It’s become popular to continue a beloved series after the death of the author. Some work like Anne Hillerman who continues the Navajo Mystery series started by her father, Tony Hillerman. He was iconic for his descriptions of life and culture through the adventures of a detective on an Indian reservation. She continues that nicely albeit not quite as credibly. Others don’t go so well (I’ll keep those to myself but feel free to add your thoughts in the comments).
One famous continuation I decided to try–with trepidation–was Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot series. Who could write this masterful quirky Belgian detective in the style of Agatha Christie, with his ‘little gray cells’, patent leather shoes, stylish mustache, shining green eyes, and awkward phrasings? I didn’t believe it possible so ignored Sophie Hannah’s effort until I read a fairly lackluster review from the Wall Street Journal that, while not effusive in its praise, didn’t pan her, so inspired me to give Hannah’s new series a try. After all, Hannah has won lots of awards and is well-established in her own right:
Sophie Hannah is an award-winning author of both fiction and poetry and international bestselling writer of psychological crime fiction, published in 27 countries.
Let me stipulate that the enormity of trying to ‘be’ Agatha Christie, no matter how many times an author has been an NYT best-seller, is doubtless too much to expect of anyone. Christie is one of the best-selling authors of all time with over 2 billion books sold. Her famous Hercule Poirot is the only fictional character to receive an obituary on the front page of the New York Times. Dead or not, few can match this.
As a result, I wasn’t willing to invest the $12 each for the Kindle version so I checked it out of my local library. It arrived fairly quickly, which should have been the first clue. The second was that on both Amazon and Goodreads, the books garnered only about 3.5 stars.
Good not great I’ll call these.
I did finish two of them. They’re in the flowery, detail-heavy style of Christie with lots of intriguing characters sprinkled throughout. Hannah includes plenty of diversion in the plot making it difficult for readers to draw conclusions on who might be the guilty party. As with Christie’s Poirot, Hannah’s has a similarly-bumbling Scotland Yard detective (Inspector Edward Catchpool) who seems unable to find a clue even if he’s holding it by the tail. Poirot professes to be undisturbed by this, eager to teach this young sleuth how to detect correctly and efficiently.
There are a few differences of note in Hannah’s books:
- They are longer.
- Poirot overall is less impressive.
- The bumbling sidekick plays a greater part.
- There is more retelling of events, as though to be sure the audience got it. I don’t recall that from the original and by halfway through, found myself annoyed by it (and skipping pages!)
I read Monogram Mysteries and Closed Casket, but I’m not sure I’ll read the last one, Mystery of Three Quarters.
Overall, for Poirot fans, this is a must. At least then, you can draw your own well-researched conclusions.
More detective mysteries
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and Born in a Treacherous Time, first in the Man vs. Nature collection. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, an Amazon Vine Voice, a columnist for NEA Today and TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. Look for her upcoming trilogy, Crossroads, eta Spring 2019.