Hello and happy Monday, if there is such a thing! I am here today to review the newest addition to Agatha Christie's series of books about the Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. This newest installment, however, is not written by the illustrious crime-writer herself, but by Sophie Hannah, who also writes psychological thrillers. I picked this up in Barnes & Noble and my high expectations were more than met. But, enough talking, let's get to the review.
Title: The Monogram Murders: The New Hercule Poirot Mystery
Author: Sophie Hannah
Publisher/Price: William Morrow/ $19.70 here
Number of pages: 320
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Overview: Hercule Poirot is supposed to be taking a short hiatus from his usual mystery-solving, to "restore the little gray [brain] cells" as he would say, when his friend, Mr. Catchpool (police detective) becomes involved in unraveling a murder. With diabolical twists and turns, the mystery takes the duo to an obscure village with a shameful secret, introduces them to a painting that seems to be hiding things, and leads the iconic detective through a complicated maze of motives and time stamps that will, by the end, have you wondering about the integrity of your "little gray cells."
My thoughts: As I said in my "On the Stack" post for January, I was introduced to Hercule Poirot late last year when perusing my library's stash of Agatha Cristie books. After reading a couple of those, (I speak about one here) I got into the BBC Hercule Poirot series, which I spoke about here and absolutely LOVE. Despite my apparent obsession, I do not claim to be any sort of expert on Poirot or on Agatha Christie's style of writing mysteries. That said, I have seen a couple reviews of The Monogram Murders that rate it negatively because they think that Hannah strayed quite a bit from Christie's Poirot. At first, I was extremely resistant to the idea because I really enjoyed the book. But, I do see where they are coming from. While Hannah has Poirot's every quirky detail down pat (his French phrases, his habits, his manner of speaking, his mustache, his attention to detail), there were a couple things even I recognized that were slightly un-Christie-y (what?), such as the very complicated and complex plot – I got majorly confused at several points. And the simplicity of Christie's plots wasn't there. When reading a Christie book, I get to the end and am always struck by the obvious conclusion to the mystery that was right in front of my face the whole time! That was not the case with The Monogram Murders. The plot was ingeniously crafted, but not quite in the vein of Christie's work. I will link to a couple of those aforementioned reviews at the end of this post.
Moving on. Despite all of that, despite the fact that The Monogram Murders was not a purely Christie book, I will admit that I loved it. Because I am not a deeply-invested Christie fan (yet), I was able to enjoy the book more at face-value and was able to sideline any issues I had with the claim that it was a continuation of Poirot's legacy. It was truly brilliant. I loved the setting, the characters, and the plot. Sprawled out on my bedroom floor, I whipped through it on a Saturday afternoon and there were a couple times I audibly gasped and had to stop and stare at the ceiling for a few moments because the plot had taken another impossible turn or new evidence had turned up. I remember telling my mom it was the book I wished would never end. Obviously, I get kind of involved in what I'm reading.
My favorite part of the book was definitely the plot, even though it got very confusing towards the end. The unpredictability of it was what made it the sort of book you don't get bored with. Lately I've had issues with books that seem to drag on and on, but The Monogram Murders was fast-paced, though not in the way an action film is fast-paced. There were so many twists and turns and new discoveries and revelations that it never dragged or made me wish it would end.
Reading The Monogram Murders, I saw that Sophie Hannah is a brilliant writer. She knows how to write, how to craft a genius plot, how to breathe life into unique, memorable characters, and if anyone was to try her hand at resurrecting the iconic Belgian detective, Hannah seems like one of the best. Perhaps Agatha Christie is just one of those people whose work cannot be duplicated or copied – one of those people who has a certain magic only they can inject into their writing.
All in all, I loved The Monogram Murders as an addition to the story of Hercule Poirot. But to claim that it is "The New Hercule Poirot Mystery" and put Christie's iconic signature on the front – that may be overdoing it a little. But apart from that, it was a fantastic and brilliantly-crafted mystery with a mind-blowing plot and I would be happy to read it again. If you are a lover of mystery, I would highly recommend it.
Negative reviews: The Guardian, Express UK
Positive reviews: Washington Post, The New York Times
There are many points from all of the above reviews that I agree with and I do not want to make this review sound like I am upset with Hannah's portrayal of Hercule Poirot. Her book was remarkably Christie and Poirot-like – I don't think anyone could have done better – and I cannot begin to imagine how hard it would be to write such an iconic figure into a mystery and retain the style of the original creator.
That wraps up my second review of the month! I will be back before Friday to share my final review. Thanks for reading! xo, Ella