The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah
First Published: Hannah, Sophie, The Monogram Murders. William Morrow, New York, September 2014.
I Read: The Monogram Murders, an Advanced Reader Copy I received in June 2014.
Summary: Poirot has decided to take a staycation in a boarding house few steps down from his own abode. One must give the little grey cells rest so they can recharge properly, so he has advertised around London that he is away. But the best laid plans of mice and men.... One night while dining at a new, favorite coffee house, a woman blows in visibly upset. Poirot, gentleman that he is, asks her if there is anything he can do to help her, as he is a man of some influence. She reveals that she will soon be murdered and begs Poirot not to investigate as she deserves the oncoming death.
The same night a fellow boarder, a Scotland Yard detective named Edward Catchpool, is summoned to the scene of three impossible murders. Poirot, upon hearing about these crimes, insists his coffee house encounter and the three murders are linked. Catchpool, like many before him, is unable to say no to the clever Belgian detective, so they set out to discover the truth.
Review: How many readers out there have become enamored or even loved a character, only to have your feelings muddied up because of a bad pastiche or disappointing fan fic? By an author trying so hard to leave their mark on a well-established franchise it diminished the whole?
This will not be a problem with Sophie Hannah’s new Christie mystery The Monogram Murders. It was a fantastic mystery, one which stitches itself seamlessly within the Christie body of work. I enjoyed reading the book. I believe Sophie did a great job in keeping true to Christie’s vision of her mysteries. I would put it around the Towards Zero or Crooked House range - an easy favorite for many readers.
While the writing is similar to Christie’s it is not exact nor should anyone expect it to be (and well, let's face it, the only way to get a perfect copy would be to clone Christie and that leads to the whole nature vs. nurture thing on whether a clone could really do it, but I digress from my point). But what Sophie has cleverly done is use many of the plot devices, themes and similar(ish) phrases in constructing the mystery that Christie used herself. All of which helps to smooth over any slight variances in word choices or style in the narrative. I don’t want to be to specific as I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone. The Monogram Murders follows the Rules Of Fair Play, meaning the clues to who did it, why and how the murders were committed are all there in front of you - but cleverly concealed by the narrative until the last few pages.
Sophie also kept her promise, there are no anachronistic problems in the mystery. She didn’t put Poirot on roller skates or have him telling knock-knock jokes - when reading this, Poirot feels much as he did in the last book I read, Cards On The Table. His foil, Catchpool, reminds me a bit of Hastings, insofar as Poirot is constantly trying to get him use his own “little grey cells”. Other than that, Catchpool is his own man with his own unique issues which alternately vex and help Poirot figure out this mystery.
Overall I would recommend The Monogram Murders to any Christie fan looking for a new installment in the famous Belgian detective’s career. My one critique is I think the “big reveal” at the end may have been a tad too long, but who am I to deny Poirot the limelight when wrapping up a case?
“I don’t know quite how a person manages to look as if he hasn’t eaten, incidentally. Perhaps I was leaner than I had been at breakfast that morning.” (pg.20)
“Hercule Poirot will not allow anyone else to dictate to him what his opinion should be; he will, rather, determine to believe the opposite, the contrary old cove that he is.” (pg.36)
Cheating: I did not cheat with this book as I did not feel like splitting hairs between an estate authorized novel and one penned by the Queen herself. I felt I would be violating the spirit the bet between my husband and myself if I cheated. Plus it neatly avoids any fight starting with: Well technically I didn’t cheat the book is a pastiche......Yeah it sounded lame in my head at the time and marital bliss is not something to overlook in the decision making process!
My 52 weeks With Christie: A.Miner©2014