I am relatively new when it comes to Agatha Christie. And while the writing is obviously a bit dated, Agatha Christie has undoubtedly earned her title as the Queen of Mystery. Agatha Christie is a master of a surprise ending, she will have you guessing whodunit pretty much all the way up to the end. This is a feat I greatly respect, it’s no fun knowing what is coming in a mystery, if I’ve got it figured out half way through the book (or less) why bother? So, I’ve taken a liking to Dame Agatha Christie.
All that to say, when I saw that Sophie Hannah (whom I am admittedly not familiar with) was writing new Hercule Poirot books, I was a bit skeptical. Frankly, I still kind of am. I had read some less than favorable reviews of her first Hercule Poirot, The Monogram Murders, but figured those could just be the purists who will never be satisfied with anything aside from the original. Psst, I too am one of those people.
Hannah has introduced a new narrator (new in The Monogram Murders, totally new to me) Edward Catchpool. At first, I was wary because I had gotten used to Captain Arthur Hastings, whom I rather quite like. However, I can see why it would be necessary as a writer to introduce your own narrator as opposed to trying to recreate two Chrisite characters. Recreating the iconic Belgian detective seems like it would be difficult enough on it’s own. Catchpool kind of annoyed me for a wee bit, he eventually annoyed me less, but I still felt like the only purpose he served was to gather people’s stories.
Obviously, being written in 2016, it’s not going to have the same tone as a 1920’s Agatha Christie original. That being said, I think Hannah did a pretty decent job tone-wise. What stuck out to me is the more overtly sexual tones or implications throughout, that is something I’ve never picked up quite so strongly from an Agatha Christie book. For instance, Claudia Playford is kinda of an asshat, and more openly vulgar than I felt would have been normal in a 1920’s mystery. But what do I know; I’m not offended by vulgarity or sexual tones, they just felt a little out of place at times here.
As I mentioned before, recreating a character like Hercule Poirot seemed like it would be a daunting task, however, I felt like Sophie Hannah did actually manage to capture Poirot’s classic egotism and high self-regard. The mannerisms, the way in which Poirot expresses himself, or reveals his revelations, I felt were pretty spot on.
By about chapter 30, I was honestly kind of over this story. This book has one of the most long-winded reveals I think I have ever read. Also, the motive/reason the culprit committed the murder, was kinda of lame. By the time we’ve heard who is responsible for what, I was like “okay, cool, we’re done here” but then there were another 26 pages (a chapter and a half + epilogue). It was a struggle for me.
Now, that isn’t to say I didn’t like this read at all, it wasn’t entirely bad. Hell, it kept me up the one night when I was about half way through and the story was moving right along. In all, it’s still worth a read if you just like a mystery, but personally, I was a little disappointed.