The Monogram Murders

9780062297211_p0_v5_s260x420If you are missing Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, Sophie Hannah’s reincarnation of the famous Belgian sleuth  in The Monogram Murders will not disappoint.  In an interview, Hannah, famous for police procedural crime thrillers, noted:

“Try as I might, Agatha Christie is unique. The actual writing style can’t be exactly the same, so instead of trying to replicate it exactly, the way I got around it was by inventing a new narrator… a Scotland Yard detective called Edward Catchpool. He’s a bit unsure of himself, and worries people are going to see through him all the time. He’s the sidekick who’s quite good but he’s nowhere near as good as Poirot. I think readers will like him and identify with him. I did.”

“Nobody has ever written as many enjoyable, fun-to-read crime novels as Agatha Christie. It’s all about the storytelling and the pleasure of the reader. She doesn’t want to be deep or highbrow. So many writers want you to know their world view. Christie doesn’t, she just wants you to enjoy her books. You can be exhausted, have flu, a hangover, you always want to read Agatha Christie.”

I was easily ensconced in the solving of these three murders – dead bodies discovered in different rooms of the same London hotel, each with a monogrammed cufflink placed in their mouths.  The murders take place in 1929, although the motive proceeds from events 16 years earlier. Poirot is in good form – and a comforting element –  as he slowly unravels each clue, commenting in French phrases.  The plot is as intricate and as puzzling as a Christie mystery, and Hannah manages to replicate the old-fashioned style and Poirot’s egotistical manner.  And yet, the story seems to go longer than I remember Christie doing, and the aha element seems a little lacking at the end. Christie always managed to tie up all the loose ends in a final chapter, succinctly and quickly, but Hannah’s resolution meanders until you are wondering if Poirot will ever explain.    Still a good detective story, The Monogram Murders may be more Hannah than Christie, with a visiting Poirot as a bonus.

 

Charles (Caroline) Todd at Left Coast Crime

Mystery authors are materializing out of the Monterey mist here at the Left Coast Crime conference. New authors each had a minute to summarize and promote their stories over breakfast, but my favorite close encounter came last night at the opening reception. As I munched my hummus cucumbers and sipped some California wine, I noticed the solicitations of a younger man to a well-dressed elderly woman seated at my table. I wondered if he was her publisher? her escort? her lover, plying her with food and drink? When introduced, all my assumptions were dismissed: he was her son, and the duo – Charles and Caroline Todd- write the Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery series, set in Scotland Yard after World War I.

I’ve downloaded “A Test of Wills” -the first Inspector Ian Rutledge book, and hope to start a relationship with a new author(s) and a compelling character. I’m told that as a fan of Downton Abbey, I will immediately connect to Inspector Ian Rutledge—a British World War I veteran who suffers from shell shock as he returns to investigating London crimes.

Have you read any of the Todd mysteries?

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The Sound of Broken Glass

9780061990632_p0_v1_s260x420When I started to read The Sound of Broken Glass, Deborah Crombie’s story seemed familiar.  Although I had not read it before (I checked), the mystery neatly followed the formula of a police procedural, with detectives investigating the murder while slowly revealing their own personal lives.  Like two of my favorite detective series – Ruth Galloway and Claire Ferguson – the chief investigators are women. In this case, Gemma James is an Inspector in London, with her husband on leave from Scotland Yard to care for their new foster daughter, and her sidekick is Detective Sergeant Melody Talbot.

The life of a young handsome musician with the tortured background of a true artist  leads the plot, flipping back and forth from his past in the slums of South London with his alcoholic mother to his present day breakthrough as the newly discovered supertalent who haunts the guitar shops on Denmark Street in Soho.  His connection to the kinky strangulation of two London barristers twists the investigation into likely possibilities, until the real murderer is discovered.

This is my first experience with this British mystery series based on the adventures of Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Detective Gemma James of London’s Scotland Yard.  Crombie doesn’t waste pages explaining their background and I will have to read her previous books to discover how the relationship led to marriage and the adoption of two foster children with tragic backgrounds, but none of the missing information detracted from this latest adventure.  Crombie is an American author now living in Texas, but her clever insertions of local London dialect, food, and lifestyle as well as detailed descriptions of the Crystal Palace and Notting Hill sustained a comfortable British flavor while offering a satisfying puzzle easily solved for fans of the British crime mystery.