The Monogram Murders (Hercule Poirot) by Sophie Hannah

Poirot just knows

😡

the monogram murdersA terrified woman bursts into the coffee house where Hercule Poirot is partaking of the best coffee in London. When Poirot tells her he is a detective, she seems tempted to share her worries but in the end tells him only that she is about to be murdered and that, once she is dead, justice will have been done. Pausing only to beg him to prevent the police from investigating, she pleads cryptically ‘Oh, please let no one open their mouths’ and flees back into the night. Meantime Mr Catchpool of Scotland Yard, who lives in the same lodging house as Poirot, has been called to the Bloxham Hotel where three guests have been found murdered. Poirot (psychically) suspects there may be a link…

In fact, I hadn’t ever before realised just how psychic Poirot was. How remiss of Ms Christie never to reveal this fact! All these years she led us to believe he came to his conclusions based on his reading of the clues, his ability to see through the red herrings to the facts, the superior power of his little grey cells. Ms Hannah kindly lets us in on the true secret though. Clues are unnecessary. Poirot just knows what has happened. At each stage, as other people flounder to make sense of the plot (well, I certainly did!), Poirot sees straight through to the truth without the need for any pesky evidence or suchlike nonsense. What a gift! Unfortunately not one that makes a detective novel work very well though…

If this book had been written about a detective called Smith, it might have rated maybe three stars. The plot is convoluted, psychologically unconvincing and over-padded. The list of suspects is far too small, meaning that there are no big surprises come the reveal. But the writing style is quite good, some of the characterisation is fine and the descriptions of the places involved in the plot are done reasonably well.

The real Agatha Christie
The real Agatha Christie

BUT…there is a great big ‘Agatha Christie’ on the front of the book, so this should really read like one of hers, shouldn’t it? It doesn’t. From the very beginning Poirot is not right. For a start, he has moved into a lodging house because he wants to escape from his fame for a while and be anonymous. Doesn’t sound like the Poirot I know! Secondly we hear almost nothing about his little foibles – his vanity, his moustaches, his rotundity, his endearingly egg-shaped head, his patent leather shoes. We do get to hear a little about his passion for order but just as a sop. Thirdly he goes about searching rooms and seeking out physical clues like Holmes on an eager day. The real Poirot, as we know, is actually much more interested in the psychology of the crime. Fourthly, when the real Poirot speaks French, he kindly only uses words we’re all going to get without resorting to a French-English dictionary – mais pas ce prétendant. Fifthly, at the end he actually participates in a formal police interview in a police station – but I was past the stage of caring long before then anyway. So I’ll be kind and spare you sixthly, seventhly…etc.

Sophie Hannah
Sophie Hannah

I saw Sophie Hannah being interviewed about the book on the BBC News channel, and she said that she had decided not to try to recreate Christie’s style. So she created a new character, Catchpool, to be the narrator so that he could bring a new voice to the story. I was willing to go along with this idea, though it seemed a shame not to have Hastings along for the ride. But firstly (sorry), Catchpool is extremely annoying. He can’t stand dead bodies, keeps walking away from the investigation, is as thick as a brick and basically hands the entire investigation over to Poirot (mind you, with Poirot’s amazing supernatural abilities, who wouldn’t?). Secondly, he’s struggling not to reveal that he’s gay – that’s never spelled out, but it’s quite clear from the unsubtle hints that are dropped all over the place. Now I know it’s obligatory that every police officer in detective fiction is either gay or drunk these days, or both, (I suppose I should be glad that at least he was sober), but this is supposed to be a Christie-style book. I’m certainly not arguing that all gay men should be portrayed like Mr Pye in The Moving Finger, but the idea of Ms Christie having a gay policeman is frankly ridiculous. And Poirot’s psychic powers let him down on that one, since he seems determined to pair Catchpool off with a nice woman. Thirdly, Catchpool tells the story in the first-person (past tense, thankfully), and yet knows every detail of what happens when he’s not there. So he can describe all of Poirot’s conversations verbatim, tells us when people stand up, sit down, blush, etc. – clearly Poirot’s psychic abilities are catching.

hercule-poirot

The last fifth of the book is taken up with the traditional get-together where Poirot reveals what happened, but it goes on for ever and is mainly just Poirot telling us the whole story, with no reference as to how he came by all these amazing insights. As I said before, he just knows! And considering how silly and unlikely the plot is, that seems beyond miraculous.

I can only say that I sincerely hope there won’t be another of these. If there is, even I will be able to resist the temptation next time. Because now (cue spooky music), FictionFan just knows too

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

TBR Thursday 37…

Episode 37

 

There seems to be a growing gap between the number of books going on to the TBR and the number coming off at the moment. The terrifying total is currently…117! But on this occasion I’m not going to blame my fellow bloggers. The villains this week are:

The Booker committee who this week announced the shortlist.

NetGalley who promptly provided me with copies of three of the Booker shortlist (see how they gang up on me?).

America – whose selfish insistence on having a different time-zone from us Scots meant that I was up till dawn several nights watching the US Open Tennis – not conducive to reading, I assure you (though very conducive to mid-afternoon napping).

Rafa wasn't playing...
Rafa wasn’t playing…

Politicians – of all persuasions, plus polling organisations, TV commentators etc., who have all kept me glued to the Scotland debate for weeks now. I’m wondering if it’s too late to emigrate…

So, here’s a few of the ones that I’ll be reading…sometime…

Crime

 

the skeleton roadCourtesy of NetGalley. About 80% of the time, I love Val McDermid…and then there’s the other 20%. Here’s hoping for this one…

The Blurb saysWhen a skeleton is discovered hidden at the top of a crumbling, gothic building in Edinburgh, Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie is faced with the unenviable task of identifying the bones. As Karen’s investigation gathers momentum, she is drawn deeper into a world of intrigue and betrayal, spanning the dark days of the Balkan Wars.

Karen’s search for answers brings her to a small village in Croatia, a place scarred by fear, where people have endured unspeakable acts of violence. Meanwhile, someone is taking the law into their own hands in the name of justice and revenge, but when present resentment collides with secrets of the past, the truth is more shocking than anyone could have imagined…”

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the monogram murdersA brand new Poirot mystery, from the pen of Sophie Hannah. As a huge Christie fan I’m apprehensive, but couldn’t resist. I’m about a quarter of the way through it and so far…well, I haven’t decided yet…

The Blurb saysHercule Poirot’s quiet supper in a London coffeehouse 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 a fashionable London Hotel have been murdered, and a cufflink has been 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…”

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Fiction

 

the lives of otherThe first of this year’s Booker shortlist and the one that most appeals to me. The size of a brick, of course! Thanks to NetGalley. Sounds like it might be the book last year’s contender The Lowland should have been…but wasn’t.

The Blurb saysCalcutta, 1967. Unnoticed by his family, Supratik has become dangerously involved in extremist political activism. Compelled by an idealistic desire to change his life and the world around him, all he leaves behind before disappearing is this note …

The ageing patriarch and matriarch of his family, the Ghoshes, preside over their large household, unaware that beneath the barely ruffled surface of their lives the sands are shifting. More than poisonous rivalries among sisters-in-law, destructive secrets, and the implosion of the family business, this is a family unravelling as the society around it fractures. For this is a moment of turbulence, of inevitable and unstoppable change: the chasm between the generations, and between those who have and those who have not, has never been wider.”

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Factual

 

scottish history for dummies(Don’t you dare laugh!) My dear friends at Amazon Vine supposedly target the things they offer us for review. So I find it somewhat unflattering that barely a month goes by without them offering me a …For Dummies book. I’ve been offered everything from Basic Maths For Dummies to Ukelele For Dummies. Finally, they found one that I couldn’t resist. Scotland from the Stone Age to today in 300 pages – hmm! I wish they’d offer me chocolate sometimes…

From its turbulent past to the present day, this informative guide sheds a new and timely light on the story of Scotland and its people. Dig into a wealth of fascinating facts on the Stone, Bronze and Iron ages. Get to know how Scotland was built into an industrial economy by inventors, explorers and missionaries. Discover the impact of the world wars on Scotland and how the country has responded to challenges created by them. Find up-to-the-minute information on Scotland’s referendum on independence.” (Oops! I guess that means it’ll be out of date by next Thursday then…)

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NB All blurbs taken from NetGalley or Goodreads.

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So…what do you think? Do any of these tempt you?