The first book in the New Hercule Poirot
series, Sophie Hannah’s detective novel The Monogram Murders
(2014) is based on the original characters by Agatha Christie. In The Monogram Murders
, Poirot teams up with Scotland Yard to solve a mysterious string of London slayings. The book received a mixed critical reception; critics admit that it is hard to judge the books independently of the original characters. Hannah is the bestselling author of multiple psychological crime novels. She has also published numerous poetry collections. The Christie estate gave Hannah special permission to publish the New Hercule Poirot
Protagonist Hercule Poirot, a Belgian man, lives in London, England, during the early 20th century. An obsessive-compulsive who is pedantic about timekeeping, he is meticulous, always paying attention to the smallest details. These qualities make him a great private detective.
As the book begins, Poirot decides that he needs a change of scenery. He needs a break from private detective work and the cramped, dark space in his London flat. He decides to stay at a local guesthouse for a few days to unwind and to get a fresh perspective on his work. Unfortunately, no matter where Poirot goes, trouble follows him.
One night, a young woman, Jennie, interrupts Poirot’s dinner at a nearby coffeehouse. She tells him that she is dead, or at least she will be soon. Poirot asks her to calm down and tell him what has happened, but she will not give him any information. She claims that she deserves to die and that he must not track down her killer. She is only telling Poirot in advance so that he doesn’t take on her case when it inevitably arrives on his desk. Before Poirot can talk sense into her, she disappears.
Poirot spends the rest of the night reflecting on Jennie’s strange words. He knows that she will probably end up dead, and he will investigate her case whatever she says. However, before Poirot’s night is over, he finds out that three guests have been murdered at an upmarket hotel nearby. They were all been found in their beds with a monogrammed cufflink in their mouths.
Poirot isn’t the type to make assumptions, but even he knows that there’s probably a link between Jennie and these identical murders. He returns to his London flat, accepting that his brief vacation is at an end. He makes a note of everything he knows so far, applying his skills of logical deduction and instinct to the case.
The next day, Poirot teams up with Scotland Yard Detective Edward Catchpool. Poirot annoys Edward because he is so much better at catching criminals than anyone at Scotland Yard. Despite his frustration, Edward knows that teaming up with Poirot is their best chance at solving the case.
Poirot and Edward don’t just bicker about the murderer’s identity; they clash about life, too. Secretly gay, Edward knows that if anyone finds out about his sexuality, he will be kicked out of Scotland Yard. Poirot wants to set him up with a woman because he thinks that Edward is too young to be single and alone. Edward wishes Poirot would mind his own business for once.
Poirot finds out that two of the victims come from the village of Great Holling. Suspecting that Jennie lives here, too, he sends Edward to the village to find out more. They discover that the third victim also has a connection to Great Holling. The third victim, Richard Negus, planned to marry the second victim, Ida Gransbury, but he later broke off the engagement. Everything seems to point to Great Holling, and even Edward admits that these links are highly significant.
Back in the village, Edward meets with Margaret Ernst. Margaret, the vicar’s widow, is highly respected in town. She tells Edward that she thinks the murders are connected to a tragic event during WWI. Edward isn’t sure how reliable her testimony is, but Poirot is convinced that she’s right.
In London, Poirot meets with Nancy Ducane, a local artist with tenuous ties to Grand Holling. She doesn’t know anything about the murders, or if she does, she’s unwilling to talk. Meanwhile, Poirot suspects that the cufflinks are red herrings left on the victims to throw him off the scent.
Poirot does some more digging, but he doesn’t share any of his plans or theories with Edward. He finds out that the three murders aren’t murders at all in the typical sense of the word. They are the result of a suicide pact that dates back to the mysterious WWI controversies in Great Holling. Poirot spends the last few chapters telling Edward and the others how he figured this out.