Hercule Poirot had never heard of Sylvia Rule, until she accosted him in the street and demanded why he had sent her a letter accusing her of the murder of Barnabas Pandy. He certainly had sent no such letter. He hadn’t sent the other three letters either, each addressed to a person that Poirot had never met before, each accusing them of murder – the murder of the same man, Barnabas Pandy, an old man who had apparently accidentally drowned in his bathtub.
Why would someone do such a thing – why not simply ask Poirot to investigate a suspicious death? It seems that someone has a plan – a plan that seemingly extends beyond simple murder.
Do appreciate that I go into a book like this unlike many readers. Some have simply heard of that Poirot chap and see his name on the cover – after all, the major UK booksellers these days seem to be supermarkets and they don’t stock classic Christie. Others are fans of Christie having read them when they were young. And then there’s people like me who know the classic Christie canon inside out and back to front.
Putting aside the question of the need for a continuation of Poirot’s adventures – it seems to be the thing these days, with both Albert Campion and Nero Wolfe enjoying new sales adventures as well – the other question concerns how accurate this tale is a recreation of Poirot and Christie’s style herself. Indeed, should Hannah be creating a tale that could seamlessly insert itself into the canon or should she write in a more modern style? After all, Christie’s style changed over the years – compare, say, Five Little Pigs with Peril At End House.
At the end of the day, let’s take a look at how it stands up as a piece of detective fiction. And it stands up very well. The plot is complex, but not as convoluted as The Monogram Murders, and the revelations are all fairly clued – Hannah seems to make a point of justifying every one of Poirot’s deductions in the finale. And yes, you could make a point about the villain’s plan being very unlikely to work, but to be fair, you could make a case for that in, say, Death On The Nile, too.
My primary niggle – and Hannah is by no means the only writer guilty of this – is the notion that the book is narrated/written by a character (Inspector Catchpool) despite him being present for only a portion of the events depicted. There is little need for narration here – indeed, little need to persist with Catchpool (is Japp copyrighted or something?). There’s nothing wrong with the third person…
But as I said, it’s a fairly clued mystery, hiding a familiar (to this over-read mystery fanatic) plot idea well. Definitely the strongest of the three Poirot continuations, but I would prefer a more conscious aping of Christie’s style.
Many thanks to Harper Collins for the review copy.