Surrounded by her nearest and dearest, she has also invited, from Scotland Yard, Edward Catchpole and also another famous detective that you might have heard of – that one from Belgium. And to top it all, at dinner she announces that she has changed her will, giving everything to her loyal secretary, despite the fact that he has only weeks to live… As I said, as a mystery novelist, you’d think she’d know better…
Needless to say, before the evening is out, murder has been done, but not to the expected victim. Poirot finds himself facing an impossibility – a witness to the crime that places someone at the scene who couldn’t have been there. As the finger of blame bounces around from suspect to suspect, Poirot has to get to the bottom of things before an innocent person takes the blame…
Never review angry. Well, not angry, but peeved. It’s been a bit of grotty day today, with disagreements with colleagues and ending up in what our US chums call a fender-bender (they weren’t related, btw), so what better way to take out my grumpiness than to review a book. And what better book to be grumpy about than the new Hercule Poirot book?
Well, actually, that’s harder than I expected. Because (and listen carefully, as you won’t be expecting this) I rather enjoyed this one.
Let’s put aside the necessity of continuing the Poirot tales – we went over that with The Monogram Murders – and look at the book for what it is. One of the problems with Monogram was its over-complexity and the fact that it just didn’t feel like an Agatha Christie book. And Catchpole didn’t exactly win many fans in this corner of the internet – the notion of a policeman with a fear of dead bodies was certainly an odd one.
Well, Catchpole is back but his corpse-a-phobia doesn’t get a mention. He seems a bit confused at times, especially early on when he can’t decide if Poirot is an old friend or someone who he only knew since the Monogram Murders and hasn’t spoken to since. Apparently he’s had a lot of stick over Poirot solving the case for him, so goodness knows how Japp copes. But he’s a much more personable character, if a little bland, but as a narrator, he does the job nicely.
Poirot has a few moments where he doesn’t quite feel right – would Poirot really slap someone to wake them up? – but the structure of the plot, hinging around that single clever idea, is much closer to the plotting of Dame Agatha, and the central motive is certainly something that I haven’t seen before.
I’ll be honest, when I read the blurb, I immediately thought that surely it was just going to be a rehash of a certain early book – let’s face it, when someone invites Poirot somewhere because they think a murder is going to happen, you can probably spot the plot very quickly. But (and I won’t spoil things) this is a very different story. The denouement is very much in the Christie vein and it’s at this point that Hannah’s Poirot finally feels spot on.
I could nitpick some points – who really thinks King John was Shakespeare’s best play, for example – but the fact of the matter is, I was carrying around my Kindle stealing a chapter at a time when possible before sitting down to enjoy the final section.
This is a vast improvement over The Monogram Murders, and while I still question why new Poirot novels need to exist, at the end of the day, I really enjoyed this one. Recommended.
But it would have made more sense to call it Open Casket…