Monday, 17 November 2014

The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah


For some reason they (I'm not sure who this 'they' is) decided it would be a good idea to have a new Poirot mystery. I'm pretty sure the only possible reason can be monetary – it's not like Agatha Christie left us a tragically small number of novels. As a lover of Poirot AND a person with access to her parents' audible account, I had to give it a go.

I don't want to tell you what it's about because, DUH, spoilers. But, I don't think I'm giving too much away when I say that Poirot is investigating murders that are linked by a monogram, or more precisely, a monogrammed cufflink. But that is all I shall say about the actual mystery…

Sophie Hannah gives us a new narrator – Edward Catchpole, a young detective from Scotland Yard who just lets Poirot take over the case when the murders are discovered. Catchpole is no Captain Hastings, but he is likeable and having a new sidekick for Poirot allows Hannah to bring her own flavour to Poirot as well as marking her tale apart from Christie's Poirot novels. The more I consider Catchpole, the more pathetic he seems, for example, at one point he visits a village to speak to the inhabitants and find out secrets from 15 years before. This is surely not unusual for someone whose job is to investigate murders, but Catchpole gets very anxious when Poirot tells him he will not be accompanying him. He seems too much of a wet blanket to be a Scotland Yard detective.

I'm not going to comment on the writing style itself because I don't feel I have read enough Christie to properly judge how well Hannah writes like Christie. There were moments that seemed to jar a little. I can't remember the exact phrases, but I remember finding the odd line anachronistic and wincing a little a lines that just didn't sound very 1920s. But I did find it easy to fall into the world of Poirot. (How great would it be to be Poirot? So certain, so clever and so moustached.)

And now I come to how I felt about the actual story. I really enjoyed listening to the story, I finished it in less than a week and listened to it when all the time I wasn't sleeping or working. I enjoyed the experience of listening to it. I loved the way that the story unfolded and the way secrets were carefully uncovered. But I found it very convoluted. At one point there were 3 different versions of what could have happened and Hannah insisted on getting the characters to repeat them over and over again. While the book itself was enjoyable, I felt that this part deviated from the clever simplicity of Christie's original stories. 

So overall I enjoyed it but I was also quite irritated by it! I don't know if I would have persevered if it had been a book rather than an audiobook. I thought that Julian Rhind-Tutt was a brilliant narrator and I'd love to hear him read other Poirot stories.  

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