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This week I read a Poirot story with a difference.  The Monogram Murders is a modern return to Hercule Poirot, written by Sophie Hannah and approved by Agatha Christie’s estate.

Having heard it discussed at last year’s crime writing convention by the editor of the Estate (who was really interesting and of course a great salesperson when it came to this story) I decided to buy it when I saw it in a charity shop.

I am fascinated by the idea of continuing a set of stories created by another person, and how well – or otherwise – a voice may be captured.  In this book, I didn’t feel that Hannah was trying to recreate Christie’s voice as such; I have not read all of her work but it didn’t feel the same as the stories I have read.  However, she was trying to make Poirot live again.

I feel a little unsure about this one.  In terms of the story, I enjoyed it and it was an easy, quick read despite being nearly 400 pages long.  It was engaging and I was wrong about who I thought had done it, and why – there are twists and these worked for me.

But it didn’t feel like it needed to be a Poirot story – marketing-wise I’m sure that was helpful! but it felt more like a story that happened to have Poirot in it than a story in which he was integral.  This is an important point because I have actually felt that about another Poirot story I read, called The Hollow; and maybe this treatment of the character is more reflective than I appreciate.

I didn’t read this with a particular learning point in mind but I did want to successfully read something after my last efforts were wasted!  However, from a reading point of view I can say that the style of the ‘golden age’ of crime writing really appeals to me.  I do not like violent, graphic crime and the slick cleverness of this one was much more entertaining to me than a lot of modern crime writing.

I don’t know if I’d choose to read Sophie Hannah’s other books – she writes psychological thrillers usually, which aren’t really my preference – but I’d read her other Poirot to see how it compared.

I would want to compare it to an original Christie though!

Until next time,

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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I had very little time over the last few days, so I chose a bit of a cheat rather than to miss a week, and read one of my convention freebies!

Book 16 – The Double Clue, by Agatha Christie.  This is a selection of four short stories featuring Hercule Poirot, and with introductions by Sophie Hannah (who recently wrote a new Hercule Poirot book) and John Curran (an expert on Agatha Christie, who was a panellist at the Crime Writing Convention I attended).  The stories take the reader from London to Egypt, with Poirot and his friend Hastings foiling theft, murder, fraud and misrepresentation.

This was aThe Double Clue really easy, quick read, and had nothing of the complexity I expect from Christie due to the length of the stories; I even knew the outcome in a couple of cases!  However, this book wasn’t designed for that: it’s more a coffee break with a slice of cake book.  You can probably read a story in around 15-20 minutes if you’re a reasonably fast reader so it would be perfect on a train or waiting for an appointment, that sort of thing.  From a practical point of view it’s a great little book.

As for the stories – they were fun, if not complex.  I particularly liked the seasick, dishevelled version of Poirot (briefly) described in the last tale.  My favourite line in the book was ‘Also the heat, it causes my moustaches to become limp – but limp!’. The idea of Poirot ending a sea voyage with his moustache flopping down his face made me chuckle 🙂

I don’t think there’s too much more to say about this without giving away any plot points, but it has made me think about digging out some more short reads for those brief moments in between things when I don’t really want to get into my writing because I haven’t got enough time or peace, but I want to do something other than sit expectantly!

 

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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Following last week’s post where I said I was stuck in the middle of my story, I finished it in about an hour the next day – drama queen, aren’t I?!

Book 53 – The Secret Adversary, by Agatha Christie. This was Christie’s second novel, and stars Tommy and Tuppence, two friends who lose touch but are reacquainted a few years after the end of World War I. With little money and few prospects for employment, they join forces as ‘The Young Adventurers’.  The story follows them as they investigate a missing woman who holds incriminating evidence against the governments of the UK and the USA – evidence that the criminal European Socialists and some of the British Labour party are planning to use to instigate a general strike and the fall of the Government.  All the characters in this plot, however, are simply puppets in the control of the secret adversary – one Mr Brown.

Obviously it is of its era – politically, it is vaguely offensive and the language and some of the comments are not what you expect to read nowadays, but it was my first Agatha Christie and the first time I had come across the two characters so it was an educational read, if nothing else.

It seemed clear to me very early on ‘whodunnit’, which was surprising as I rarely work out Poirot’s cases on screen!  However, there were lots of clues and details about who everyone was and how they interacted that I did miss.  That was what I really found most enjoyable – the little details sprinkled throughout that I was able to reflect on when I got to the end of the mystery.

This book wasn’t as sophisticated as I’ve always thought Christie would be but I am not sure if that’s due to the characters or her developing writing skill.

It’s definitely one to read if you’re a fan of her work though, just to see where her writing life began, and it made me keen to read something she wrote a little further down the line…

Book 54 – The Hollow, by Agatha Christie.  This was first released in 1946, 25 years after The Secret Adversary, and there was a very definite change in the writing style. This story follows a group of people whose lives intersect at The Hollow, a country house.  On the day the lady of the house invites Hercule Poirot to lunch, one of her guests is murdered…

The plot followed the twists and turns as evidence appears and is found wanting, and a number of characters seem to have motives and opportunities to commit the murder.  The book shows multiple character viewpoints, giving the opportunity to see how each person reacted to the crime.  This was a great way to assess not just whether someone was possibly guilty of the crime but whether they had every really cared for their ‘friend’ in the first place, and how the death affected them – from emotional trauma to social inconvenience.

The story is a straight ‘whodunnit’, and this time, I didn’t know who it was which was much more satisfying!

The stylistic differences between this and The Secret Adversary were significant, and too many to list, but key ones from my point of view as a reader included:

  • a constant shift of viewpoint – we saw all the main characters away from the setting of the story and each other
  • the very late introduction to the recurring Christie character – Poirot is not the main player in this story, and he arrives about a third of the way into the book
  • the way the characters exist in a recognisable reality – we see a doctor, a sculptor and a shop assistant in their workplaces
  • The language used – this book seemed much less dated than The Secret Adversary which used more slang and colloquialisms (or perhaps the slang in The Hollow was better adopted and became normal English, who knows?!)

This book seemed to be about grown-ups, for grown-ups, whereas The Secret Adversary was more like a young adult book as we describe them now.  I definitely preferred this one.

Just as an addendum – I chose The Hollow as it was the first Christie I saw on the shelf of books I inherited from my grandparents (and am aware it isn’t necessarily reflective of her other work).  It reminded me that their library is sitting unused, when books should be read, so I am going to choose my next few books from there and give it life again.

Some are probably out of print, or out of style, or politically insensitive but that’s the way it goes with books – they are a reflection of a moment in time.  I just hope they bring me a little more insight into the world my grandparents experienced.

Until next time – happy reading,

EJ

🙂

 

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