2014 Fall for the Book Festival Report
The Monogram Murders
by Sophie Hannah
|Mystery author Sophie Hannah talks about writing the first and only Poirot mystery since Agatha Christie
(Excerpts from the 2014 Fall for the Book Festival)
Since the publication of her first novel in 1920, more than two billion copies of Agatha Christie’s novels have been sold around the world. 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.
In the hands of internationally bestselling author Sophie Hannah, Poirot plunges into a mystery set in 1920s London – a diabolically clever puzzle sure to baffle and delight Christie’s fans as well as readers who have not yet read her work. Written with the full backing of Christie’s family, and featuring the most iconic detective of all time, this new novel is a major event for mystery lovers the world over.
From Amazon.com reader reviews:
“Fair is fair, and The Monogram Murders should not be judged on whether it is pitch-perfect Agatha Christie — it clearly isn’t — but whether it is an enjoyable mystery. And there Sophie succeeds.”
“For this reader (an Englishman who has lived in the States for the past ten years), THE MONOGRAM MURDERS was nothing short of bliss. You can read it as an Agatha Christie novel, and on that score I think it compares favorably with a lot of Dame A’s work. But you can also read it as something deeper and darker.
I disagree with the user who claims that the book ‘misses the point entirely’. The point, as I see it, is for a new voice to step into Christie’s shoes. Whether or not Sophie Hannah nails Christie’s voice exactly (although for my money she does!) seems to me beside the point. This is HER Poirot, and I’m very grateful to have read it.”
“Sophie Hannah’s The Monogram Murders is a disappointing Hercule Poirot pastiche, with an oddly-behaving Poirot, an unlikable narrator in Edward Catchpole and a lumbering and ultimately nonsensical puzzle plot structure, lacking the grace and deceptive simplicity of Christie’s narratives. Sophie Hannah has only made me appreciate the peerless talent of the true Queen of Crime even more.
The novel, which is set in 1929, opens with a chapter reminiscent of the late Christie novel Third Girl (1966). Poirot encounters a mystery woman named Jennie, who seems to be in fear for her life. Jennie makes intriguing cryptic comments about her plight before fleeing from Poirot into the night.
For those of us used to Poirot delicately sipping tisane, chocolat, creme de menthe and sirop de cassis, the idea of this well-traveled Continental often dismissive of English gastronomy not only grabbing coffee at an insalubrious London coffee house–he eats beef chop and vermicelli souffle there too, incidentally–but actually finding it the best coffee he has had in all the world seems well-nigh inconceivable.
Our new narrator is one Inspector Edward Catchpool, who rooms at the same lodging house as Poirot (so that’s why Hannah plops Poirot down there!). We learn the novel is in fact a manuscript written by Catchpool, which explains the sudden point-of-view shifts that occur. Catchpool is one dim and dismal fellow. Never have I so missed Poirot’s perennial Golden Age “Watson,” Captain Arthur Hastings. Hastings may not be the brightest bulb in the art deco chandelier, but he is of course merely an amateur assistant to Poirot and there is a great deal of charm and affection in the Poirot-Hastings relationship, as portrayed by Christie. I discerned neither charm nor affection in the Poirot-Catchpool relationship.”