Thursday, June 1, 2017

Book Review: The Monogram Murders

Although I've heard of Sophie Hannah before (knew she is a mystery writer), I had never read one of her books. This is billed as an Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot novel. Thus, this modern writer takes Agatha Christie's well-known character and places him into a mystery of her own making. I suppose it is a glorified fan fiction, in a way (something I've never been fond of). Although the author's writing skills are sufficient, I still ended up feeling like I would have rather read an actual Agatha Christie novel.

One of the subtle sub-plots involves Poirot's partner, a police officer by the name of Catchpool, working on crafting a cross-word puzzle. It was a fitting device for this novel because the novel felt very much like the belabored effort of such an endeavor. Clues were tediously drawn out and repeatedly referenced. The names of the characters were read out in full time and time again so that Harriet Sipple, Ida Gransbury, and Richard Meekus are etched into my memory forever. The nine CDs did not exactly fly by for me. Although I remained interested in solving the mystery, I wasn't thoroughly riveted.

The Monogram Murders tells of a case where three guests at the same hotel have been murdered. Each body is found on the floor, neatly facing the door, with a monogrammed cufflink tucked in the mouth. To add to the mystery, Poirot encounters a woman who rushes into his regular coffee shop in fear for her life, then dashes out again. Poirot must determine if the woman is, indeed, about to become a fourth murder victim. In his search for the distressed woman, Poirot parses out the meticulously plotted clues and solves the crime with his astute observational skills.

Although the author did create a somewhat compelling mystery, it was so drawn out that it lost some of its intensity.  I grew weary of the repeating of clues and Poirot's arrogance in dealing with his partner (constantly treating him as if his intellectual skills were severely lacking). I cannot really recommend this as a good Christie knock-off. Indeed, the above cover presents Agatha Christie's name with such prominence that readers might mistakenly believe they are getting the real thing. I prefer this British cover where Sophie Hannah's name is larger than Christie's, so that the reader knows full well what they are getting. If you are interested in a tightly-wound plot, where the murderer turns out to be the very last person you suspect, pick up an original Agatha Christie book. She was the master, after all.

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