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SA Partridge

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

An appetite for murder

A nasty case of bronchitis recently left me with plenty time to read, which is a rarity in my life. Day job + book reviewing + novel writing + numerous other projects = no time for reading.

So I used the opportunity to devour as many novels as possible. Usually this involves looking at my to-read pile, picking up a book, reading a few pages and then throwing it aside in frustration.

This is why the staff at Nazareth House are always happy to see me. I show up with boxes of untouched books for them to sell at their charity book sale. (Incidentally, if you’re looking to get rid of some books yourself, let me know.)

Last week I finally got through the pile gathering dust on my bedside table:

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness (Rating = Good)
Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman (Rating = Amaze!)
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. (Rating = Squee!)
The Dream House by Craig Higginson (Rating = Incredible!)

So many books

Being on a mission, I had to read one more. So I picked up The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah.

I was extremely skeptical when Harper Collins announced they were publishing a new Poirot novel, but since it was officially “the new Agatha Christie” I had to read it.

I used to read a lot of Christie’s novels as a kid. Mostly because my mother collected them, so there were always loads of the dog-eared paperbacks and old hardcovers in the house.

No wonder my first novel was about a group of kids that plan a murder.


Anyway, The Monogram Murders is fantastic. The novel is written in the same style and tone of voice as the original books. Poirot is his usual egotistical, otherwise self. Like every other Christie novel I’ve read I was convinced I knew who did it a few pages in, only to be proved dead wrong.

Poirot is in London recuperating the “little grey cells” when he encounters a distressed woman in his favourite coffee shop. Alarmed, he makes a few enquiries and is drawn into investigating three mysterious murders at an upmarket London hotel.

Hannah has managed to perfectly replicate Christie’s old trick of laying down red herring traps to lead readers up the wrong path. The ultimate reveal is masterfully executed.

I couldn’t find a single fault with the book. It captures the very essence of what an Agatha Christie novel should be – a nostalgic England that is timeless, but also familiar, Poirot’s trademark sense of urgency, and a feeling that good must triumph over evil at all costs. It all makes for a thrilling adventure.

I ended up with book grief – a sense of loss after the final page, leaving me not knowing what to do with myself. A very good sign.

And now since the reading bug has bit, I’m going to go re-read Fight Club. After all that murder I’m in the mood for a little mayhem.



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