Reviewer: Gillian Hamer, author of The Charter, Closure, Complicit & Crimson Shore (www.gillianhamer.com)
What we thought: One of my most highly anticipated new novels of the year! As a lifelong Agatha Christie fan I couldn’t wait to read Sophie Hannah’s interpretation. These kinds of ‘tribute’ novels can be hit or miss, but after the success of Anthony Horowitz/Sherlock Holmes, and knowing the quality of Sophie Hannah’s writing, I was expecting to be impressed. And I wasn’t disappointed.
Hannah is clearly as much of a Christie geek as me, and that is great! It was also apparent in this book that the author got tremendous pleasure in resurrecting Hercule Poirot and her research into both the characters and the period really made the book shine.
In a Christie style, this is a typical Who-dunn-it. Three bodies found at a well-to-do London hotel, all laid out in the style of professional courtesy of the dead, but with a monogramed cufflink in each mouth. It was impossible to guess the killer, as the plot twisted and turned, back and forth, scattering red herrings in its wake. We view the case through the eyes of ‘Catchpole’ – a Scotland Yard detective with slightly more intelligent side-kick to Hastings, but one whose failings throw spotlight on the intelligence of the little Belgian detective. Personally, more chapters in Poirots' POV would have pleased me, I found Catchpole’s re-telling of some aspects of the story seemed to dilute the narrative.
There will be no spoilers here, but let’s say the ending did surprise me.
I experienced an undeniable excitement to be back in the 1920’s London scene as I love the language, customs and idiosyncrasies of the time. There was even more of a buzz to be back inside the mind of Hercule Poirot and his little grey cells.
I’m envious of Sophie Hannah for getting this opportunity, and know from her love of the Queen of Crime she would jump at the chance to do it all again if the option arose – and I hope it does. There’s no better tribute to Christie than a tribute novel of this quality.
You’ll enjoy this if you like: Agatha Christie.
Avoid if you don’t like: Belgian detectives and period crime writing.
Ideal accompaniments: Crème de cassis and smoked salmon sandwiches.
Genre: Crime Fiction.