If you’re looking for a good murder mystery to get swept up in over the holidays this year, then The Monogram Murders is definitely the choice for you!
Before I review The Monogram Murders, I think I should tell you all a little bit more about myself. If you’ve read my bio (or you know me at all), then you know that I am a huge bibliophile and I absolutely adore Agatha Christie. My fascination, dare I say obsession, with Agatha Christie, crime novelist, playwright, poet, explorer extraordinaire, began when I was in middle school (a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away), around age 11 or 12.
The first Christie mystery that I ever read was Murder on the Orient Express. It was a leather cover version that my Mom had sitting, unopened on her bookshelf. I had seen it there for years and never thought twice about it. But, I had finished all my library books and decided to give this one a try. It did have a leather cover after all! And the rest, as they say, is history. Ok, maybe not quite so dramatic, but needless to say I was in love with Poirot, with Christie, with the world she so fantastically created.
Throughout the rest of middle school and high school, I sought out every Agatha Christie mystery that I could get my hands on. If you hadn’t guessed by now, I was (and am) a huge nerd and so I was the young, awkward girl at the public library in the mystery section with the other old biddies.
The reason I bring this up is because this time of year, i.e. the holiday season, reminds me the most vividly of this time in my life and, having recently read The Monogram Murders, I couldn’t help but think of these fond memories.
During the holidays, beginning with Thanksgiving, my family would usually travel (code for take long, horrible road trips) to visit relatives. For me, what this meant was a trip to the local public library (Thomas Branigan Memorial Library, cookie if anyone who doesn’t live there knows where this is) and coming home with a huge stack of Christie mysteries for our trip.
There’s nothing better than a nice long whodunit to keep you occupied for the holidays. You know, with all that free time we have nowadays!
But, enough about me, let’s get down to brass tacks! The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah was published in September 2014 (with full approval from Christie’s family), and touted as “the literary event of the year.” This mystery novel features my favorite Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, and is set in London during the winter of 1929. A baffling mystery with a new narrator and the same old Poirot, this modern whodunit stays faithful to Christie’s legacy.
If you have a few minutes, check out this interview with author Sophie Hannah and Christie’s grandson, Mathew Pritchard.
Let me start by saying—ok, I’ve already said a lot, but bear with me—I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Monogram Murders. Hannah did a fantastic job of staying true to Christie’s characterization of Poirot, while maintaining her unique writing style. That being said, there will never be another Agatha Christie and, being the huge fan that I am, I could easily tell that The Monogram Murders was written by a different author.
Via Juan Osborne
Hannah aptly captured the quirky, but lovable nature of the Belgian detective and his ‘little grey cells.’ There was, however, something slightly different about Hannah’s Poirot. The mon amis were there, the overwhelming self-confidence, the great intellect, but there was something missing that I could never really put my finger on.
I should mention that whenever I read any Poirot mystery, I can’t help but picture actor David Suchet. I’ve lost my own mental image of Poirot from my youth because Suchet has become so quintessentially Poirot. Anyone who has watched the widely popular UK series Agatha Christie’s Poirot knows what I’m talking about. So, while reading The Monogram Murders and picturing Suchet in my mind, there was just something not quite right, in his mannerisms, his personality? I’m still not quite sure.
Despite that small critique, the world that Hannah creates in The Monogram Murders is spot on. And, personally, I liked the character of Mr. Catchpool of Scotland Yard, who served as the narrator. I found his self-conscious and self-effacing demeanor to be extremely endearing. He was a little like Poirot’s usual sidekick, Arthur Hastings; although, he could never be replaced.
As a whole, I would say that I was not disappointed with The Monogram Murders. I didn’t devour it like I usually do Christie mysteries, but I was excited to get to the end and find out whodunit! It was very clear (at least to me) from the outset that The Monogram Murders was not a novel in Christie’s own voice, but I can honestly say that didn’t bother me. I expected that it would be different, Sophie Hannah, after all is an acclaimed author in her own right. She has written a number of bestselling novels using characters entirely of her own devising.
I did find many instances where Poirot didn’t read quite like Poirot and the typical Poirot explains-it-all at the end was very, very different. The conclusion to The Monogram Murders came across as a bit convoluted. Rather than Poirot’s usual elaborated speech at the end in which he explains everything (oh, why can I never figure it out beforehand?), the grand finale was stretched out over a much longer time frame. This didn’t make me hate the novel by any stretch, but it was very different and not what I expect from having read all the Christie mysteries.
My suggestion for all you readers out there—well, if you’re already an Agatha Christie fan, then you might love it or, conversely, completely hate it. I don’t expect there will be any middle of the road-ers. I think it really depends on what your expectations are going in, if you can accept that it won’t be exactly what you have come to love about Christie, then I think that you will enjoy this fun and intriguing murder mystery.
I know that I certainly did, and I hope that Hannah will write some more Poirot mysteries because it is so much fun to read about new exploits from Poirot even if, regrettably, they don’t come from the “Queen of Mystery” herself!
If you’ve never read a Christie mystery (who are you?), then The Monogram Murders is a great way to get introduced to and fall in love with the famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot!
Thanks so much for reading! Please comment with your thoughts and share with anyone who you think might get a kick out of hearing about my awkward youth and, more importantly, finding out more about The Monogram Murders.