The Monogram Murders: The New Hercule Poirot Mystery

May 13, 2015 - Comment

The new Hercule Poirot novel – another brilliant murder mystery that can only be solved by the eponymous Belgian detective and his ‘little grey cells’. Since the publication of her first book in 1920, Agatha Christie wrote 33 novels, two plays and more than 50 short stories featuring Hercule Poirot. Now, for the first time

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The new Hercule Poirot novel – another brilliant murder mystery that can only be solved by the eponymous Belgian detective and his ‘little grey cells’. Since the publication of her first book in 1920, Agatha Christie wrote 33 novels, two plays and more than 50 short stories featuring Hercule Poirot. Now, for the first time ever, the guardians of her legacy have approved a brand new novel featuring Dame Agatha’s most beloved creation. Hercule Poirot’s quiet supper in a London coffee house is interrupted when a young woman confides to him that she is about to be murdered. She is terrified, but begs Poirot not to find and punish her killer. Once she is dead, she insists, justice will have been done. Later that night, Poirot learns that three guests at the fashionable Bloxham Hotel have been murdered, a cufflink placed in each one’s mouth. Could there be a connection with the frightened woman? While Poirot struggles to put together the bizarre pieces of the puzzle, the murderer prepares another hotel bedroom for a fourth victim…In the hands of internationally bestselling author Sophie Hannah, Poirot plunges into a mystery set in 1920s London – a diabolically clever puzzle that can only be solved by the talented Belgian detective and his ‘little grey cells’.

S.J. Watson Interviews Sophie Hannah

S.J. Watson is the New York Times bestselling author of Before I Go to Sleep.

SJ: In The Monogram Murders, you channeled the voice of the legendary Hercule Poirot. How was writing a longstanding character invented by someone else different from writing your own?

Sophie: Not as different as you might think. I know Poirot so well, from reading all the Christie Poirot novels lots of times. In a way, writing this book felt similar to writing about a real person I was very familiar with. It was a bit like writing an episode in the biography of someone I greatly admire.

SJ: What is your all-time favorite Agatha Christie mystery?

Sophie: That’s a tough one. Currently, Sparkling Cyanide – so clever and surprising – but I change my mind all the time. My favorite Poirot novel is After The Funeral.

SJ: What kind of research did you do prior to sitting down and writing The Monogram Murders?

Sophie: I reread all the Christie Poirots, and I booked a week’s holiday at Greenway, Agatha Christie’s former holiday home in Devon. I hoped that inspiration would strike if I went there, and it did. On the first night there, I propped myself up in bed with my laptop, about five metres away from an enormous portrait of Agatha, and starting putting together my plot. By the time I left at the end of the week, I had the whole story in my mind and on my computer – every last detail. If I were a superstitious person, I would say that Agatha helped me…but of course I’m far too sensible and rational to suggest that! (Or am I?)

SJ: What do you think are some of the quintessential traits of an Agatha Christie mystery? Did you try to incorporate any into The Monogram Murders?

Sophie: I tried to incorporate what I think of as all the crucial ingredients of a Christie/Poirot novel: a gleeful delight in storytelling; an outlandish/apparently impossible opening scenario that is later revealed to be eminently possible; the perfect combination of ease and pleasure for the reader with a challenging intellectual puzzle; a profound intelligence that at no point makes the reader feel stupid or condescended to; the centrality of motive and psychology; the combination of a light/feel-good experience for readers with a sophisticated awareness of the dark depravity of human beings. Christie, more than any other crime writer, is able to include polar opposites in her novels – light-dark, easy-difficult – without either ever detracting from the other.

SJ: Do you think Agatha Christie would have been pleased with The Monogram Murders?

Sophie: I can’t speak for her. I fervently hope so! Wherever she is, I hope she’s pleased!

Comments

JMB says:

Really Not Up to Snuff Regardless of the glowing praise on the back of the dust jacket, Sophie Hannah has not written “a new Christie” novel. The beauty of the genuine Christie mysteries, and of the Poirot novels in particular, is their elegance of plot and character. Though she utilized the occasional red herring and sudden appearances of new characters to turn a plot, Agatha Christie’s writing and plot lines were graceful and not unnecessarily complicated. Her dialogue sparkled and snapped, and her famous…

FictionFan says:

Poirot just knows… A terrified woman bursts into the coffee house where Hercule Poirot is partaking of the best coffee in London. When Poirot tells her he is a detective, she seems tempted to share her worries but in the end tells him only that she is about to be murdered and that, once she is dead, justice will have been done. Pausing only to beg him to prevent the police from investigating, she pleads cryptically ‘Oh, please let no one open their mouths’ and flees back into the night. Meantime Mr Catchpool of…

T. says:

Missed the point entirely. While I was excited about reading another Poirot mystery, this book turned out to be a disappointment. The underlying problem is that the author missed the fundamental idea and appeal of Agatha Christie’s stories, specifically the ones featuring Poirot. The superficial details are faithfully reproduced: Poirot’s verbal tics, his obsession with order and detail, the substitute for Captain Hastings, the interbellum London setting, etc. What’s missing is the talent Christie had that distinguishes…

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