there is, even I will be able to resist the temptation next time. Because now (cue spooky music), FictionFan just knows too...
Consider, in constrast, works like "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd", "Lord Edgware Dies," "Peril at End House," "The ABC Murders," "Evil Under the Sun," etc. The solutions to Christie's mysteries were always brilliant and elegant but fair to the reader. The mystery in Hannah's novel is a mess. It's unnecessarily complicated, it involves too many uninteresting characters, it requires no insight or trick to solve, and it's unsatisfying after it's revealed. Although all the superficial details are there, this new novel fails completely to capture the mood of the original. It's not a drawing-room or village murder, or even a locked-room mystery or murder-in-retrospect. If anything, it's a modern crime thriller or even something like a police procedural (with a private investigator rather than a police officer) disguised as an older novel. We watch Poirot conduct an investigation, interrogate forgettable witnesses, and gradually piece together a bloated, convoluted mystery. The novel lacks the cleverness of Christie's work and her ingenious solutions, and adding Poirot to an otherwise forgettable modern thriller isn't enough to redeem it.
Most recent customer reviews
It is NOT written by Agatha Christie.Read more
On being able to once again share a journey with Poirot (his presentation was technically well done) - 5.Read more