Review - The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah

Review - The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah


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 really enjoyed this new Hercule Poirot story.

Before I proceed, a disclaimer:

It has been many, many years since I read an Agatha Christie novel. I devoured them as a child and I don't think I've read one since. Therefore in this review I will not be doing anything to compare Sophie Hannah's writing style to that of Christie's. However, I have seen a lot of the ITV Hercule Poirot adaptations with David Suchet!

I love Sophie Hannah's portrayal of Poirot, with all his little quirks and eccentricities. You could really tell that she was having fun with this iconic detective, and it's a lot of fun for the reader too. There's further fun around a number of the other characters repeatedly getting his name wrong or insisting that he is French, and in one case pleasing him immensely by pronouncing it perfectly.

Edward Catchpool, the Scotland Yard detective helping him, is our main POV character, and the tale is told from his perspective with a good dose of humour, often at his own expense. The perspective is handled in an interesting way. Some chapters are told in first person, with Catchpool being our point of view. Others, the ones told from Poirot's perspective, and a handful with another main character, are told in third person. This all works well with the conceit that it is Catchpool recording all of the events on a typewriter, similar to how Watson recounts all of Sherlock Holme's adventures for publication. I've had trouble with novels in the past switching between first and third, but it really worked for me in this novel. Poirot is a mysterious man and best viewed externally to maintain the mystery and surprise, while Catchpool was a most endearing narrator.

But any mystery novel has to stand or fall on the quality of its mystery. And here The Mystery of Three Quarters did really well too. It's a really interesting set-up, four people each receive a letter accusing them of murdering the same man, a man three of them don't know, and all apparently signed by M. Hercule Poirot. For much of the novel we have no idea if there even is a murder to be investigated, which is a really cool twist. Pieces slowly fall into place, but with no definite victim it is so hard to put them together, and I really enjoyed Poirot's recurring theme of a slice of Church Window Cake (which sounds very Battenberg like) and how the cake reflects the suspects. The structure of the novel itself further emphasises this, neatly divided as it is into four quarters. Tension builds nicely as Poirot announces he will reveal the murderer on a particular date, before he knows who it is or even if there has been a murder, and everything builds to a thrilling conclusion. 

One additional thing I really appreciated was the discussions about the nature of justice. So often these types of mysteries end with the murderer being announced and marched off, ignoring the fact that they're set in an age of capital punishment. The Mystery of Three Quarters addresses that head on, very effectively too. 

With The Mystery of Three Quarters, Sophie Hannah takes one of the most iconic detectives in our literary canon and has a lot of fun with him. It's a lot of fun to read too.

🌕🌕🌕🌕🌕


The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah is available now, published by HarperCollins UK

I was given a review copy via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

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