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Hercule Poirot Mystery – Book II
Sophie Hannah

Harper Collins
6 September 2016/ ISBN 9780008134099
Mystery / Historical

Reviewed by Rachel A Hyde

 

Hercule Poirot and his Scotland Yard friend Inspector Edward Catchpool have been invited to a house party in County Cork, Ireland, by Lady Athelinda Playford. Neither of them know the woman, who is a famous children’s writer, but are intrigued enough to attend. While dining soon after their arrival, their hostess makes the startling announcement that she has just made a new will leaving everything to her secretary and is disinheriting her two children. As her secretary Joseph Scotcher is dying of a kidney disease and has only a few weeks to live this seems bizarre, and before the night is over a murderer will strike.

This novel follows on shortly after the events described in The Monogram Murders (also reviewed on this site) and, like the first book, is narrated by Catchpool. Also like the first book, the inspector seems rather clueless and naïve while working on the case, giving Poirot the chance to solve the mystery and use his “little grey cells”. Every character seems somewhat larger than life with some odd personality quirk or mannerism, and many are typical stock characters of the period, although in keeping with the age and with what one expects from Golden Age mysteries. There are a couple of impressive character descriptions, but to say who they are would be giving away the plot. The story is linear with no sub plots, but is tortuous and intriguing, a study in psychology and enjoyable enough, but the whole could stand some editing. Certainly nothing Agatha Christie wrote was the length of this book, but as it is a historical novel unlike hers, some of the space is naturally taken up with setting the scene and immersing the reader in 1929.

Agatha Christie this ain’t, but as she is the all-time bestselling novelist who is only surpassed in sales by the Bible and Shakespeare (neither of which are novels), then she is a very hard act to follow, and not an easy style to emulate. What Ms. Hannah has done is concoct a teasing tale which is amply entertaining, and since Agatha Christie is no longer around to write, this is about as close as we are going to get to “the real thing”.

 

Reviewed 2016
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