Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah a century ago in January 1920, the famous fictional Belgian detective Hercule Poirot was introduced by Agatha Christie in the novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles. After forty-two adventure-filled novels set between World War I and World War II, with some of the later novels set in the 1960s, The New York Times splashed an obituary on its front page when he died of heart complications in the final novel Curtain which was published in September 1975.

Almost forty years later, detective Hercule Poirot is resurrected and makes a triumphant return in The Monogram Murders: The New Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot Mystery by poet and crime novelist Sophie Hannah. Best known for relying on his `little grey cells' for solving crimes, the story is set in the early years of Poirot's career and is told from the perspective of a new character, Inspector Edward Catchpool of the Scotland Yard, from whom Poirot takes over a case concerning a troubling series of murders as it's "a diabolically clever puzzle that can only be solved by the talented Belgian detective."

The Monogram Murders is a classic Christie novel and begins on an ominous note when one February evening in 1929 a distraught woman named Jennie enters a London coffee shop where Hercule Poirot is having a quiet supper. With a disheveled appearance and strange look, it's not difficult to guess she's terrified. When Poirot offers to help her, Jennie made cryptic and puzzling remarks and was adamant that no one can help her because she's as good as dead and that the crime must never be solved. When two women and a man are found murdered in three separate rooms about the same time in a hotel with monogrammed gold cuff links inserted into their mouths that same night, it becomes all too apparent that no ordinary sleuthing work will help solve the case.

Detective Poirot is unable to make sense of the murders and wonders if it has any connection with the woman he encountered at the coffee shop. While he tries to piece together the jigsaw puzzle, the murderer is preparing to snuff the life out of a fourth victim. The story follows Poirot as he wades through layer after layer of baffling clues and mysteries in his quest to solve the strange murders and it will require all his wit, wisdom, brilliance, subtlety, creativity and deductive prowess if he is to find the murderer before it's too late.

Bestselling author Sophie Hannah's fine writing and the compelling plot line are the strong points of this new Hercule Poirot mystery. Recreating and resurrecting an iconic detective who has been laid to rest by the queen of crime is a daunting task, yet Sophie has done a commendable job by going back to the early years of Poirot's career which has allowed her the freedom to toy around with her characters and at the same time avoid the pitfalls of having to deal with his death. What we have in the end is an absorbing story true to the legacy of its original writer, and in the process created a major event for crime fiction lovers the world over.

s_Sophie Hannah
Sophie's Website

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