Review- The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah (aka The Brand New HERCULE POIROT Mystery)
The novel is set in the traditional 1920s & 1930s milieu that we are used to both from the majority of the Poirot stories (save those with Ariadne Oliver & Curtain) and from the TV adaptations – I do wonder if it is really possible to see Poirot in your mind’s eye nowadays without thinking of David Suchet.
The synopsis from the publisher is as follows:
“Hercule Poirot’s quiet supper in a London coffee house is interrupted when a young woman confides to him that she is about to be murdered. She is terrified, but begs Poirot not to find and punish her killer. Once she is dead, she insists, justice will have been done.
Later that night, Poirot learns that three guests at the fashionable Bloxham Hotel have been murdered, a cufflink placed in each one’s mouth. Could there be a connection with the frightened woman? While Poirot struggles to put together the bizarre pieces of the puzzle, the murderer prepares another hotel bedroom for a fourth victim…
In the hands of internationally bestselling author Sophie Hannah, Poirot plunges into a mystery set in 1920s London – a diabolically clever puzzle that can only be solved by the talented Belgian detective and his ‘little grey cells’.”
The reviews for this have been mixed but I did like it – it is a good read but it does have some fairly major flaws which I will now cover just some of.
It is narrated by a new character – Edward Catchpool who is a 32 year old police detective from Scotland Yard. We don’t know his rank – he is only ever called Catchpool or Mr Catchpool but he must be sufficiently senior to be allowed to go and investigate at Great Holling without asking permission. He is a policeman investigating murders but is scared of dead bodies – is this because he would have been 21 at the end of World War I so presumably would have served and may have been traumatised by the war. The problem with Catchpool is that we know little about him at the start and learn little more during the course of the novel – he is a mere tool for Poirot and not a well treated one at that.
There are some curious changes in the character of Poirot – he now appears to like English food (beef chop and vermicelli soufflé) and thinks that Pleasant’s kitchen in St. Gregory’s Alley in one of the less salubrious parts of London makes the best coffee Poirot has tasted anywhere in the world. Poirot also now likes fresh air and travelling on buses.
The plot does rely on Poirot making some leaps of logic that are a teensy bit heroic if one is being kind and the traditional ‘gather everybody together and show just how clever Poirot is’ drags on for far too long (Chapters 22 to 25 with the explanation to Catchpool so about 1/7 of the book).
There are more issues with the logic, characters and style highlighted by other reviewers – some I agree with and some I don’t – look at Amazon for some fairly damning reviews.
Will I buy a follow-up (Amazon are calling this ‘Hercule Poirot Mystery 1’) – of course I will as this is a new Hercule Poirot novel and I grew up reading Agatha Christie novels but it will be in the hope that they improve the way I feel Jill Paton Walshs Lord Peter Wimsey continuations have from book to book.