Friday, 13 February 2015

Review 2015 No. 5 | The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah (a Poirot mystery)

There are few characters in literary and cultural history that become so human to their audience that they take on a life of their own. Detective Hercule Poirot is quintessentially, simultaneously both Belgian and English. First birthed into the world by 'Queen of Crime' Agatha Christie, in 1920, Poirot has in the preceding decades become both a national and literary treasure. Dame Christie herself wrote 66 detective novels and 14 short stories, a writer so prolific and world-renowned that she has become a genre all of her own. 

All this being said, when it was announced in 2014 that author of the Spilling CID detective series, Sophie Hannah, would be publishing the first non-Christie Poirot novel, the release was to become hailed as "the literary event of the year". As a lifelong Christie fan I knew that I would have to get my hands on it! It is doubly problematic for reviewers when authors revive  another author's character, especially one as lovingly adored as Poirot, who stands in similar ranks to Sherlock Holmes or Doctor Who. Do we judge Hannah by Christie's standards, or assess the novel as a new phenomena - a non-Christie Poirot?

The Monogram Murders has it all - the fastidious mannerisms, attention to detail, charming punctuality and reverence for the truth. Poirot is joined in The Monogram Murders by Detective Catchpole, who neatly diametrically opposes Poirot. Catchpole is the perfect contrast - always late, missing clues, never quite grasping the mystery as it unfolds. The plot itself is Christie - three bodies in a London hotel, linked by past motives mirroring Christie's 1942 Five Little Pigs - but the novel is Hannah. And that, mon ami, is how we should view it. The story isn't a Christie. It never could be. But Hannah's style is all of it's own. She brings passion, revenge and guilt together in a uniquely Hannah way. 

To find out more about Sophie Hannah and watch interviews with her:

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