Every time I think I can describe myself as ‘widely read’ I remember another author who I have yet to dip into. To be fair I don’t think I’m that bothered about E.L. James or Jeffrey Archer (just not my cup of tea, no criticism implied) but my list of ‘authors I must get around to at some point’ includes some biggies – Kurt Vonnegut, Arthur C Clarke, Jojo Moyes and even George R R Martin. I have, however, ticked a few off in the last year or so: I finally got round to reading To Kill a Mockingbird just before Go Set a Watchman was published and I also broke my Agatha Christie duck in 2015. We had selected The Monogram Murders, a new Poirot mystery written by Sophie Hannah at the request of the Christie estate, for our shop book group and I realised that I really needed to read the original in order to be able to make a comparison. I read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) and The Third Girl (1966) and was very impressed that Christie has sustained the character of Poirot over more than forty years. Reading the Monogram Murders I felt that Christie’s work was being carried on famously – intricate plotting, Hercule Poirot’s idiosyncracies and an ending full of twists and revelations. When I went along to the recent Harper Collins Big Book Bonanza I had a copy of Sophie Hannah’s second Poirot outing thrust into my hand (although not the one with the wine glass or the one with the pizza – an excess of hands is the reason for my bookselling prowess) so I have, rather obediently, read it. And (phew) enjoyed it as much as the first.
The plot is typically Christiesque with the murder victim dropping dead in a country house setting after being named the main beneficiary in a very rich writer’s will, the characters are varied. I particularly liked the writer’s deeply unsympathetic daughter and her equally unpleasant fiance and I absolutely loved how totally incompetent the local police are (who yet, somehow, felt the need to start the enquiry by telling Poirot to basically ‘butt out’). I was starting to suspect who the murderer was towards the end but I really couldn’t work out how it happened. The language and mannerisms seem to fit in well with the era of the novel and Hercule Poirot is the same character that we know and love (and are irritated by) in the original books. It looks as if Hannah has really got into the skin of Poirot – so hopefully we will have many more outings to come for the most famous Belgian and his little grey cells.