There was certainly skepticism when Sophie Hannah published her first Agatha Christie Estate-authorized continuation of the Hercule Poirot series. Many readers were hesitant to pick up The Monogram Murders, fearing that their beloved character would be tarnished. As the positive reviews started to stack up, minds opened, and it was clear that Sophie Hannah also cherished Poirot and would do nothing to harm his reputation. The success of that first continuing novel led to others which were more widely well-received. Now, with The Killings at Kingfisher Hill, Sophie Hannah presents what might be the most Christie-esque volume in this continuing series so far.
Once again, Sophie Hannah allows her invented Inspector, Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard, to serve as the narrator of the novel. This imposed distance from Poirot is such a brilliant way to explain any differences in writing style that most assuredly exist between Christie and Hannah, but it remains vital that Poirot still act/react/think in his trademark manner. Sophie Hannah never lets the reader down in the area.
The first quarter of The Killings at Kingfisher Hill take place on a luxury coach bus traveling from London to the Kingfisher Hill estate. This may seem like a long time to devote to the journey, but what happens on that transport proves to be extremely important for both Poirot and Catchpool. As they are traveling, a woman on the bus becomes distraught, certain that if she remains in her particular seat, she will be killed. With the other passengers anxious to reach their destination, Poirot offers to change seats with the concerned woman – opening up the opportunity for Catchpool to talk with her in greater depth.
So, why are Poirot and Catchpool even on this bus? It seems that in a covert operation, Poirot has been summoned to investigate the recent death of Frank Davenport. It would seem that Frank’s brother’s fiancée, Helen Acton, has confessed to the crime and awaits execution; however, Richard Davenport is convinced that Helen is innocent. Upon arriving, Poirot must keep his true reason for being there a secret as he tries to figure out what caused Frank to fall to his death. Things go as planned until a second death throws everything into question.
Sophie Hannah packs her plot with quite a few unexplainable developments; challenges that only a mind such as Hercule Poirot’s would be able to navigate. The traditional setting of the estate village proves delightful for readers, even as the actions on the ground grow more and more troubling. Sophie Hannah proved in Closed Casket that she is masterful at crafting motives that are outside-of-the-box, so readers are well prepared for The Killings at Kingfisher Hill’s resolution to be anything but standard fare.
One fascinating element used within the novel is this idea that the Davenports and a family friend are involved in the creation of a board game in rivalry with the recent introduction of Monopoly. This firmly grounds the story in its historical period and proves to be a nice distraction from the crimes at hand. Rest assured that through it all, Hercule Poirot enchants with his quips to and criticism of Edward Catchpool. Readers are rooting for Catchpool the entire time, knowing with certainty that Poirot is always one step ahead – of not just Catchpool, but ahead of the reader as well.
All in all, The Killings at Kingfisher Hill is another successful outing for Poirot, Catchpool, and Sophie Hannah. Readers are sure to enjoy this one and will be hoping for more adventures still to come.
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.