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Mark Bailey Reviews Sophie Hannah

Review: Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah (2016)

Sophie Hannah – Closed Casket (2016)

HarperCollins, Hardcover, 384 pages

Published: 6th September 2016 (UK)

ISBN-13: 978-0008134099 (cased)

Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah
Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah

This is the 2nd return of Hercule Poirot novel penned by Sophie Hannah (although I don’t think that he is as the back cover blurb suggests “the world’s most famous detective” as I feel that Sherlock Holmes is probably more well known).

 

Lady Athelinda Playford is hosting a party at her Irish mansion with two strangers to her as guests: the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and Inspector Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard

Is the invite a result of the decision of Lady Playford to change her will and cut two of her children off without a penny leaving her vast fortune to someone else –  an invalid with only weeks to live. Poirot begins to wonder if Lady Playford expects a murder but why is she so determined to provoke a killer? When the murder is committed despite Poirot’s best efforts to stop it why does the identity of the victim make no sense at all?

 

I much preferred this to The Monogram Murders and will now go through my issues with that novel and how they have been addressed with this.

Edward Catchpool is still the narrator but we now do know his rank (Inspector) from the start, he is less scared of dead bodies, we do learn more about him as this book goes on and he not is a mere tool for Poirot as he is clearly a friend and is much better treated.

The fussy Poirot is back which may be in part because of the Country House milieu which means that he is much closer to the Poirot we know and love.

The book is also a bit tighter which might be due to it being shorter (I reckon it is about 91000 words compared to the 97000 words of The Monogram Murders so about 6% shorter)

 

The plot still does rely on Poirot making some leaps of logic that are a teensy bit heroic if one is being kind but I am much happier than I was last time – I should give warning though that there still are some fairly damning reviews on Amazon though.

Categories
Agatha Christie Mark Bailey Reviews Sophie Hannah

Review- The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah (aka The Brand New HERCULE POIROT Mystery)

Review- The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah (aka The Brand New HERCULE POIROT Mystery)

Cover of "The Monogram Murders" by Sophie Hannah
Cover of “The Monogram Murders” by Sophie Hannah

The novel is set in the traditional 1920s & 1930s milieu that we are used to both from the majority of the Poirot stories (save those with Ariadne Oliver & Curtain) and from the TV adaptations – I do wonder if it is really possible to see Poirot in your mind’s eye nowadays without thinking of David Suchet.

The synopsis from the publisher is as follows:

“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…

In the hands of internationally bestselling author Sophie Hannah, Poirot plunges into a mystery set in 1920s London – a diabolically clever puzzle that can only be solved by the talented Belgian detective and his ‘little grey cells’.”

 

The reviews for this have been mixed but I did like it – it is a good read but it does have some fairly major flaws which I will now cover just some of.

It is narrated by a new character – Edward Catchpool who is a 32 year old police detective from Scotland Yard. We don’t know his rank – he is only ever called Catchpool or Mr Catchpool but he must be sufficiently senior to be allowed to go and investigate at Great Holling without asking permission. He is a policeman investigating murders but is scared of dead bodies – is this because he would have been 21 at the end of World War I so presumably would have served and may have been traumatised by the war. The problem with Catchpool is that we know little about him at the start and learn little more during the course of the novel – he is a mere tool for Poirot and not a well treated one at that.

There are some curious changes in the character of Poirot – he now appears to like English food (beef chop and vermicelli soufflé) and thinks that Pleasant’s kitchen in St. Gregory’s Alley in one of the less salubrious parts of London makes the best coffee Poirot has tasted anywhere in the world. Poirot also now likes fresh air and travelling on buses.

The plot does rely on Poirot making some leaps of logic that are a teensy bit heroic if one is being kind and the traditional ‘gather everybody together and show just how clever Poirot is’ drags on for far too long (Chapters 22 to 25 with the explanation to Catchpool so about 1/7 of the book).

There are more issues with the logic, characters and style highlighted by other reviewers – some I agree with and some I don’t – look at Amazon for some fairly damning reviews.

Will I buy a follow-up (Amazon are calling this ‘Hercule Poirot Mystery 1’) – of course I will as this is a new Hercule Poirot novel and I grew up reading Agatha Christie novels but it will be in the hope that they improve the way I feel Jill Paton Walshs Lord Peter Wimsey continuations have from book to book.