It is not without reason, Sophie Hannah’s ‘The Monogram Murders’ was one of themost anticipated releases of 2014. When it comes to crime fiction, callingChristie ‘the most widely published author and the best –selling novelist of all time’ is a massive understatement. She is an institution. The undisputed Queen of Crime who enjoys total literary immortality.
The book makes a good first impression. It hits the ground running with the key characters being introduced quickly. The plot is tricky, the suspense gripping and the narrative crisp and no-nonsense. Alongside a sense of foreboding, of stifling unease & paranoia there’s also a crushing feeling of sadness and loss. There are clues & misdirection abound, that can keep you up at night as you thoroughly indulge in the thrill of reading a brand new Poirot mystery after decades!
But a project this ambitious is not without its flaws. Firstly, Detective Catchpool is possibly the most incompetent detective to ever appear in crime fiction. He keeps making excuses, evading responsibilities, literally begging Poirot to help him solve the case. He complains when Poirot asks him to think. Even the trauma he keeps referring to, that supposedly renders him incapable of facing dead bodies & thereby doing his job is not traumatic enough for readers to empathize with him. Long story short, he is a colossal waste of time who shouldn’t return in any future Christie reboot.
As a Christie purist it breaks my heart to say that Hannah’s Poirot is simply not the Belgian detective with the mannerisms & foibles that we all know & love. Poirot’s wisdom, kindness & vitality are supposed to establish an instant connection with his readers from the get-go. Hannah unnecessarily keeps referring to his ‘little grey cells’. He is snappy, rude; his French sounds forced. Worse, he feels lifeless, cold, almost mechanical. There is no clever deduction, no logical conclusions. Every conclusion is just a lucky assumption.
In the end it boils down to being a crime fiction reboot where the greatest injustice is done not to the victims but to the detective whose literary resurrection the whole world is waiting for!