Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah
Sophie Hannah had a fine reputation as a writer (indeed her poetry is taught in the GCSE syllabus) before she raised Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot from the dead. Generally I am not a fan of such derivative works and find them unnecessary. I do not understand why writers cannot create their own chararcter rather than borrowing them from other authors. However, unlike many other such revivals, Hannah’s work has received favouable reviews and seems to be endorsed by Agatha Christie’s trustees. Several of Christie’s book are reviewed on this site inculding: The Hollow at https://bookreviewstoday.info/2013/04/11/the-hollow-by-agatha-christie/ and Five Little Pigs https://bookreviewstoday.info/2014/06/26/five-little-pigs-by-agatha-christie/. With that preamble, when my mother gave me Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah, I decided to read it rather than donate it directly to my local library.
It is interesting to note that Closed Casket was published in September 2016 on the 100th anniversary of Christie’s first Poirot novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. The story starts when Lady Athelinda Playford plans a house party at her mansion in Clonakilty, County Cork, Eire.
As guests arrive, Lady Playford summons her lawyer to make an urgent change to her will which she intends to announce at dinner that night. She has decided to cut off her two children without a penny and leave her fortune to an employee who has only weeks to live. Among Lady Playford’s guests are two men she has never met. One, of course, is the famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, and other is Inspector Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard. Neither knows why he has been invited.
However, Poirot begins to wonder if Lady Playford expects a murderer to strike. He finds it strange that she should appear determined to provoke anger in the presence of a possible killer. When the crime is committed in spite of Poirot’s best efforts to stop it, and the victim is not who he expected it to be, only he will be able to find the culprit and solve the mystery.
Although I enjoy Agatha Christie novels and appreciate Poirot as a character, I did not enjoy Closed Casket. The character of Poirot did not quite ring true, nor did his relationship with Catchpool. I was not much convinced by the premise of the mystery either.
While I have no doubt that Hannah will find success with this book, because of its derivative nature, I cannot recommend it to Agatha Christie officionados, it will just irritate you.