Friday Book Whimsy: Closed Casket

I vowed I wasn’t going to read any more of the books that continue the story of Agatha Christie’s famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. I was enormously disappointed in author Sophie Hannah’s first effort, The Monogram Murders, which I reviewed in 2016. Still, I am such an enormous fan of the Poirot mysteries that I finally caved and read the second in the series — Closed Casket.

Once again, the book features Hercule Poirot along with his sidekick, a Scotland Yard detective Edward Catchpool. Rather than writing it as a sequel — fans will recall that Christie famously killed off the detective in her final installment called Curtain — the series takes place prior to Christies’ books — a prequel of sorts.

In this novel, Poirot and Catchpool are invited to the home of a famous children’s book writer named Lady Athelinda Playford, and neither can figure out why they were included. Perhaps she expects a murder to take place? At least that’s what Poirot speculates.

At dinner, things become a bit clearer. The rich woman announces that she has changed her will to exclude her two grown children, a daughter and a son. This comes as a unfortunate surprise to the two children. They are further shocked to learn that she is leaving her fortune to her secretary. Joseph Scotcher has worked for Lady Playford for a number of years. What is particularly confusing about the change in beneficiary is that Mr. Scotcher has been diagnosed with Bright’s disease and has only weeks to live.

Why oh why would she leave money to a person who she will almost certainly outlive? Before the day is over, he is found dead in the parlor by Scotcher’s fiance who insists she witnesses the daughter beating him to death. However, it is impossible for her to be in two places at once, isn’t it?

Hannah’s second effort was decidedly better than her first. Nevertheless, the bar is set pretty high. The two detectives seem to stumble and bumble more than Poirot ever did under Christie’s pen. Poirot misses clues that even I got.

Still, it’s nice to have my old friend Poirot back, even if he isn’t in his finest form.

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: Agatha Christie’s The Monogram Murders: The New Hercule Poirot Mystery

imgresThe newest thing seems to be authors taking over the writing of popular mystery series after the original author dies. Ace Atkins continued Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series. More recently author Kyle Mills continued the iconic Mitch Rapp series originated by the late Vince Flynn. It is my understanding that these authors have continued the series with the deceased author’s family’s permission.

I wasn’t aware, however, that there was a new Hercule Poirot book. SERIOUSLY?????

I was amused to find out very recently about Sophie Hannah’s new addition to mystery writer extraordinaire Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot series. The reason for my amusement was that it has been said that by the later books, Christie was sick and tired of the somewhat annoying little Belgian detective. She is to have said “he was a detestable, bombastic, tiresome, egocentric little creep.

But he was a detestable, bombastic, tiresome, egocentric little creep who I absolutely ADORED. As did many others. So I shouldn’t have been surprise to see this addition.

Since Christie famously killed off the detective in her final Poirot offering Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case, I wasn’t sure how Hannah was going to handle the new Poirot mystery. As it turns out, it is not subsequent to Curtain. Instead, it is just folded into his earlier life.

Hercule Poirot as portrayed by David Suchet in the wonderful PBS long-running series.

Hercule Poirot as portrayed by David Suchet in the wonderful PBS long-running series.

I was excited when I first began reading The Monogram Murders, though slightly apprehensive about another author besides Christie presenting Poirot, both in his appearance and actions, and by how the mystery would unfold. As much as I read mysteries, I admit I was rarely able to figure out the murderer in any of Christie’s books. Cheers to Dame Christie.

I started out optimistically, but I’m afraid I was soon disappointed. As hard as Hannah worked at presenting a reasonable imitation of the famous detective, it’s not surprising that she fell just short of success. Poirot did things in this book that he simply wouldn’t have done. It is hard to put my finger on what I mean, but if you are a fan of Poirot, you will understand. So then he was simply a detestable little creep.

Poirot has a new sidekick in this mystery, a Scotland Yard detective named Catchpool, and he is certainly no Arthur Hastings. I found him to be both unlikable and quite inept. It’s true Captain Hastings was not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, but you couldn’t help but like him. Poirot and Catchpool worked together to solve the mystery of the murder of three people from the same small English village who share a dastardly secret.

I found the ending particularly unsatisfactory. One of Christie’s many strengths was that she could wrap it all up so satisfactorily, and all of the clues she sneakily placed throughout the book suddenly made sense. Hannah was not successful in this effort. The ending was frankly, terrifically confusing and chaotic. I found myself skimming the last confusing chapters because by that point I didn’t care who killed whom.

I’m thinking this might be the last attempt at adding to Hercule Poirot’s legacy.

Here is a link to the book.

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