Name: The Mystery of Three Quarters
Author: Sophie Hannah
Number of Pages: 400 (Hardback)
Published: August 23rd 2018 by HarperCollins – GB
Genre: Mystery, Crime
Returning home from a luncheon, Hercule Poirot is met at his door by an imperious woman who introduces herself as Sylvia Rule. “How dare you? How dare you send me such a letter?” Ignoring his denials, Mrs. Rule insists that she received a missive claiming he had proof she murdered a man named Barnabas Pandy and advising her to confess her crime to the police. Threatening the perplexed Poirot with a lawsuit, she leaves in a huff.
Minutes later, a rather disheveled man named John McCrodden appears. “I got your letter accusing me of the murder of Barnabas Pandy.” Calmly, Poirot again rebuts the charge. Each insisting they are victims of a conspiracy, Mrs. Rule and Mr. McCrodden deny knowing who Pandy is.
The next day, two more strangers proclaim their innocence and provide illuminating details. Miss Annabel Treadway tells Poirot that Barnabas Pandy was her grandfather. But he was not murdered; his death was an accident. Hugo Dockerill also knows of Pandy, and he heard the old man fell asleep in his bath and drowned.
Why did someone send letters in Poirot’s name accusing people of murder? If Pandy’s death was an accident, why charge foul play? It is precisely because he is the great Hercule Poirot that he would never knowingly accuse an innocent person of a crime. Someone is trying to make mischief, and the instigator wants Poirot involved.
Engaging the help of Edward Catchpool, his Scotland Yard policeman friend, Poirot begins to dig into the investigation, exerting his little grey cells to solve an elaborate puzzle involving a tangled web of relationships, scandalous secrets, and past misdeeds. – from Goodreads
As a recent new reader of Christie and particularly the Poirot stories I was intrigued to read how a new author would take on the writing of the famous detective and his world.
The whole thing begins when Poirot is accosted by four people in varying degrees of annoyance who have received a letter, purportedly from the detective, accusing them of the murder of Barnabas Pandy.
Some of them have no idea who this is, some are related to the man in question.
But Barnabas Pandy wasn’t murdered, he died in what could best be called a tragic, non-violent accident. Or did he? Who is writing these letters, and do they know something of the truth? Or is there other ill intent behind their sending, and why involve Poirot at all?
And how does something as simple as Church Window Cake cause so much upset but also serve to help Poirot’s infamous little grey cells work out the truth behind the deceptions?
So begins a search for a masquerading letter writer and a defective typewriter in which we encounter all manner of people – the innocent, the guilty, and those somewhere in between.
There’s a good cast of characters, from the lonely school boy to the spinster devoted to her dog, to the absent-minded schoolmaster and his wife, to Rowland Rope, a man known for sending criminals to the gallows which is unfortunate as his own son is one of those on whom suspicion falls as he too received a letter of accusation.
And at the centre of it all, Poirot himself.
I love Poirot, and it’s great to read more of his adventures. I don’t think I’ve read enough of the original novels yet to compare this Poirot to that of the original stories, but I enjoyed this version very much. Hastings has been replaced by Inspector Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard, who serves as narrator of this story and Poirot’s sidekick and helper during the investigation, and provides some light moments in the tale.
There are familiar features of the few Christie novels I have read – a large country house, a whole range of suspects, enough red herrings to send you off in totally the wrong direction if you’re trying to solve the mystery yourself, and the final gathering where the great Poirot reveals all, having discovered what is beyond most regular people to get to the bottom of.
And no, I didn’t work it all out before the reveal, even though in this case the final solution was possibly more straight forward than I would have expected.
I found this new Poirot an entertaining read, and I’ll look out for more books in this series, but while I wait for another book I’m off to discover yet more of Christie’s original stories, and I may have to seek out a piece of Church Window Cake too, because it sounds delicious!