Book review: “Agatha Christie’s Poirot” by Anne Hart

As Sophie Hannah and Harper Collins resurrected Hercule Poirot from the grave (see “The Monogram Murders”), I decided to read up on Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective. Actually, I was searching my library for the “The Mysterious Affair at Styles”. For this is Agatha Christie’s first detective novel which features Hercule Poirot. It was followed by over thirty more thrillers and short stories in which he solves mysteries and murders.

Hard to believe, but my public library did not have a copy of “The Mysterious Affair at Styles”. I was dreadfully disappointed. However, as it does not use your average and useful browser to locate reading matter, but a limited-edition one which coughs up books, music, newspaper articles and anything which can be read using associations – by sheer accident, I found it did have a copy of a Poirot biography!

Yes, there cannot be that many invented characters around which actually have an official biography, but Poirot is one of them. So intrigued, I headed for the right floor, department, sub-department, book cases and after browsing several shelves, I finally found what I was looking for. Of course, this treasure was carted off home to be read as fast as I could.

Contrary to Sophie Hannah’s “The Monogram Murders”, the biography by Anne Hart proofed to be an excellent and entertaining read. It not only contains lots of information about Hercule Poirot. It also gives its reader answers to questions such as: “What ever happened to Captain Hastings?” – in case, like me, you were wondering about this. Or did you know that Poirot retired twice? And where exactly and what he did for a living while retired? Of course, this funny biography also contains some information about his family, career, likes and dislikes, and not to forget: his great love!

So if you are a true – or just interested – Hercule Poirot fan, this biography by Anne Hart might be an interesting read to become more acquainted with this fabulous character and his creator, and all the novels and short stories he features in.

“Agatha Christie’s Poirot; the life and times of Hercule Poirot” by Anne Hart, Pavilion, 1990
This and later editions of the book are still available through Amazon.



Book review: “Poirot, The Monogram Murders” by Sophie Hannah

Agatha Christie died in 1976 and ensured her two most famous detectives, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, died with her. However, publishers Harper Collins and author Sophie Hannah contacted the Christie estates and were granted permission to resurrect money-spinning Poirot. So in September, a new Poirot case called “The Monogram Murders” was released in over fifty countries.

The driving force behind such recreations, resurrections, rewrites is profits. For why would a publisher and an established author with enough inspiration and creative talents – one hopes – and at least one original money-spinning thriller, bother to use characters, plots, themes, titles, novels written by anyone else?

Recent cases include P.J. James’s “Death comes to Pemberley” and Val McDermid’s “Northanger Abbey” based on Jane Austen’s novels including “Northanger Abbey”. Someone somewhere obviously hit upon the bright idea, that with all the reprints, tv-series and films based on Jane Austen’s novels, anything based on her writings ensures a decent profit.

As Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple are also huge money-spinners, Sophie Hannah and Harper Collins hit upon resurrecting Hercule Poirot. Undoubtedly not once, but for a very long new series of cases, spinning an awful lot of money. One suspects Agatha Christie’s wishes for her characters to die with her will soon be totally brushed aside, with Miss Jane Marple also receiving the kiss of life.

Unfortunately enough, “The Monogram Murders” is definitely not a Christie. To recreate Poirot, with all his mannerisms, little obsessions, vanity, and other characteristics, is not that difficult. But Sophie Hannah already manages not to pull this off convincingly. Moreover, Poirot’s side-kick is worse than Japp or captain Hastings. And it does not stop with the side-kick.

There are far too many highly contrived situations, twists, and turns. Take for instance Poirot being “en vacances” and not living in his comfortable apartment. No, he is not in Nice. He rents a room and is staying with a landlady who is rather irritating and not the best of cooks. As she does not cook on Thursdays, Poirot has found a small nearby coffee-house (!) where the coffee, food, pastries, are heavenly. So we have a sleuth who was unable to find place which serves decent coffee and pastries near his home. Things do not end here: Poirot’s landlady lives across the road from Poirot’s apartment. Poirot rents a room with a view of his own comfortable home. This is not only totally absurd and unconvincing; it is totally out of character, even totally unnecessary for the plot and story.

Then there is the main plot, which is just too absurd to believe. Many of the twists and turns between murders and solution also seem only to be there to ensure this book tots up a couple of extra pages. Whoever hit upon the idea of victims accepting to be murdered because they suddenly decide they feel remorse – over a decade after having behaved vilely? Why should two women in love with the same man plot together to kill off three people and have the spurned boyfriend of one of them totally willing to assist in the murders?

All this and more ensured, I made a mental note to not ever again read anything written by Sophie Hannah. If she comes up with such dreadful pulp based on Agatha Christie’s works, whatever she has written or will write, can only be totally unreadable.

After having read this fabrication, the only conclusion was that the name Poirot had been used to ensure a less than acceptable read was going to spin an awful lot of money for those involved in its publication. Why on earth did the Christie estates ever gave permission for one of her characters to be used in this fit-to-light-the-barbecue book? Lost a lot of money during the recent economic upheavals?

The only advice regarding this resurrection attempt: don’t pay money for it! If you really must read it, head for a library. If you’re a true Christie fan, just give it a wide berth. Rereading one of Christie’s over thirty Poirot novels and short stories will be far more satisfying.

“The Monogram Murders » by Sophie Hannah, published in 2014, is available as hardback, paperback, Kindle, Audio, CD, Audiobook (and in many translations) through Amazon.

For the more positive Observer review: “The Monogram Murders