The Killings at Kingfisher Hill – by Sophie Hannah (Review)

The New Hercule Poirot Mysteries #4

Mystery, Historical Fiction

HarperCollins; August 20, 2020 (UK)
William Morrow; September 15, 2020 (US)

346 pages (ebook)
8 hr 54 min (audio)

3.5 / 5 ✪

GoodreadsAuthor Website

I was kindly provided an advance-copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to HarperCollins, Willam Morrow and NetGalley for the ARC! All opinions are my own.

It is 1930. Hercule Poirot is traveling by coach to the illustrious Kingfisher Hill Estates when he uncovers a murderer. Prior to the tale’s start, Richard Devonport had written the famous detective and requested he come to the Estates to investigate the murder of his brother, Frank. A year previous, Frank had fallen to his death within the Devonport’s house of Little Key. The incident was ruled a murder, with Richard’s fiancée Helen as the prime suspect. Helen has been arrested and is awaiting hanging, as the authorities are convinced of her guilt. But Richard is not as convinced.

But on the coach to Kingfisher Hill, Poirot uncovers yet another mystery. A woman is convinced that she will be murdered if she sits in a certain seat. To allay her fears, the detective switches seats with her. Putting him next to a woman that later confides in him that she herself has committed a murder. But when the woman disembarks before he does, will Poirot be able to find her again? And how can he solve a murder that he knows all of the details of, yet none of them names for?

This is all before reaching Kingfisher Hill Estates, where another murder mystery awaits. One that may be connected to the hysterical woman, may be connected to the self-confessed murderer, or may be an entirely separate mystery entirely. All that is certain is that Poirot and his associate Catchpool are in for a difficult week, one that they’ll never forget.

First off, Hercule Poirot doesn’t ride in coaches. That’s a thing—look it up.

As a fan of Agatha Christie’s original Hercule Poirot, when Sophie Hannah originally revived the series, I was somewhat dubious. But as we approach the fourth book in the renewed series, I figured it was time to give it a try. By book four, Hannah has had time to fine tune her portrayal of the Belgian detective. And she does a pretty decent job of it. But as I’ve mentioned previously, there are exceptions to this.

All in all, I actually found the book enjoyable, though it took me a bit to warm up to it. This is helped quite considerably by the narrator—Julian Rhind-Tutt—who did such an incredible job as Poirot, that I had to double-check that David Suchet wasn’t actually involved. While I had issues with the depiction of Poirot himself, the mystery is really quite a good one; enjoyable, challenging, interesting, full of twists and turns. As a mystery, I’d say it’s probably a 4+ star read. As a continuation of Agatha Christie’s classic detective however—it leaves a little to be desired.

As Hastings occasionally was before him, Edward Catchpool acts as a friend and narrator for the brilliant detective—one that, while he infrequently picks up on Poirot’s hunches, is most often in the dark. It took me quite a bit of time to warm up to Catchpool enough that I didn’t find him simply exhausting. He’s a bit of a dry narrator. I mean, Hastings wasn’t exactly colorful and interesting. He was English. Old Empire English. But Catchpool seems to be a bit more of a bore, in addition to being even slower on the draw. He is frequently behind Poirot in even the most obvious of deductions, though every now and then he has his moment. It’s done this way for a reason—to make Poirot seem more impressive and amazing. But while Hastings was a captain in the British Army, he was no detective. Edward Catchpool is supposedly an Inspector of Scotland Yard, so he really should be less hopeless.

Poirot just feels different. It’s mostly little things; the bit about the coach, the perhaps inflated sense of superiority. He doesn’t mention any bit of his history beyond that of Hannah’s last novel. There’s actually little I can pinpoint exactly. Poirot seems nearly (nearly!) normal. His ego, his methods, his attention to detail, his cleanliness are all on point. Combined with Cacthpool’s dry witticisms, it’s almost like the old Poirot is back. It’s like running into an old friend, but their recollection of history is different and some of their mannerisms are wrong. But they look the same, they talk the same, and more than anything it’s good enough to have them back that you don’t want to look too closely lest you be disappointed.

TL;DR

Like an old friend you haven’t seen in years, Sophie Hannah’s Hercule Poirot looks like you remembered, sounds like you remembered, and is more than anything a sight for sore eyes. Provided you don’t look too closely. Otherwise you’ll unearth a slightly stranger looking Poirot—one that shares much in common with his predecessor, but is subtly different. Nothing too overt here, but his mannerisms, his inflated sense of ego, his peculiarities, his knowledge of and regard for his own history—are all off. If you take the mystery as it is, it will seem an interesting, twisting, and often exciting distraction from the world. But should you look too close, you may just find a doppelgänger masquerading as an old friend. Someone that has nearly fooled you once, but won’t again.

15 thoughts on “The Killings at Kingfisher Hill – by Sophie Hannah (Review)

      1. I like Christie’s novels in general, though I’ve read mostly her standalones 🙂 And I found I dislike most of the new additions to classics – the only one I can stand is Lovegrove’s Sherlock Holmes. But don’t get me started on the sequel to Peter Pan! 😂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. If you’re not super familiar with her Poirot stuff, I’m not sure you’d notice. But now I kinda want you to read it so you can tell me. Ummm think about it? 😁

        There’s a sequel to Peter Pan? Why?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hah, all right – I’ll think about it! 😀

        My question exactly! 😁

        As for Sherlock Holmes, I thought a bit more about what you wrote on the doppelganger issue; I think it’s to some extent inevitable, but the changes may either be bearable, and you’re willing to roll with them (the case of Lovegrove’s SH) because they “fit” (original Sherlock was, after all, an addict, misanthrop and a racist ;)) or they are a contradiction to what the character came to represent (the case of The Angel of the Crows, which was so bad I actually uttered a few choice words and gnashed my teeth and would have DNFd it if it weren’t a NetGalley book)

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Ah, good point! I don’t feel like this new Poirot contradicts the original character. It was more… just different enough that you noticed, but not so bad that I stopped reading.

        I’ve heard of Angel of the Crows, but I think I stopped reading about it after the opening “Sherlock Holmes fanfic where angels…” At least it wasn’t so bad that you bounced it off the wall 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m often hesitant to try these continuations where a new author carrys on the works of another. I suppose I always fear them staining the memory I have of the original. This isn’t a series I’m very familiar with yet, as this year I actually read my first Agatha Christie books (well, listened to audiobooks), the first Hercule Poirot and the first Superintendent Battle, and I really enjoyed both. Prior to this my only knowledge of Poirot was watching parts of the tv show when visiting my folks. I enjoyed the review!

    Liked by 1 person

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