The Return of Poirot: The Monogram Murders & Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah

cylzxzpxgaay32_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.

511-dahdyl-_sy344_bo1204203200_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.

y648Closed 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,

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10 thoughts on “The Return of Poirot: The Monogram Murders & Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah

  1. I’ll be honest – I’ve not seen the point in taking another character and writing them in your style. What comes next, Poirot in a rom com?

    I had major issues with Monogram, not least with Catchpole – what sort of necrophobe would choose to be a policeman? – and the plot was so far removed from Christie’s style that I failed to see the point of including Poirot – apart from monetary ones of course.

    Closed Casket, I thought, was a deliberate effort to answer those issues, although Catchpole was reduced to a simple narrator. His issues were gone, but nothing was replaced, leaving him a cipher. It was a better book with some clever ideas but I’m still at something of a loss at why Hannah, someone with a very different style to Christie, was chosen to write these?

    • It’s interesting, isn’t it, the mixed reaction to the idea of continuing Poriot. I’m fairly open to any interpretation as long as TV adaptations don’t mess around with Christie’s plots. I remember seeing Cat Among the Pigeons and the murderer had been changed – ridiculous. I enjoyed Lagercrantz’s Girl in the Spider’s Web which has made me much more open to continuation books. I enjoyed these two from Hannah, not least because she introduced new characters. I think fans might have preferred the who cast -Miss Lemon, Hastings etc but she wouldn’t have been able to hang onto her own identity as a writer.

  2. I’m in a ‘well now that sounds interesting’ mode with the continuation of Poirot, even though it’s long after his demise. My first Poirot book many years ago was Murder on the Orient Express, and I’ve read most of them.
    I’m always a little unsure about reading books based on previous authors works ie The Girl in the Spider’s Web, written after the three original of Steig Larsson’s books, but I really enjoyed it. So, I think I’ll give them a go, and add Sofie Hannah to my ever increasing list of books TBR.

  3. I’m glad you found both works worth the read, Sarah. And I agree with you that the best stories come when authors find and use their own voices (i.e. rather than imitate someone else’s style).

      • My question would be though was that if Hannah’s voice wasn’t even close to Christie’s – which it isn’t – then why elect to write a Poirot novel in the first place? Apart from the ringing of cash registers…

        These, especially Monogram, are basically Sophie Hannah style novels that happens to have someone called Poirot in it who vaguely resembles the Christie character. In terms of plot structure, this can hardly be what the people who demanded a new Poirot novel, whoever they were, were expecting.

        At the end of the day, I just can’t see the point of a new Poirot book that doesn’t feel like a Poirot book. Closed Casket is closed, but still some way off…

  4. I read The Monogram Murders and give 3 out of five. Personally, Sophie Hannah ought to improve her language style to match 1929’s. I understand about her having her own ideas about HP and will hold my judgment about Closed Casket because I am still halfway the book.

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