Egypt in the 1930s, the Nile cruise boat Karnak. Newlyweds Simon and Linnet Doyle are honeymooning on the boat, but are being stalked by Simon’s ex-girlfriend Jacqueline De Bellefort, who is determined to extract some measure of justice for being passed over for Linnet. But there are other passengers who hold a grudge against Linnet – money, it seems, can attract many enemies.
Hercule Poirot is trying to have a holiday, but finds himself drawn into trying to resolve the love triangle. But when an unsuccessful attempt is made on Linnet’s life, followed by a successful one, it seems as if the holiday is over…
Ah, that’s better. The genuine article (as opposed to this).
One of Christie’s most famous and popular Poirot titles, partly because of the Peter Ustinov film. That was how I first came across it, which meant that it was in fact one of the last Poirot novels that I ever read. Which is a shame, as in many ways it’s one of Christie’s masterpieces.
One of Christie’s finest gifts was the creation of plots that were both complex and simple. The majority of her plots can be cracked wide open with a simple sentence – a sentence that the reader will hopefully only realise after the fact. This is something that was clearly missed with the labyrinthine mess of a plot in The Monogram Murders.
The line at the heart of this mystery is so simple – nothing to do with the murder itself. Of course it’s hard to hint at what I mean here, due to the old “no spoilers” idea. It’s to do with the drinks. That’s probably vague enough for the poor unhappy few who haven’t read this one.
The plot does a very good job of not falling into Christie’s most often repeated tricks. OK, arguably, one of her biggest tricks is at the centre of it, but she does a very good job of hiding it this time. There’s a lot to work out, but even if you guess the killer, explaining exactly what happened is not an easy task.
You may have noticed that I haven’t summarised the circumstances of the murder because it does take a while to happen – I think this is one of Christie’s longer books – but I didn’t get impatient waiting for the crime, as she keeps it ticking over nicely.
To be fair, it’s not without its faults. Some of the supporting characters are little more than cut-outs and at least one – Ferguson – who does get more development is utterly unbelievable. This doesn’t detract from the main story, but it’s briefly annoying.
Very simply – if you haven’t read this, read it. Now. One of the finest Poirot mysteries that should be sitting on bookshop shelves instead of a certain other book. Highly Recommended.