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Book reviews ... Author interviews ... and anything else I think might be of interest to writers and readers.

Tuesday 23 September 2014

The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah

The Monogram Murders

I have to admit that when I first heard there was going to be a new Poirot book, I was slightly dubious. But that was before I realised it was Sophie Hannah who would be writing it. I love Agatha Christie, I love Poirot, and I love Sophie Hannah. What’s not to like?

So as the time of the release date got nearer, I got more intrigued about this book and was thrilled when HarperCollins offered to send me a review copy. I wasn’t disappointed when it arrived – I loved it and read it in one sitting.

Sophie Hannah made some crucial decisions in the writing of this book, which I think are at the heart of why it works so well. Firstly, she gave Poirot a new sidekick/narrator in the form of Edward Catchpool. This gives a sense of freshness to the narration, and sits well with the blending of Sophie Hannah’s voice and Agatha Christie’s voice.

But Catchpool is not just a device to show the reader how clever Poirot is, he is a real character with a past and concerns of his own. Why is he so haunted by the murders he has to investigate, and why is he so troubled by the hands of the dead. ‘Hold his hand, Edward.’

We also find Poirot living, not in Whitehaven Mansions, but in the lodging house of Mrs Blanche Unsworth. It turns out that Poirot is lying low in order to give his formidable mind a rest. This results in his meeting Catchpool, but also takes him out of the environment in which readers are used to seeing him. It works well because had he been left in Whitehaven Mansions, the reader would have been expecting Captain Hastings or Miss Lemon to turn up with every turn of the page.

As you’d expect of an Agatha Christie, and indeed a Sophie Hannah, there’s a murder with an ingenious twist to be investigated in this novel. Why have three guests at The Bloxham Hotel been murdered and left with monogrammed cufflinks in their mouths? Who is PIJ and why was a note left at reception saying, ‘May they never rest in peace’?

It’s an engrossing mystery, a complex and satisfying plot, and a great tribute to the Queen of Crime. I highly recommend this novel to lovers of Agatha Christie and Sophie Hannah alike. It is a truly great crime novel.

Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.

You can find out more here

Sunday 7 September 2014

Love Is All You Need

Love Is All You Need

With any anthology of short stories, one of the most important things is to have a good mix of stories. They shouldn’t all sound the same, and you should find yourself taken by surprise by the selection.

‘Love Is All You Need’ certainly succeeds in this. As Sophie King says of the stories in her introduction: ‘Many stood out in different ways but in the end, I picked those that surprised me and also left a lovely warm feeling.’

The common theme of the stories is love, but it is handled in many different ways.

The beginning of Alyson Hilbourne’s ‘Hot Chocolate Hero’ reads more like an action adventure story, and that promise is certainly delivered on as her unusual theme and an unexpected romance complement each other throughout the story.

In ‘High On Life’ by Yvonne Walus we literally feel the earth move, and in that story as well as Johanna Grassick’s ‘ Rum Truffle’, we experience the emotion of loss as well as that of love.

I absolutely loved Helen Yendall’s trip back in time for her story, ‘The Taste Of Love’ which cleverly recreates the world of Nell Gwyn through the eyes of a young woman working in a Chocolate House in the London of 1669.

You may remember that back in June, when the e-book of ‘Love Is All You Need’ was released, I interviewed Sherri Turner about her contribution, ‘Funny Face’. This story closes the collection and it’s another cracker. It makes a great satisfying end to the anthology and will certainly leave you with a smile on your face. 

This anthology of love stories has something for everyone and I highly recommend it.

Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.

The anthology is now available in paperback as well as Kindle versions, and you can find out more here.