Poirot is trying to take some time off, but when an encounter with a crying woman in his favourite coffee shop seems linked to three seemingly unexplainable deaths at the fancy Bloxham Hotel he is drawn into the mystery alongside goofy policeman Mr Catchpool.
Despite my misgivings I read this book. And in a couple of ways it was quite good. The murder was intriguing, the backstory that was revealed was pretty good, and Poirot was quite like Poirot. But really, it just wasn’t enough. Our narrator was a bore, and the mystery seemed disconnected and presented as a puzzle rather than real human beings who we could actually care for.
The mystery itself was interesting, with elements that did confound me. And now, a week or so after reading it, I can’t really remember what happened, as there were layers and twists aplenty. But unlike the familiar and deeply psychological mysteries of Christie, where you would at least sympathise with one character, this seemed removed and detached, and spread a bit too thin.
Poirot, on the surface, was fairly Poirot. He referred to the little grey cells (a little too much?), he was mysteriously wise, he left his companion floundering. But to me it felt as though Hannah had watched the television series and written a Poirot based on someone acting Poirot (no aspersions cast on David Suchet who is superb) rather than the book. I think he lacked a certain warmth: as, perhaps, did the whole book.
This wasn’t assisted by the extremely annoying Mr Catchpool, an extremely archetypal dumb sidekick, full of misgivings about Poirot, and some dumb backstory that was largely frustrating (why on earth is he investigating murders if he can’t deal with dead bodies?) and as far as I remember forgotten towards the end of the book. Hastings, at least, has some finer feelings and good sentiment, whereas Catchpool is resentful and extremely stupid. I’m not sure either if putting Poirot and a policeman on the same side in this way is something Christie would have done – though I have not read all of her books so can’t be sure.
So, though it was quite fun encountering our fussy Belgian friend again, I wouldn’t recommend this book. It is more like watching a TV version or something. And to answer the question posed in my previous blog post… I think we probably would have been better off without it.