November 18

The Monogram Murders – Sophie Hannah

The beautiful Monogram Murders
The beautiful Monogram Murders

The new Hercule Poirot novel – another brilliant murder mystery that can only be solved by the eponymous Belgian detective and his ‘little grey cells’.

Since the publication of her first book in 1920, Agatha Christie wrote 33 novels, two plays and more than 50 short stories featuring Hercule Poirot. Now, for the first time ever, the guardians of her legacy have approved a brand new novel featuring Dame Agatha’s most beloved creation.

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’. 

 

I first read an Agatha Christie novel when I was 13. Before my 18th birthday I had read them all – every novel and short story (even the one set in ancient Egypt). That was over 20 years ago and in the intervening years I have re-read all my favourites many times over and re-visited a few I couldn’t remember very clearly. Never once during those years did I ever believe that I would hold a brand-new Hercule Poirot novel in my hands. Thank you Sophie Hannah for making my impossible wish become a reality.

The Monogram Murders is Poirot on top form (sadly sans Hastings) but working with the police to uncover three mysterious deaths in the luxurious Bloxham Hotel. Naturally everything is not as it seems and there are layers of lies and subterfuge for Poirot to unpick. His confidence in his own ability is undiminished despite his time out of the spotlight and I loved how he bemuses his Scotland Yard colleague (Catchpool) while feeding him just enough information to believe he was helping.

I found Sophie Hannah’s characters larger than life and easy to keep track of throughout what must be one of the longest Poirot tales. I confess to reading many books too quickly to always be able to keep track of bland characters – no problems here as the key players are all very well outlined and display sufficient individuality to allow me to comfortably keep abreast of developments without the need to leaf back a few pages.

I did mention that this was a longer Poirot book than most and if I have one small criticism it would be that I felt the pacing dropped a little around the middle of the book. At this stage in the story a possible explanation to the deaths was mooted which I found a tad too unbelievable. It was subsequently dismissed as a viable answer but, for me, too long was spent on this particularly unbelievable sub-plot. Once the story moved on I felt that normal service had resumed and everything built up very nicely to a climax placing Poirot on top of his game.

At the end of the book I had mixed emotions. I loved reading a brand new Poirot novel and I think Sophie Hannah did a fantastic job of taking on such a well-known character and making it work so well. However (and I cannot quite believe I am saying this) I would have liked The Monogram Murders to be a little shorter as the mid book sub plot would have lost me were it not for the pull of Poirot.

I would give the Monogram Murders 3.5 out of 5. Essential reading for fans of Poirot and a good whodunit. Naturally I had no idea who was guilty!


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Posted November 18, 2014 by Gordon in category "From The Bookshelf