Friday, January 13, 2017

Review of "The Monogram Murders" by Sophie Hannah



This Hercule Poirot mystery, written by Sophie Hannah, emulates the style of Agatha Christie. As the story opens Poirot is enjoying a meal at Pleasant's Coffee House in London when an agitated woman rushes in. Poirot soon makes her acquaintance, learning that her name is Jennie and that she believes she'll soon be killed - and that she deserves to die. Later that night three people are found dead in three separate rooms of the ritzy Bloxham Hotel, each body neatly laid out with a monogrammed cufflink in his/her mouth.

Poirot, concerned that the deaths are somehow connected with Jennie, investigates with Scotland Yard Inspector Edward Catchpool (who narrates the story in the style of Poirot's old sidekick Captain Hastings.) Poirot soon learns that all the victims are from the village of Great Holling and are well acquainted with each other. As the investigation proceeds Poirot talks to many witnesses, including the staff of the coffee house and hotel. He also dispatches Catchpool to talk to the residents of Great Holling. However, though Catchpool gleans some useful information, he's a lot like Captain Hastings - a rather dim chap who functions mostly as a character for Poirot to bounce thoughts off.

The story has lots of characters, including the waitresses of Pleasant's Coffee House, the manager and employees of the Bloxham Hotel, and numerous citizens of Great Holling - who are reluctant to talk to Catchpool. Nevertheless the Scotland Yard detective discovers that something terrible happened fifteen years ago that led to the current deaths. I won't say more to avoid spoilers.

In typical Christie style Poirot figures out what happened and assembles the usual suspects to explain everything and reveal the perpetrator. Unfortunately Hannah doesn't really capture Christie's writing style and the story feels dragged out. Worse yet it leads to a denouement that's contorted, labored, and not believable. In short the book doesn't feel like a 'real' Agatha Christie and I wouldn't recommend it.

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