Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Monogram Murders - Review

The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah Rating: 3.5 Stars
Source: Library

Description:  When Hercule Poirot meets a woman in a cafe who is frantic and quite certain that she is in terrible danger.  But it is one statement she makes that really stays with him "Oh please let no one open their mouths!"  When 3 murdered bodies are found at a London hotel each with a monogrammed cufflink in their mouth he knows the murders are connected.  With the help of his friend Scotland Yard Detective Catchpool the 2 are off to solve the murders, discover the identity and hopefully save the elusive "Jennie" and find out what happened in a tiny village 15 years ago.

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book: I almost didn't.  As an Agatha Christie fan and someone who has reread her books multiple times I was afraid that it would somehow be disrespectful to Poirot.  He is such a character that it would be easy to make a caricature of him.  However, a few weeks ago at the library the book jumped into my bag and I was powerless to fight it off.

My Impression:
You know how you read some books and it's hard to come up with anything at all to say about it?  Yeah, that isn't the case with this one!   I'm going to try writing the review of the book itself and adding a section that combines this book to Christie's books.

Pros: The premise on it's own is incredibly intriguing.  How were these 3 people connected?  And whose initials are on the cufflinks?  The pacing for the first 2/3 of the book was very good and watching all the little threads start to come together was fascinating.  I love when old mysteries are intertwined with new mysteries and in this case there were a number of little mysteries that all come together. I like Poirot and Catchpool's chemistry.  Pairing Poirot with an official and letting the reader look through the eyes of the official detective was an interesting twist.

Cons: From about page 200 I felt like the story hit a wall.  Instead of all the threads coming together things started to get murkier and convoluted.  Like the author had come up with this fantastic premise and knew who she wanted to be the killer but just couldn't quite get there.  There seemed to be a whole lot of talking and explaining but the explanations never seemed to quite get finished.  I also found Catchpool's inability to deal with corpses a bit strange.  The man's a detective at Scotland Yard so one would assume he'd come across one or two or at least expected to come across one at some point.  His almost breakdown due to that seemed odd given his profession.

Hannah vs Christie: At no point in the book did I feel like I was reading a new Christie.  Agatha's books have a clean crisp and almost unemotional feel to them while this had a much more modern thriller feel.  Also, the very idea of Poirot with his chocolate and his syrops drinking tea or coffee is almost blasphemy!  There was a comment in the book where Poirot says that he doesn't mind the cold which caused my eyebrows to almost touch my hairline.  Poirot is the king of coats and scarves and doesn't understand the passion the English have for open windows and fresh air.  He detests cold!  That being said, I think Hannah treated Poirot's character respectfully and he was never made to seem comical.  I thought the choice of inventing a new sidekick with Poirot was smart as trying to replicate Poirot is hard enough without throwing Japp or Hastings into the mix!

Overall:  I really enjoyed the first 2/3 of the book but wish the last 1/3 had been clearer.  While it didn't have the Christie feel it always felt respectful to Poirot which made me happy.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: I'd like to try Hannah's books with her own characters and I probably will try another Poirot if she writes one.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Hmm... As a mystery the end was lacking so I'm not sure if I'd recommend this as a mystery itself.  If you're a big Christie fan it's worth picking up.

Challenges Met? Alphabet Soup (M), Library Challenge

25 comments:

  1. I'm glad you wrote about this book. I had been wondering and had only read a little about it. I was surprised that Christie's family allowed the book, but it is interesting to see what someone else could do. Sophie Hannah's books have been on my list for a long time and I look forward to reading them. I'm still a little on the fence about reading this one. :-)

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    1. Hannah does come off as a fan of Christie's and she never makes Poirot a comical character so maybe that's why? I'm curious about Hannah's other books. I really enjoyed the first 2/3 of this and would love to see what she could do with her own characters.

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  2. I've been curious about this, but would probably stick with Christie or read one of Hannah's other books.

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    1. Probably best. While I did enjoy most of this one it wasn't one of my favorite reads.

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  3. I think I'd like to give it a try. I'm going to see if the library has it.

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    1. I'd be interested to hear what you think of it!

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  4. Great review, and I appreciate your comparison to Christie's books. I have trouble finding those that compare and think you nailed what her books are like.

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    1. Oh thank you! I love Christie and always find something new in her books. This was an interesting read though I wish the end had been stronger.

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  5. I love Hannah's books and have never read an Agatha Christie (imagine that!), so it would be hard to visualize how this feat would work.

    I may just stick to Hannah's own characterizations and avoid this one. Thanks!

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    1. What!! Go get a Christie book now! I enjoyed Hannah's writing and am looking forward to trying her other books.

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  6. I've heard of this one and my library coworkers recommended but I just wasn't sure and with your review I'm still not! We'll see I guess. :)

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    1. You should give it a try. I'd be interested to hear what you think

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  7. Great review, Katherine! And you make some very points. Like you, I thought the idea of inventing a new character to tell the story through was a good one. And the psychological aspects were not very Christie-esque. Not that her books don't employ psychology but the narrator's major issues around corpses didn't fit the Christie mold. I also think you're right that toward the end, the plot became a bit murky.

    You know, I completely missed the bit about Poirot not feeling the cold, but of course you're absolutely right - that's not in character at all. OTOH, I think he does drink coffee in some of the books, and he certainly drinks tisanes (herbal teas) in a number of them.

    Well done, and I'm glad you read it too!

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    1. Thanks! While I enjoyed most of this one it didn't the Christie feel. I didn't remember him drinking coffee but I do know he was rather opinionated about tea!

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  8. I really liked how you did the comparison. And also how you went into the book with an open mind. I understand how hard it is to go into a re-telling or imagining of a favourite book or movie without having preconceived notions. But it sounds like you took this for what it is. I've yet to read a Christie book. And honestly know about like two of her more famous works. But what I love about crime dramas(tv shows) is the banter and relationship between the detective and their side kick. Sounds like this one did a decent job there.
    Happy reading!
    Brittany @ This is the Story of My(Reading) Life

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    1. Go read Christie! I will give you a list to try! Try The Pale Horse or Ordeal by Innocence for starters. I did really try to go in with an open mind and it helped that the book felt respectful of Poirot. I think this would have been an instant DNF if I felt she was making fun of him!

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  9. Those are big shoes to fill! I'm glad you liked it for the most part.

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    1. It's definitely not a job I would willingly take on! For the most part it was a good read.

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  10. A new one for me. Thanks for the post.

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  11. I started listening to this in audio in last year but didn't make it too far into the book. I was really hoping it would feel just like Christie, which is probably expecting too much. And I should probably get back to it in print rather than in audio - I'm so used to either Hugh Fraser or David Suchet narrating the Christie books, and that's probably one of the reasons this didn't feel Christie-like to me.

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    1. I don't disagree. It took me awhile to get into it and just enjoy it as a book because it definitely doesn't have that Christie feel. I can imagine this definitely doesn't work as an audio because the book doesn't have the Christie voice and than not having Suchet or Frasier on top of that I think would be hard to deal with.

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  12. I am looking forward to reading this one. Thank you for the heads up about the last 1/3 of the book. It's funny because in some cases, I don't mind reading recreations of favorite characters and in others I have such a hard time with the idea. I'm not sure why that is. Maybe it's the type of the books--the characters themselves . . . With Sherlock and Poirot I'm okay with it. With the Bennett's from Pride and Prejudice, not to much. Hmm. Something to think about.

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    1. That is interesting. Maybe because Poirot and Holmes feature in so many stories that the character is diluted a bit whereas the Bennett's are just in Pride and Prejudice? I know exactly what you mean though. I'm not sold on all the Darcy books either.

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  13. Hmmhhh so lots of good points and bad points. On the whole though I think I'd enjoy it. And as a Sophie Hannah fan I would recommend that you try some of her ones too. I tend to prefer Miss Marple to Poirot so I probably wouldn't have picked up on the inconsistencies that you mentioned. Nice catches though!

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