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The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah & Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

November 24, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah (2014) // Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James. (2011)

I usually don’t write about two books in the same billet but this time I’ll make an exception for these two crime fiction novels that I’d qualify as fan fiction books. I’m not particularly attracted to ersatz of classics or spin offs. I received The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah with my subscription to Quais du Polar and I put it on the shelf, not particularly attracted to this new investigation featuring Hercule Poirot, even if it’s been published with the consent of Agatha Christie’s heirs. I got tempted by Death Comes to Pemberley because it was written by PD James and I thought there was enough sass and wits in Elizabeth Bennet to change her into a funky amateur sleuth.

How wrong I was.

The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah turned up to be an easy and rather pleasurable read. Hercule Poirot is hiding in a boarding house in London to make everyone believe he left the country. He wants some rest but also some familiarity and decided to play tourist in London. In his lodgings, he gets acquainted to Inspector Catchpool, a young policeman from Scotland Yard. When a peculiar triple murder is committed in the hotel Bloxham, Catchpool is overwhelmed by the investigation and Poirot offers his services. Follows a typical whodunnit plot.

Now Death Comes to Pemberley. *rolling my eyes and smacking my forehead* What was PD James thinking when she wrote this?

We’re at the eve of Pemberley’s great ball when Lydia arrives in a rush and cries that Wickham and his friend Denny disappeared in the woods and that she heard the sound of bullets. She’s hysterical and Darcy, Bingley and Colonel Fitzwilliam brave the night and the wind to go and find Wickham and his friend. When they arrive on the scene, they discover that Denny is dead and Wickham is prostrated on his friend’s body and repeats that he killed him. Now, what really happened in these dark and hunted woods? I bet you’re dying to…read something else. And you would be right.

While The Monogram Murders was pleasant read, Death Comes to Pemberley was totally ridiculous. Elizabeth Bennet must have been brainwashed on her wedding day. She lost all her spirit and her sparks to become a dull and dutiful mother and wife. Yuck. A loving doormat in admiration with her husband, that’s what she is. She has the psychological depth of a moth, Darcy sounds like a carpet, if carpets could talk. The book is peppered with unnecessary reminders of the original story, as if this could have other readers than Jane Austen’s fans.

These two books have something in common though: none of them manages to recreate the magic of the originals. They lack of warmth, they’re not realistic. The Monogram Murders doesn’t bring you back to the London of Agatha Christie’s time. And Hercule Poirot is not smug enough. I missed the slightly outdated tone of Agatha Christie’s novels, this special tone that sends you back to a time when boarding houses were common. Sophie Hannah resuscitated a passable Poirot, but you couldn’t mix him up with the original if you were reading this blindly, without knowing the writer’s name. And Death Comes to Pemberley kills more than Denny, it kills the original characters and morphs them into weak and sad puppets. Lizzie had the potential to be a fantastic sleuth, exasperating her husband by playing amateur detective and breaking out of social conventions. What a disappointment! And I will spare you the mawkish passages about her and Darcy’s marital bliss. Gag. Poor, poor Jane Austen! This is not crime fiction, it’s a crime against fiction.

The good news is your TBR is not going to grow after reading my billet. Count your blessings. We should just reread Pride and Prejudice.

  1. November 24, 2017 at 11:45 pm

    Ha, I have the Sophie Hannah one from Quais du Polar as well – and haven’t read it yet. But I made the mistake of reading Death Comes to Pemberley a few years ago and I agree with you. Big, big mistake!


    • November 25, 2017 at 9:31 am

      Will you read the Sophie Hannah?
      And yes, this PD James is awful. What a disappointment.


  2. November 25, 2017 at 1:59 am

    I officially gave up on Sophie Hannah a while ago. Her books sound appealing but aren’t for me.


    • November 25, 2017 at 9:32 am

      I’d never heard of her before receiving this free book. I wouldn’t have bought it myself.


  3. November 25, 2017 at 8:08 am

    I’m no fan either of reimaginations or spin offs; they feel lazy to me as if the author didn’t have enough creativity themselves to come up with their own plot or character so borrowed someone else. Hence I never bought either of these books. I did see a tv adaptation of the PD James – absolutely awful.


    • November 25, 2017 at 9:34 am

      I agree with you but I understand why fans are attracted to them.
      I can’t believe they put money in a TV show based on this book. You can make a terrible film based on an amazing book but I don’t think you can turn a bad book into a good film. (unless you change something about the story)


      • November 26, 2017 at 8:46 am

        I suspect they thought there would be a lot of Jane Austen fans hungry for more about their favourite characters. Some people did apparently like the book


        • November 28, 2017 at 9:47 pm

          I know some liked, from the ratings on Goodreads. Sometimes I don’t like a book but it’s a good one nonetheless. Here, I can say it’s a bad book, there’s no way around it.


  4. Col
    November 25, 2017 at 10:21 am

    Having read Death Comes To Pemberley and having survived it intact, though only just, I promised myself I’d avoid this stuff in future. I’ve not kept to that promise but in all honesty I’ve not really come across a decent one yet!!


    • November 25, 2017 at 1:18 pm

      I made myself the same promise, I hope I’ll keep it.


  5. November 25, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    I’ve read some harsh reviews of Death Come to Pemberley, so will definitely stay away from this. And the Sophie Hannah does not sound that much better. I have one of her earlier books here though and will try that. Possibly I’ll feel the same as Guy.


    • November 25, 2017 at 5:09 pm

      It clearly deserves harsh reviews.
      The Poirot spin off is better but still an average books. There are far better crime fiction books out there.


  6. November 25, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    I really enjoyed The Monogram Murders; and A Game for All the Family – quite complex, good – not a HP


    • November 25, 2017 at 6:29 pm

      Good to know about A Game for All the Family, it may be the one that Caroline has on the shelf.


  7. December 1, 2017 at 8:44 pm

    Oh dear. Death Comes to Pemberley sounds like a rare misstep for PD James. She’s one of the few contemporary crime writers I would consider reading these days, partly because some her stories have a ‘Golden Age’ feel to them. Sleep No More is a nice little collection, interesting murder mysteries for the dark nights ahead.


    • December 3, 2017 at 11:58 pm

      I know, I was so disappointed. I only risked it because it was written by PD James. So even a famous and good writer can be caught acting as a silly fan. 🙂


  8. December 18, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    “This is not crime fiction, it’s a crime against fiction.” Ouch!

    It does sound awful though. The thing is, Austen really is a great writer. There might sometimes be backlash because she’s so popular (and, I suspect, because she’s a woman), but she really is a great writer. I think that makes borrowing her characters/world very difficult.

    But as you say, even a famous and good writer can be caught acting as a silly fan, which is kind of heartwarming in a way. Well, heartwarming for those of us who haven’t had to suffer through reading the book anyway.


    • December 19, 2017 at 10:13 pm

      Yes, “ouch”

      I guess you’re right about Austen. She’s tagged as Romance but her books are so much more than that. Like I said, her set of characters was great to imagine a witty and a little rebellious amateur detective. I got a carpet instead. *zzz*


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