Publication: 23 August 2018 from Harper Collins
The world’s most beloved detective, Hercule Poirot – the legendary star of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and most recently The Monogram Murders and Closed Casket—returns in a stylish, diabolically clever mystery set in 1930’s London.
Returning home after lunch one day, Hercule Poirot finds an angry woman waiting outside his front door. She demands to know why Poirot has sent her a letter accusing her of the murder of Barnabas Pandy, a man she has neither heard of nor ever met.
Poirot has also never heard of a Barnabas Pandy, and has accused nobody of murder. Shaken, he goes inside, only to find that he has a visitor waiting for him — a man who also claims also to have received a letter from Poirot that morning, accusing him of the murder of Barnabas Pandy…
Poirot wonders how many more letters of this sort have been sent in his name. Who sent them, and why? More importantly, who is Barnabas Pandy, is he dead, and, if so, was he murdered? And can Poirot find out the answers without putting more lives in danger?
I have been wanting to read one of Sophie Hannah’s Poirot novels for a while – in fact I have one in my TBR pile, but when the opportunity came along to read The Mystery of Three Quarters, I knew I had to go for it.
This is a beautiful example of a Golden Age of Crime novel. Set in the main in a traditional country manor in the 1930’s with the usual assortment of family members, children and other non-blood related individuals, this is classic Christie territory.
Sophie Hannah nicely treads the divide between pastiche and originality, creating a Poirot that is recognisable, ego, follies and all, yet no pale imitation of the Christie character, just a compelling character in his own right.
The mystery begins when Poirot returns home one afternoon to to find a deeply angry woman, Sylvia Rule, wanting to know why he has written to her accusing her of the murder of Barnaby Pandy, a man whom Poirot does not know, and who was, to all who knew him, clearly the victim of an accidental drowning in his bath.
Three others, also not known to Poirot; Annabel Treadway, John McCrodden, and Hugo Dockerill have also received similar letters purporting to come from Poirot and making the same accusation.
Though Poirot has, of course, written no such letters, he divines, correctly, that someone wants him involved in this case.
With the help of his friend, Inspector Catchpool of Scotland Yard, he sets out to use his ‘little grey cells’ to work out what on earth is going on.
Was 96 year old Barnaby Pandy murdered? If he was, there are a host of suspects to choose from – not just those mentioned in the letters. There is plenty of work for Poirot to get on with as he delves into the lives of the alleged victim, and those who stand accused by an unknown hand.
In true Christie style, there is plenty to uncover with secrets, lies, scandal and unrequited love all playing a part in this intriguing and unpredictable family drama.
I really enjoyed this country house mystery. Sophie Hannah has captured the essence of Christie’s complex and multi- layered plotting, filled her story with juicy red herrings, and given us a sparkling tale, not short on wit, which both delights and satisfies.
Verdict: An intriguing story with lots of clues – and cake. What more could you want?
About Sophie Hannah
Sophie Hannah is an internationally bestselling writer of psychological crime fiction, published in 49 languages and 51 territories. In 2014, with the blessing of Agatha Christie’s family and estate, Sophie published a new Hercule Poirot novel, The Monogram Murders, which was a bestseller in more than 15 countries. In September 2016 her second Poirot novel, Closed Casket, was published and became an instant Sunday Times top ten bestseller.
In 2013, Sophie’s novel The Carrier won the Crime Thriller of the Year Award at the Specsavers National Book Awards. Two of her crime novels, The Point of Rescue and The Other Half Lives have been adapted for television and appeared on ITV under the series title Case Sensitive in 2011 and 2012.
Sophie has also published two short story collections and five collections of poetry – the fifth of which, Pessimism for Beginners, was shortlisted for the T S Eliot Award. Her poetry is studied at GCSE, A Level and degree level across the UK. From 1997 to 1999 she was Fellow Commoner in Creative Arts at Trinity College Cambridge and between 1999 and 2001 she was a fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford. She lives with her husband, children and dog in Cambridge, where she is a Fellow Commoner at Lucy Cavendish College.