I recently interviewed Sophie Hannah at an event in the Old Hall hotel in Buxton. It’s a old-style hotel and perfect for speaking to an author who has taken on the mantle of continuing one of our greatest fictional detectives, Hercule Poirot. I’d already listened to The Monogram Murders on audio book but hadn’t reviewed it on Crimepieces as I was waiting to read the book. When the hardback of the next Poirot novel, Closed Casket, arrived on my doormat it was the perfect opportunity to read both books back-to-back.
The Monogram Murders begins with a young woman rushing in to a coffee house and revealing to Poirot that she is already dead, or at least will be soon. Later that night three guests in the Bloxham Hotel are murdered and a cufflink placed in each of their mouths, mystifying Scotland Yard detective Edward Catchpool.
What follows is a murder mystery using Poirot, Christie’s famous detective but written in Sophie Hannah’s style. The decision to do this is very wise as I think few writers of Hannah’s pedigree would want to imitate the style of another author. The first third of book is slowly paced as we get used to the unusual Catchpool and his morbid fear of the dead. However, when we get to the untangling of the deaths, I found myself mesmerised by the narrative. It’s a devious plot and the extended revelation at the end is pure Poirot.
Closed Casket, the second Poirot book by Hannah is interesting in that in some respects it’s clearly a continuation of the style of book we see in The Monogram Murders and, at the same time, the author has subtly changed tack. Lady Athelinda Playford has a gathering at her country house in Ireland and over dinner announces that she has changed her will and cut off her children in favour of a man with only weeks to live. When a murder is committed, both Catchpool and Poirot pursue their own paths to catch the killer.
Those who have read Hannah’s psychological crime novels will recognise the complex plotting and it’s interesting to see how Catchpool’s character has developed. There’s more of Hannah’s humour in this book and an ingenious solution.
These were interesting books to review. I’ve deliberately not looked at any other commentary on the novels because there are legion of Christie fans each with their own take on the books. I think I read my first Poirot novel at twelve and have enjoyed the numerous film and TV adaptations over the years. Poirot is in safe hands with Hannah and I’ll definitely continue reading the series,