Review: two Sophie Hannah mysteries
Updated: Aug 16, 2022
4/5 stars - The Mystery of the Three Quarters, by Sophie Hannah (2018)
2/5 stars - Woman with a Secret, by Sophie Hannah (2014)
The Mystery of Three Quarters
I SPED through this! Over the past few years I've really been enjoying reading some of Agatha Christie's novels for the first time, and while this is not quite the same caliber of writing, it's pretty close, I think. Hannah gained permission from Christie's estate and publishing house to write new crime novels featuring some of Christie's original characters - in this case, Hercule Poirot. Hannah has written three Poirot novels thus far, and refers to them as "continuation novels," a subgenre of crime (similar to the continuation of the James Bond or Sherlock Holmes series). She does a great job of not only telling an intriguing, well-plotted murder mystery, but also capturing the quirkiness and humor of Poirot.
The novel begins when Poirot is approached outside his home by a very angry woman who is outraged that he sent her a letter accusing her of the murder of someone named Barnabus Pandy. Not long after, a man arrives saying he also received a letter accusing him of the same murder. Poirot is unable to convince either of them that he did no such thing, and has, like them, never heard of Barnabas Pandy. Within the next few days, two more people come forward who've been accused, making four in total. Further investigation reveals that Pandy was an elderly man whose death was ruled an accident, having fallen asleep and drowned in his bath.
Was Barnabus Pandy murdered? Who wrote these letters? Why did they pretend to be Poirot? And how are the four accused individuals connected?
Each of the small cast of characters carries secrets, and Hannah uses misdirection deftly to make sure all of them seem suspicious at one time or another! The only thing that could have been done better was that the "big reveal" was very long winded... it was totally satisfying in the end, but took waaay too long to get there.
Woman with a Secret
I so enjoyed reading a good murder mystery that I decided to get another one from the library. This one was not as well written, but still an enjoyable page-turner. It's actually quite complicated, with a lot of layers and characters that intertwine in weird ways, and I was very invested... until the end, which just didn't make a whole lot of sense. I think in this case Hannah enjoyed the writing and unfolding of the mystery more than she cared about the "solution" being in any way plausible.
I can't quite figure out how to sum this one up so I'm just going to copy/paste the Goodreads description:
Traffic on Elmhirst Road has come to a halt. The police are stopping cars, searching for something. Nicki Clements waits patiently, until she glimpses a face she hoped she’d never see again. It’s him—and he’s the cop checking each car. Desperate to avoid him, she makes a panicky U-turn and escapes. But Nicki’s peculiar behavior did not go unnoticed, and now the police have summoned her for questioning. A resident of Elmhirst Road has been murdered—a controversial newspaper columnist named Damon Blundy. The detectives begin peppering her with questions. One simple answer could clear her. But she can’t explain why she fled Elmhirst Road that day without revealing the secret that could ruin her.
I'm not gonna say don't read it, because I really did enjoy the journey... But I think there are probably a lot of other, better mysteries by Hannah that you could go for, if that's what you're craving.
UP NEXT: Patron Saints of Nothing, by Randy Ribay