Review: The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah

Hercule Poirot's quiet supper in a London coffee house 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 the fashionable Bloxham Hotel have been murdered, a cufflink 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…

I'm ashamed to admit that I have read very little Agatha Christie, although I am a big fan of the TV adaptations, especially Poirot. I've been eager to read this since I first heard about it last year - it's a very brave move taking on such an iconic character written by such a beloved author and I was interested to see what Sophie Hannah had achieved. The character of the great Belgian detective was written very well - I could actually hear David Suchet's voice in my head while I was reading. One thing that must be lost in translation from book to screen (for I'm told this is true for the Christie novels as well) is how frustrating a character he actually is. Refusing to let you in to his thoughts and theories until his theatrical 'big reveal' and constantly slighting the intellect of those around him - I certainly wouldn't want to work with him! Catchpool made for an interesting narrator - there was something a little Holmes and Watson like about his relationship with Poirot and his writing down of the story. Although how he knew so much detail about the events that he wasn't actually present for is beyond me, and he's awfully squeamish for a police officer! He's not the sharpest tool in the box either - I cottoned on to Poirot's hints and clues before him many a time. Although the list of suspects is relatively small by Christie standards I didn't predict the ending, and the plot is full of twists to keep you hooked - I couldn't put it down! Rest assured that I will be reading some of the original Poirot novels in the very near future, and I would be interested to read more from Sophie Hannah.

It's interesting to note that my mum, a lifelong Christie devotee, initially didn't like this book and gave up after the first few chapters. After I said that I had enjoyed it she gave it another go, and couldn't put it down! She said that the solution, while very clever, was a little confusing and drawn out but all in all she was impressed. It clearly doesn't come close to the originals for her, but as a detective story in its own right it is definitely worth reading, whether you are a Christie fan or not!


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