Imagine the drama if an incredibly wealthy author announced, just before her death, that she wasn’t going to leave any of her money to her family.
That’s the juicy setup for Sophie Hannah’s latest novel, Closed Casket, a follow-up to Agatha Christie’s The Monogram Murders, which was published nearly forty years ago.
Lady Athelinda Playford, a rich author who pens children’s books, invites multiple family members to her mansion for a weekend gathering. During a large dinner, Playford stuns everyone when she announces that she’s disinherited them from her will, and instead plans to leave everything she owns to her secretary, Joseph Scotcher, who is terminally ill and not expected to live long.
As Playford’s children and family recover from the shocking news, Joseph Scotcher proposes to his long-time nurse, but their excitement is short-lived as Joseph is found murdered just hours later.
Hercule Poirot and his Scotland Yard partner, Edward Catchpool, were also invited to the dinner by Lady Playford, though they were never told why they received invites. They immediately begin investigating Scotcher’s death, with no shortage of suspects–starting with all the family members who are upset over their being cut out of Playford’s will.
Athelinda Playford’s adult children, Vincent and Claudia, along with their significant others, are at the top of Poirot’s presumed list of anyone who had a motive to commit the murder. Hercule Poirot, who first thought maybe his presence was requested in case the family didn’t take the news well, begins to wonder if Lady Playford had reason to suspect a murder would take place.
It doesn’t take long for a giant game of Clue to break out, with Hercule Poirot trying to figure out whodunit, with what, and why. Actually, it’s not that simple, as Sophie Hannah writes numerous twists and turns into her riveting murder mystery.
While the plot is carefully spun, some readers will see foresee a number of the surprises long before they’re revealed. Also, for reasons I don’t quite understand, much of the story focuses on Edward Catchpool instead of Hercule Poirot, who steals almost every scene that he’s in. Even so, the suspense is palpable and drives the story full-steam ahead, as readers will race to uncover two things: Who did, in fact, kill Joseph Scotcher? And why, exactly, did Lady Playford insist on Poirot and Catchpool being present during the announcement to begin with?
Admittingly, I never read Agatha Christie’s The Monogram Murders, so I can’t speak to how this novel stacks up against that one. But for readers who, like me, are just meeting Detective Hercule Poirot for the first time, Closed Casket is a smart, character-driven mystery that offers plenty of tricks and treats. The ending got me, and it’ll get you too!
Author: Sophie Hannah
Series: Hercule Poirot #2
Pages: 320 (Hardcover)
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: September 6, 2016 (Order Now!)