So, Agatha Christie fanatic that I am, you can image my reaction when earlier this year I heard that Agatha Christie's family had commissioned bestselling crime author Sophie Hannah to write a Hercule Poirot novel. Well, I nearly spat out my cornflakes in surprise. How could anyone take on such a momentous task and succeed? I wasn't sure whether I was excited by the news of a new Poirot novel or outraged that someone was going to be allowed to write Poirot that wasn't Agatha Christie herself!
I bought the book within days of it being released, but I didn't read it until after I'd heard Sophie Hannah talk about the book at Bloody Scotland- Stirling's Crime Writing Festival. To my surprise she not only is a massive Poirot fan herself, but she also went into the task fully aware that some people were going to hate it (talk about tough crowd!). Agatha's family gave her their blessing, so if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me.
So, I'm guessing you want to know what The Monogram Murders is all about?
Set in 1920s London, the story begins with Poirot on a holiday at a B&B just across the road from his apartment. He's looking for a bit of peace and quiet and thinks that no one will bother him if he simply moved across the road for a few weeks. While taking coffee at Pleasant's Tea House one evening, he is drawn to a particularly frantic young woman called Jennie who seems to insist that she is going to be murdered and that she deserves it. She disappears before Poirot can make any sense of what she is saying, but then three bodies turn up at The Bloxham Hotel and Poirot is convinced that Jennie is involved.
Poirot is dragged in to the mystery of the bodies at the Bloxham by a seemingly dim-witted policeman called Catchpool who just can't get his 'little grey cells' up to the standard of Poirot's. The bodies at The Bloxham Hotel are all laid out carefully and all have a monographed cuff link in their mouths.
I enjoyed the story, but found the ending a little confusing due to the amount of characters involved in why the murders came about. As with most Agatha Christie novels, the policeman is usually left completely in the dark and things have to be carefully explained by Poirot. I was on Catchpool's side with this one and had no idea what was going on. I think that Sophie Hannah did really well in capturing the essence of Poirot and his ability to see things that others simply ignore. I wasn't fond of the character of Catchpool, for some reason I just couldn't warm to him and felt a bit annoyed with him. On several occasions I wanted to yell at the book 'just move aside and let Poirot do it!' which is how I sometimes felt about Captain Hastings in Agatha's books- but at least he was likeable.
All in all, I think the book is worth a read for any one who is a massive Agatha Christie fan like me, but I also think it would appeal to readers who maybe aren't as familiar with Poirot.
The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah is out now. You can purchase it online here.
To find out more about the novel, I recommend visiting the Agatha Christie Official website
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