Poirot's at it again

Anjali Jhangiani
Saturday, 17 November 2018

After a while, a second person does the same, then a third and a fourth. All of them have a letter that they believe was written to them by the detective, holding them responsible for a murder that they deny having anything to do with.

Right from the first page, you are hooked onto Hercule Poirot’s perception of the world. The renowned and respected private detective is for once minding his own business when he is approached by a hysterical woman who snaps at him for accusing her of the murder of Barnabas Pandy. After a while, a second person does the same, then a third and a fourth. All of them have a letter that they believe was written to them by the detective, holding them responsible for a murder that they deny having anything to do with.  

While Poirot brushes this as a harmless prank at first, the seed of curiosity about the murder is planted in his mind and off he goes to solve another twisted mystery. Even though Pandy was an old man, close to the end of his life at 94, as many believed, who died in the bathtub of his own home, Poirot refuses to believe that it was a natural death. He claims to be outraged by the pranksters who is writing these letters of accusation and using his signature, but really he is just itching to find out who the murderer is, and more importantly why would someone want to murder a person who already has one foot in the grave. His curiosity about the murder is fuelled after he finds out that all the four people who received letters are, in some way or the other, acquainted with the deceased Pandy.

With a lot of family drama and romantic scuffle, Sophie Hannah weaves in a rivetting whodunnit. Poirot’s frivolities come out when he cannot refuse helping the persistent waitress Fee Spring to find out whether her Church Window cake recipe has been stolen or not. Inspector Edward Catchpool is as clever as he is charming.

It could be the effect of the age of feminism that makes us read too much into the lines, or Hannah deliberately shows us a contrast to the time then when women had to adhere to certain restrictions and not pursue the career they wanted and believed were perfectly cut out for. 

The characters vary from delightful to tedious, but all of them vividly painted by Hannah. Fans of Agatha Christie’s writing will commend Hannah’s work as she seamlessly takes Poirot on another trail to solve another. She has been diligent in making sure fans don’t feel the difference in the way familiar characters carry themselves in this book. Not only are the characters true to what Christie intended them to be, but the 1930 setting and environment is familiar to her readers too. 

THE MYSTERY OF THREE QUARTERS
Author: Sophie Hannah
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 368 
Price: Rs 399

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