Fiction Friday Round-Up – March 20, 2015

It was a three book week, which makes me feel accomplished (even though I had been reading one of those books for several weeks). Click the links for full reviews!

  • The Monogram Murders – Sophie Hannah: “I’ve never read an Agatha Christie novel before, so I was pretty excited to try this one. Perhaps there is a reason I never bothered looking up Hercule Poirot.”
  • Masque of the Red Death – Bethany Griffin: Not only does this book have a gorgeous cover, but it’s based on/influenced by a short story by Edgar Allan Poe…These are two surefire ways to pique my interest and I’m glad I picked this one up.”
  • Why We Broke Up – Daniel Handler: “I’m actually surprised I liked it as much as I did, considering it was written in an almost stream-of-consciousness style. That normally drives me crazy, but, since there was proper punctuation, it was bearable. Plus, I’ve always liked the epistolary form.”

Agatha Christie’s The Monogram Murders – Sophie Hannah

The Monogram Murders – Sophie Hannah

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Hercule Poirot’s quiet supper in a London coffeehouse is interrupted when a young woman confides to him that she is about to be murdered. She is terrified – but begs Poirot not to find and punish her killer. Once she is dead, she insists, justice will have been done.

Later that night, Poirot learns that three guests at a fashionable London Hotel have been murdered, and a cufflink has been placed in each one’s mouth. Could there be a connection with the frightened woman? While Poirot struggles to put together the bizarre pieces of the puzzle, the murderer prepares another hotel bedroom for a fourth victim…

I’ve never read an Agatha Christie novel before, so I was pretty excited to try this one.

Perhaps there is a reason I never bothered looking up Hercule Poirot.

I don’t read a lot of mysteries, despite being intrigued by the genre, so at first I thought I was just being nit-picky because it was unfamiliar territory to me. Then Ro, who reads a lot of mysteries, read it, almost fell asleep within the first 50 pages, and then told me that it was annoying. So I guess it wasn’t just me.

The murder itself was interesting – whose cufflinks were found? Why was the murderer trying to frame a dead man? Was the murderer trying to frame a dead man?! Find out by reading 300 pages of convoluted relationships until you start forgetting who was in love with who and why this is a problem.

I almost wanted to draw a map of all the characters to keep track of who’s who, but I was reading on the subway, and it would have been cumbersome.

There was a lot of telling, which I suppose is just part of writing a mystery (you know, the “big reveal” near the end and all that), but that was sometimes boring (especially if you consider that the story is being written from Catchpool’s memory, and I highly doubt anyone can remember THAT MANY conversations in perfect detail).

But my main problem was Poirot. A part of me feels bad that I’m complaining about a “much beloved” character, but holy frack, he’s infuriating. For one, he talks about himself in the third person. You know, stuff like, “Oh, but I, Poirot, I know the answer because I am so very smart” and “Hercule Poirot, he knows that he is smart”, and so on.

He reminds me of the master of disguises, Leclerc from Allo, Allo, only not nearly as funny.

leclerc

Also, he often said things like “you don’t know the answer? Dommage, I’ll tell you later” and then he would tell you 100 pages later, by which point you’d forgotten that he’d already solved the mystery and was now just stringing Catchpool (and the readers) along.

I actually didn’t mind Catchpool (apart from his apparently perfect memory retention which was unbelievable at best) and I definitely shared his vexation over Poirot’s “I’m better than all of y’all” attitude.

What’s interesting, though, is that most reviews say that Sophie Hannah did a wonderful job invoking the spirit of Agatha Christie’s celebrated novels…but then there are the hardcore AC fans who are all “codswallop!” (because I imagine they’re all British and say things like “codswallop” and “rubbish”).

So maybe I’ll give an actual Christie novel a chance; my dad says that Miss Marple (her other famous creation) is quite eccentric, and I’d be happy to get behind a kooky detective.