It was near impossible for me to resist reading this book straightaway (I was waiting for the paperback edition to come out) – I honestly tried, and did actually succeed for a couple of months. However, when I needed an escape from reality, I could think of nothing more perfect than being reunited with my favourite Belgian detective in a new riveting mystery.
The actual writing was beyond amazing – simple yet witty, with dashes of humour thrown in. Having all the clues laid out, as Poirot, Catchpool and Rowland discovered them, made the book that much more enjoyable. Sometimes, it can be noted that in the Poirot books, some of the clues are only revealed at the end depending on the narrating character. In these cases, what little details Poirot discovers that help tie the mystery together are kept hidden until the last possible second, which at times can be a tad frustrating. This was not the case with this one. Although technically Catchpool was the narrator, even when he was not with Poirot, the reader got the clues the same time as Poirot discovered them.
The characters were absolutely brilliant and skillfully written. Like Christie, Hannah has a knack for understanding human nature and portraying it with stunning realism. There was an incredible amount of complexity weaved in to some of the characters, whilst others were rather zany or just downright hilarious. Using the slice of Battenberg cake to depict the mysterious link between four strangers and alluding to it throughout as the key to solving the mystery was delightful in it’s own little way.
“…knowledge of character is essential to the solving of crime,” I said. “Without knowing the motive, you can’t solve anything, and without understanding character, motive is unknowable. I have also heard him say that no man can act in a way that is contrary to his own nature.”
The plot moved at a nice pace. The mystery itself perhaps was not as intricate as other Poirot novels, but it was still a captivating read. The big reveal at the end was perfect – everything was explained in an orderly fashion, and it held all the dramaticness that is expected from that rum Belgian. The only thing that was just a smidge unsatisfying was that the whole Fee/Phillipa the pilferer side story was left unresolved in some respects.
In a nutshell, a cozy murder mystery, easy to get lost in. Hannah does not try to imitate Christie, but rather brings something fresh to Poirot’s character whilst still paying homage by keeping the essence of Poirot the same. Definitely recommend reading this book with a big mug of hot chocolate (or tea or coffee – whichever floats your boat) and a slice of cake (trust me, whilst reading it, you’re sure to crave some :D)
P.S. I finally watched Doctor Who. It was about time.