The Monogram Murders – Review

Definitely not Christie, and even worse – Not Poirot!

The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah is being hailed as a “new” Agatha Christie, an addition to the Hercule Poirot novels. I’ve had mixed feelings about it since a year or two ago when I first discovered that it was being written, with the approval (or should I say the collusion?) of the Agatha Christie estate.

As an amateur writer, I’ve always approached writing as something very personal. You write what (and how) you write because of who you are. Your stories are shared with others, yet they grow and dwell forever inside you – in your imagination. Your characters are irrevocably your own.

As such, using another writers work, plots and characters seems to me akin to sacrilege. It isn’t yours. You can never truly know how the writer conceptualized, developed and thought about his/her characters; you can never know the myriad, varied story lines or fates planned for that character by their original creator. If you want to write, create something of your own instead of “borrowing”. (I actually don’t mind fan fiction too much as long as it is ONLY written for personal entertainment – and not cashed in on).

This is why, in spite of my sadness at the death of a well-loved fictional character, I was satisfied with the ending of Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case. I felt that by having Poirot die in the novel, Christie had successfully insured against future, poor quality imitations and ‘resurrections’. Unfortunately, it seems the Agatha Christie Estate was determined to prove me (and other fans) wrong. I can only ask them, “What on Earth were you thinking? Why would you do this? Do you enjoy tormenting faithful readers of the Queen of Crime?????”   I honestly don’t understand this. What was the point? Christie wrote approximately 30 Poirot novels (excluding the short story collections), which fans have contentedly read for generations. What was the need for this?

Did the writer bother to read a single original Poirot novel? Or did she do her research via wikipedia? The novel lacks the essence of Agatha Christie’s writing – it feels shallow and superficial. A number of Christie tropes are present, but they are dull, boring and underdeveloped (as are the characters & the plot). The writer displays surface similarities to Christie’s writing but that is all. She seems to lack an understanding of what makes Poirot the character readers know and love. Instead she overemphasizes his love of order and method, ad nauseam. At times one suspects she wrote the novel after viewing one or two Hercule Poirot (portrayed by David Suchet) episodes where all she observed were his behavioral eccentricities. It is incredibly irritating to repeatedly read about him setting table items (or something or the other) symmetrically (And she adds uncharacteristic phrases to Poirot’s dialogue – like “Sacre Tonnere” [Holy Thunder]). And add to that, an annoying replacement for Hastings & Japp – Edward Catchpool (Really, Catchpool? Catchpool?). The plot is too complicated, and poorly developed. You keep waiting for the novel to end, it seems to drag on forever. And then we are served up a highly unsatisfying ending.

This is not Christie, this is not Poirot. This is every Christie aficionado’s worst nightmare come to life.