It's hard to pen books, they're difficult creatures to pull off, so my sympathies usually lie with the author.
But not this time.
This time I just can't help myself. Today I have to go on record, as the author of The Agatha Christie Book Club, and a life-time fan of The Dame, and say... What the hell was Sophie Hannah thinking?! (Or the publishers Harper Collins?!)
Have you guessed which book made me so irate I had to chuck it across my bedroom and toss and turn all night?
Yep, it's the 'Brand new Hercule Poirot Mystery' The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah (2014).
That's eight hours of my life I can never claw back.
Why it was such a disaster
Where, dear Agatha, do I start? I know that anyone attempting to pull off a Poirot as you did so beautifully so many times, is a bloody brave person and (maybe, just maybe) deserving of some kudos. But Ms Hannah deserves very little. She makes an utter mockery of our favourite Belgian detective. She's turned him into a charicature of himself. A grotesque parody.
Too many 'Mon ami's' and 'little grey cells'. It feels as though he spurts French every second sentence, something he never did in the original books. You want to scream, 'Yes, Sophie, we get it. He speaks French!!" "Okay, take it down a notch, Soph', we know Poirot likes to use his brain!" It has all the subtlty of a sledgehammer on a glass egg.
A plot to kill (the author) for
Then there is the ridiculously complicated plot. I mean, 'complicated' is too kind a word, it's a gross understatement. Sure, Dame Christie could weave an intricate puzzle, but Hannah has got herself—and her readers—in knots. It's a mess. A shambles. A joke.
The 'big reveal' to the assembled audience— a classic Christie trick— drags on and on and on over about 30 pages. Or at least that's how it feels. I mean, come ON already! Any plot that needs that amount of explaining is no plot worth investing in.
An insanely unlikely sidekick
Told in the first-person voice of a 'Scotland Yard friend' of Poirot's, the storyteller, detective Edward Catchpool, is about as believable as Santa Claus. Are we really to accept that the man in charge of investigating three murders at the prestigious Bloxham Hotel is so overwhelmed by dead bodies that:
1) he'd land a job at Scotland Yard in the first place?
2) he'd desert the crime scene to return to his fireplace and do crossword puzzles to soothe his nerves?
Sophie, I'm not sure if you realise what you've written. He LEFT the crime scene unattended. He freaks out when he sees dead bodies. He can't actually look at them straight.
THIS is the guy you've charged with investigating three murders on behalf of London's finest constabulary?
Deep breaths now...
There are so many other ways to loathe this book, but I'll take a deep breath and let it go. I know that my anger and criticism is partly due to the outrage I feel that ANYONE has attempted to write under the guise of the Great Agatha Christie (I mean, Sophie's name is right there beside Agatha's on the cover for gawd sake! Before it on my cover, in fact!!)
When I wrote The Agatha Christie Book Club, I made sure it was clearly a separate entity. I did not pretend to be writing a Christie novel. I set it in modern Australia around a bumbling group of book lovers. It was never intended to be an imitation, and that's where you went wrong Ms Hannah. You tried too hard and failed abysmally.
Now you can see, dear readers, why I had to throw it across the room and go, "Arrrrrrgghh!!!!!!"
But, hey, maybe I'm being unjust. Maybe you'd like to read the book and decide for yourself. Personally I'd suggest you put your pennies in a real Christie classic, but I'll leave that up to you.
In the meantime, happy reading everyone (but might I suggest another book?)...