Having adored the BBC TV series, Poirot, starring David Suchet and having committed the literary cardinal sin of never reading one of Agatha Christie’s books featuring the Belgian detective (though I have read others), I thought I should give Sophie Hannah’s wonderfully titled novel, with the simply gorgeous art deco cover a whirl.
I am glad I did.
In this book, Poirot has, for some inexplicable reason, moved out of his accommodation and is living in a boarding house across the street where, conveniently, a young Scotland Yard detective, Edward Catchpool, is also staying. Acting on the recommendation of Catchpool, Poirot frequents the Pleasant Coffee House to take his meals. The book opens when Poirot is dining and a young, firghtened woman enters the coffee house and states that only when she is dead, will justice have been done before she exits, stage left.
When Catchpool is called upon to investigate the mysterious death of three motel guests, who all died at the same time in their rooms, Poirot senses that the young woman’s fears and this case are linked and thus the scene is set for Poirot to not only use his “little grey cells’ to prove they are, but educate Catchpool in the finer points of investigation. Journeying from London to a small village in the British countryside, Poirot and Catchpool find the answers to their present mystery lie in the past. But it’s up to Poirot to help the inexperienced Catchpool build those temporal bridges and join the literally bloody dots.
While I am not familiar with the style in which Agatha Christie wrote her Poirot books, there’s no doubt that when reading Hannah’s homage, it was easy to conjure a picture of Suchet as Poirot, fussing over his moustache, being particular about his things and places, so accurate was the dialogue and the descriptions of the vertically challenged, portly detective’s idiosyncrasies and ways of interacting with suspects. The language evoked a time and place very well as it did a range of eccentric British characters.
The climactic scenes with the revelation of just “who dunnit” did drag slightly, but other than that, this was an easy, delightful read that evoked the past in a charming, porcelain tea-cup way that made reading the book an easy pleasure.