It’s no easy feat to write a “new” Agatha Christie book with the beloved Hercule Poirot. One can almost hear him making a snide comment about it himself. Purists are hoping for failure. Fans are hoping they won’t be disappointed.
And on the face of it, Sophie Hannah isn’t necessarily an obvious choice. She’s known for gritty, highly psychological police procedurals. Murder is torturous and grotesque in her novels — not the polite drawing room murder of Christie.
Then there is the unflappable Poirot. Idiosyncratic and brilliant, full of quips and turns of phrase only he would use. How does one replicate that?
Lastly, the mystery itself. Christie often overwhelms the case file with “evidence” which only Poirot can successfully sift through and discover the truly meaningful clues.
Even if it were something I would dare to try, I would never let anyone read my effort.
Hannah does a great job, riding the fine line. She doesn’t seek to directly imitate Christie — she simply adds a Poirot tale to the canon. Very smartly, she gives Poirot a new sidekick, Catchpool of Scotland yard, rather than reanimating Captain Hastings and inviting more comparison. (I must admit I dearly missed the inclusion of just a whiff of Miss Lemon, though.) Catchpool is new to the force and acts as a sort of guide to the also-befuddled reader. He is enthusiastic, if a bit slow to pick up on Poirot’s hints.
The majority of the story is told by Catchpool, with the occasional inclusion of Poirot’s memories (This device, though needed, was awkward at times). The crime is sufficiently convoluted to entice a Christie fan. Sometimes the MacGuffins are a bit too obvious and it would be unthinkable that even a new constable would miss them. But once the action gets going, the story unwinds at a satisfying pace, with the answer to one question leading to two more.
The ultimate solution is truly bizarre, but plausible, based on the information provided.
In general, Hannah achieves telling a Poirot story in Poirot fashion. I often heard David Suchet’s voice in my head while reading the dialogue. Christie fans should be proud of this effort and thrilled that her Belgian detective is so loved that mystery fans just had to have more.
Blanche Unsworth, as was her custom, asked Poirot the moment he returned to the lodging house if there was anything she could get for him.
“Indeed there is,” he told her.”I should like a piece of paper and some pencils to draw with. Colored pencils.”
Blanche’s face fell. “I can bring you paper, but as for colored pencils, I can’t saw as I’ve got any, unless you’re interested in the color of ordinary pencil lead.”
“Ah! Gray: the best of all.”
“Are you having me on, Mr. Poirot? Gray?”
“Oui.” Poirot tapped the side of his head. “The color of the little gray cells.” ~Pg. 163-4
And can I just say, the British cover art and end paper (oh my those end papers!) are fabulous. View them here: http://www.crimefictionlover.com/2014/09/first-look-poirot-in-the-monogram-murders/
Many thanks to Kaitlin at William Morrow for organizing the Summer Of Christie and for BookClubGirl for hosting the discussions.
Series: Hercule Poirot Mysteries
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: William Morrow; 1st Printing edition (September 9, 2014)
Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches