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The Monogram Murders: Revisiting a Brilliant Old Friend

The Monogram Murders -  Agatha Christie, Sophie Hannah

The Monogram Murders
by Sophie Hannah
Hardcover, 352 pages
William Morrow, September 9, 2014

Hercule Poirot is having a quiet dinner in his favorite London coffeehouse when he encounters a young woman who confesses to him that she is terrified of being murdered but refuses his offers of assistance.  Later that day Poirot hears of a series of bizarre murders at an upscale London hotel and accompanies the Scotland Yard detective staying in his boardinghouse to the scene of the crime. There they find three bodies laid out identically in three separate rooms ...each with a monogrammed cuff link left in their mouth. He can't help but think that the young woman he met earlier that night may be the murder's fourth victim...


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I personally really enjoyed this book, though I know it's taken some hard hits from other reviewers and even some critics.  I didn't go into this expecting the writing to mimic Christie's writing because - and she'd tell you this herself - Sophie Hannah isn't Agatha Christie! Of course the writing won't be a replica of the original Poirot works.  Hannah does, however, capture Poirot's personality - his disdain over a lack of imagination in his detective partner, his excitement when he's put two clues together, and his pompous explanations at the close of the book.  Hannah also successfully captures the importance of motive and psychology to the plot. She is able to show us both the morality and the darkness of the characters in her story in a way that was vitally important in all of Christie's work. The charming English village, the "locked room" setting for the murders, and the narrative voice of Catchall, Poirot's sidekick from Scotland Yard all act to set the scene for a tale told in Christie's world, if not in her voice.

In the end, the Monogram Murders should not be looked at as a "continuation" of the Poirot library, but rather a new interpretation of an old familiar character. The puzzling twists and turns of the plot, the voices of the characters, and the seeming impossibility of the mystery are all echoes of the Christie I love, with the fabulous writing of Hannah to pull it all together.