First there are the book blurbs from crime writers--Gillian Flynn, Tana French, Charles Todd, Laura Lippman--and Agatha Christie's grandson Mathew Prichard, praising Hannah and her novel to the skies.
In the New York Times cozy mystery and children's book author Alexander McCall Smith assures us that Hannah's plot in The Monogram Murders "is as tricky as anything written by Agatha Christie."
In the Independent, reviewer Andrew Wilson, evidently gifted with clairvoyance, declares that Hannah "has written a novel that not only would have delighted the Queen of Crime, but her rather more highbrow sister in suspense Patrica Highsmith too." What is one to make of that, I wonder?
In the Washington Post reviewer Carol Memmott confidently pronounces that "Christie herself, some might say, could do no better....I'd challenge any Christie-phile to find differences between her distinctive writing style and and Hannah's mirroring of it."
On the other hand, in the Express crime writer Simon Brett, President of the Detection Club, laments that the novel suffers from a dull narrator and that the plot is lacking in "one brilliant central idea" as well as basic credibility. It's "not up to the rigorous plotting standards of the Queen of Crime," he concludes (beware a spoiler in the next-to-last paragraph).
Christie's latest biographer, Laura Thompson, is similarly unenthusiastic: "For all its approximation to an Agatha Christie, the book actually bears very little resemblance to one."
Carol Memmott might lose her challenge, judging by reviews on Amazon.com (where the book currently averages 2.8 out of five stars) and Amazon.co.uk (where the book currently averages 2.6 out of 5 stars), which currently are leaning towards the disappointed and even distressed.
A few who did not find Sophie Hannah comparable to Christie:
|Look closely and you actually|
will find Sophie Hannah's name on
the cover of the American edition
This would be a dull, repetitive, unendurable book even if it was unconnected to the Poirot oeuvre. As it is, it simply absurd. The first chapter is quite fun, but thereafter the story descends into a farrago of unconvincing nonsense.
At Amazon.com, JMB believes that
Sophie Hannah, on the other hand, has written a ham-fisted pastiche of a Poirot mystery that dwells unnecessarily on useless and obscure clues, far too many red herrings and a convoluted plot line that stretches credibility. Her Poirot is charmless and flat, the Japp/Hastings substitute so bland and characterless to be completely superfluous and forgettable.
On the other hand, the reviewer the Great Reads, who posted the first review of the novel on both websites back on September 9, lauds "bestselling author Sophie Hannah's fine writing and the compelling plot line" in The Monogram Murders and avows that "Princess" Hannah has fashioned "an absorbing story true to the legacy of its original writer," the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie.
What do you think? Are you going to read The Monogram Murders, or have you read it already?
For my part I got the book on Kindle and am halfway through it now. I will be posting my thoughts on Sophie Hannah's narrative and plotting choices in a few days.