Wednesday, 21 October 2015
The Monogram Murders.
I wonder if it was difficult for Sophie Hannah to decide to take on the character of Poirot and the vanished world he used to navigate through. I imagine during Agatha Christie's own life most of her readers may have found her characters worlds fanciful and remote but the modern world makes them seem even more so. For me it is one of the present delights of picking up an Agatha Christie without a thought for when it originally published. I think Sophie Hannah has done a sterling job which is to say she has made a shiny and eye catching addition to a published canon which has literally topped the billion mark in world wide sales. I cannot visualise a billion of anything( probably explains why a billion billion Daleks attacking The Doctor's home-world did not freak me out too much. Mind you a single demented one chasing Rose Tyler around an underground base was pretty nerve wracking.) much less a billion books. I am trying as I write his and am basically seeing a huge ladder built out of books tottering Babel-like to the heavens.
Whilst out for an evening meal during a sojourn from his own life Poirot finds himself drawn into an entirely mannered mystery that really kicks off when three bodies are found in the same hotel each with a monogrammed cuff-link in their mouths. Twists and turns abound in the shape of a quaint but unfriendly old English village as well as the introduction of a new sounding board for Poirot's "method" named Edward Catchpool. He fills the space normally occupied by the faithful Hastings but has something of a difficult past himself which pops into existence in memory bursts provoked by the infuriating nature of the case and his exposure to Poirot's peeling of the onion.
The er, onion of mystery, so to speak.
I have read so many Sherlock Holmes stories written by someone other than Conan Doyle the idea of some one writing Poirot or Marple does not strike me as some sacred cow to remain untouched. Yet one of the delights of TinTin for me has always been the idea that it is almost all the work of the one man. Would I feel differently if there had been a TinTin written by say..Alan Moore or Garth Ennis. A story drawn by Eddie Campbell or John McCrea. Who can say? The are all great artists and writers in their own way and on their own paths but where would they have taken that brave little Belgium reporter and his little dog. Blistering Barnacles can you imagine the mouth on Captain Haddock if Garth Ennis wrote for him. T'would make a whore blush. Sadly I have become aware that Herge' relationship with his creation was a difficult one and I have read comments by Agatha Christie that would lead me to believe she had similar feelings about her little Belgium Detective. Could it be said that all creative people create their own Frankenstein monsters or is it perhaps limited to fictional characters who come from Belgium?
Agatha Christie wrote with a brevity that belied her understanding of the darker side of human nature. Every now and again she really shone a light on the perverse nature of some of the complex drives that make up human relationships. Consider how often the motivation for some terrible action by one person against another turns out to be the pursuit of some unrequited feeling.
Love is generally the psychopath hiding in the darkened library with the blood stained candlestick.
That lovely cover was the work of Harper Collins Designs led by a senior designer Heike Scussler and I think it so craftily captures the era the story is set in and the lofty notions of so many of the protagonists. The fog of time has drifted across the age yet in old photographs and at work like this the period remains very much alive.
Unlike the three victims at the black heart of The Monogram Murders.