Monday, 30 July 2018

The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah: Review

In Sophie Hannah’s third “new” story featuring a certain little Belgian detective with magnificent moustaches and an egg-shaped head, Poirot finds himself confronted by four people who have all received a letter accusing them of murder - a letter mysteriously signed by one Hercule Poirot. Who is Barnabas Pandy, and has he or hasn’t he actually been murdered? Poirot’s investigations, assisted by Scotland Yard detective Edward Catchpool, encompass a country house complete with aged retainer, a boys’ boarding school, a solicitor with a passion for the death penalty known unaffectionately as Rowland Rope, and - in a very Christie-ish touch - a typewriter with a dodgy letter ‘e’.

You wouldn’t actually mistake it for Christie - it’s definitely Sophie Hannah’s own take  and while set in the past, has a more modern feel - but Poirot is very recognisably Poirot (and apparently protects his moustaches with a net at night. Did we know this?) Captain Hastings is nowhere to be seen, but Catchpool is a worthy substitute, as is waitress Euphemia (Fee) Spring, though she doesn’t have a great deal to do here.... though her Church Window Cake (Battenberg, surely?) provides a source of inspiration.

Liked the chapter titles.... Proper chapter titles aren’t really a thing any more in most modern novels. Stuff like “Poirot Returns to Combingham Hall” and “The Typewriter Experiment”. They should be. Bring back the chapter title, modern authors!

I enjoyed the various renderings of Poirot’s name (Porrott, Prarrow) which reminded me of first reading the books as a child back in ye olden days and not knowing how to pronounce it ( I think Pworrot was as close as I got, and I had no idea what the M. - for Monsieur - stood for. I asked my mum, but she didn’t know either). 

I think this is my favourite of Sophie Hannah’s three Poirot novels so far... neatly plotted and characterised, and though nobody can entirely recreate the spirit of the originals (and nor should they), Sophie does a very good job. I really enjoyed it.

Many thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and provide an honest review.

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