Closed Casket (Hercule Poirot Mystery 2).
4 stars out of 5.
‘What I intend to say to you will come as a shock . . .’
Lady Athelinda Playford has planned a house party at her mansion in Clonakilty, County Cork, but it is no ordinary gathering. As guests arrive, Lady Playford summons her lawyer to make an urgent change to her will – one 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 someone who has only weeks to live . . .
Among Lady Playford’s guests are two men she has never met – the famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, and Inspector Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard. Neither knows why he has been invited . . . until Poirot starts to wonder if Lady Playford expects a murderer to strike. But why does she seem so determined to provoke, 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, will he be able to find the culprit and solve the mystery?
Before I start the actual review I thought I’d ramble on abit about why I have a soft spot for Hercule Poirot. Many moons ago back when I was a young boy, in 1989 to be precise, ITV started showing an hourly show of Hercule Poirot and his mystery solving. Before converting to a two hour format that lasted for many years with a four year absence between 1996 – 2000 up until it’s culmination with the last series of Poirot episodes that aired in 2013 concluding with Casket, Poirot’s final case.
My Dad and Mum for that matter were Poirot fans, though my Mum preferred Agatha Christie’s other famous creation Miss Marple. I was only young when the show started but was allowed to watch it, my parents were quite cool on the subject of bedtimes and what I could and could not watch (I turned into a fine upstanding and polite gentleman, if I do say so myself, so no harm done due to my childhood TV/film viewing habits) – notice there’s no swearing or sarcasm in this post to prove that point 🙂 And, surprisingly I really enjoyed Poirot and it turned into for lack of a better way of describing it ‘a family thing’, we’d sit around on Sunday evening and watch the show together and it was decent family time. Likewise, when my Mum got a job and had to work Sunday evenings, me and my Dad would watch Poirot and it was nice, we didn’t do much together or have many shared interests and my Father wasn’t the best person in the world, but I remember watching Poirot with him now back in those early years of its airing upto 1996 and thinking back on it, even though it was only watching a TV show together, they were some good times and memories.
I’ve continued to like Poirot up until the present day throughout the years and gaps in between its airing. On a side note, I liked all the usual stuff on TV as a youngster and then teenager but Poirot and Sharpe (another classic TV show and for younger bloggers, Sean Bean was Richard Sharpe before he was Ned Stark in Game of Thrones) were a couple of my favourite shows. Anyhow, Poirot was always a TV show that I’d try my best to watch throughout the years and my life up until those final episodes. I can remember watching the final episodes in 2013, a lot has happened since then and it seems a lifetime ago. ITV had dumped them on Wednesday nights to get them over with and I can picture it now, the dark wintery nights, sitting on the sofa, cup of tea with Sully next to me (my Dog, RIP) and watching Poirot.
I know there’ll be those of you screaming but he’s a character in a series of books and not originally from a TV show and yes, of course you are right mon ami! I’m merely stating where my fondness for Poirot came from and that’s due to the TV show and not the books (I wasn’t a reader when I was young but that’s a ramble for another time). I have read most Poirot books and enjoyed them but they didn’t pull me in quite like I thought they would and it has to be said, I preferred the TV show. And, David Suchet (fabulous actor) to me is Poirot, his is the image I picture whenever I read a Hercule Poirot book. It had been a while since I read a Poirot book, the last one was The Monograph Murders by Sophie Hannah a couple of years ago, the previous book to this one and while I found it to be flawed, it was still enjoyable. When I knew there was a new Poirot book coming out, well, I was eagerly awaiting it’s release and thought, great, it’ll be nice to visit once again with Poirot and his little grey cells. As luck would have it, I was cheeky enough to blag myself an ARC thanks to the author herself from Twitter and here we are. I’ve hopefully explained my fondness for the little Belgian detective and why perhaps you are finding a book review for the new Hercule Poirot novel on my predominantly fantasy book blog.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The book takes place a few months after the events that transpired during Hannah’s first foray into continuing Agatha Christie’s legacy with Poirot in The Monograph Murders. Though the events are mentioned and alluded to a couple of times, there is however no need to have read the previous book. I think actually that while there is something to be said for reading the Hercule Poirot books in chronological order. And, while there is the occasional overlap it’s quite possible to pick up any Poirot book and read it without prior knowledge of the others. It’s perhaps a very simplistic description of any of the books but no matter the setting or the crime, he is a world famous Belgian detective who solves mysteries with the help of his little grey cells, psychology and deduction.
Closed Casket is located in Clonakilty, County Cork. Predominantly at Lillieoak, the house of Lady Athelinda Playford the novelist behind the children’s book series featuring Shrimp Seddon. The cast of characters include the aforementioned Lady Playford. Her son Harry and his wife Dorro. Her daughter Claudia Playford and her fiancee Randall Kimpton. Her secretary Joseph Scotcher and his nurse Sophie Bourlet. The household servants, the butler Haddon, the maid Phyllis and the cook Brigid. Her lawyer Michael Gathercole and his fellow lawyer and law firm partner Orville Rolfe. Edward Catchpool, a detective with London’s Scotland Yard (also the books narrator). And finally, Hercule Poirot. There are two other small part characters from the Garda (Irish police) Sergeant O’Dwyer and his superior, Inspector Arthur Conree. The cast of characters really are an eclectic bunch that make for an intriguing mystery to solve as we delve into their current lives and past. Getting to know more about them throughout the course of the book and what motives they had, if any to commit the crime.
Lady Playford has planned a house party for her guests, during the afternoon of the party she gets her lawyer, also one of the guests to change her will. During dinner she will announce the change as being a slightly eccentric (in my opinion) novelist she seems to have a slight flair for the dramatic. But why are Catchpool and Poirot there? A Scotland Yard detective and the world famous Belgian himself, both whom she has never met. Does Lady Playford expect foul play to happen and a murderer to strike? Well, yes, it’s a Poirot book so there’s bound to be a crime and even with Poirot and Catchpool’s best efforts there is still a murder and when it happens it’s not who you think it willbe that ends up the victim.
For a Poirot book, it has to be mentioned that the detective himself is largely absent for parts of the book taking on a smaller less involved role as the story progresses. Whilst this maybe a bone of contention amongst fans of Poirot wanting to see and read more of him in the story. Giving him less page time works surprisingly well, as it allows more opportunity for the other characters involved to get showcased. Yes, I would personally have liked more Poirot in the book, however his absence didn’t detract from the story at all and it made the times he did appear more special and a real highlight of the book. And, the character himself is as captivating as ever when he does appear.
The narrator of the book, Edward Catchpool is a new character created by Hannah and was first introduced in the previous book. I didn’t mind him in The Monograph Murders, he was a part of the story, but to me he was just simply there, not someone I either liked or disliked. In Closed Casket I much preferred him and thought Hannah did a good job of improving his character and making him far more likeable. He isn’t Hastings but he is a decent enough character and companion for Hercule.
I read Closed Casket in two and a half days and from the first page through to the last I found it to be a captivating read that I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m not always a fast reader but couldn’t put the book down! The only reason I didn’t finish it in two days was due to work. I made the conscious decision to leave the final forty pages until after I’d finished my shift the following day. Something to look forward to when I got home, in case it had been a bad day, the reveal, conclusion and seeing if I had guessed right about the culprit – which I had. 🙂 Now saying that, the fact that my initial inclining turned out to be correct didn’t dampen the conclusion at all. And, I believe with these books, it’s not about whether or not you’ve guessed the culprit yourself, it’s about seeing how Poirot himself goes about deducing who did it and finding out the reason why.
The book is both well written and well paced with an engaging mix of diverse characters creating an intriguing story that is full of twists. And for me, I really felt that Hannah managed to get a similar tone to Agatha Christie while adding her own imprint and style into the book.
In my musing before the review you will have read about my affection for the Poirot TV show. And, the highest praise I can give the book is simply that, while I read it sitting in the conservatory in the warm summer sunshine. I could quite easily have pictured myself and been transported to a cold winter night watching the TV adaptation of the book.
I truly hope that Sophie Hannah continues to be asked to write more Poirot books. While honouring the original source material she also adds her own take to the classic literary creation that is Hercule Poirot.
I found Closed Casket to be a great addition to the legacy of both Christie and her famous creation in the little Belgian detective.
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