Saturday, September 10, 2016
CLOSED CASKET by Sophie Hannah
In the admiring and capable hands of Sophie Hannah (The Monogram Murders, 2014) Hercule Poirot is back! This time he has received a surprising and puzzling invitation to attend a house party hosted by Lady Athelinda Playford, a popular Irish author of children’s mysteries. Scotland Yard detective Edward Catchpool has received the same invitation and is equally puzzled. Nonetheless neither would refuse the chance to spend a week at Lady Playford’s sumptuous estate, Lillieoak, in County Cork.
Upon arrival they’re greeted by Hatton, the butler, who is seemingly in pain when he speaks as if he needed to say more but cannot. Now, this is not an intimate gathering as there are a number of folks - Joseph Scotcher, Lady Playford’s secretary who is in a wheelchair as he suffers from Bright’s disease and has not long to live, Viscount Harry Playford, his wife, Dorothy, his older sister, Claudia, and her fiancé, pathologist Randall Kimpton, the heavyset Mr. Rolfe who has digestive problems, and Sophie Bourlet who is Scotcher’s nurse. When dinner is finally served all sit in astonishment as Lady Playford announces that she has drawn up a new will and is leaving her entire estate to Scotcher. Thus, of course, disinheriting all of her family in favor of a man who is deathly ill with only a short while to live.
However, in a rapid turn of events Lady Playford’s offspring are re-inherited when only a few hours later Scotcher is found brutally murdered. One person claims to have actually seen the killing. Enter Inspector Arthur Congee who is a bit of a know-it-all bully and announces that the investigation will be done his way with no interference. This precedes a number of surprises revealing that Scotcher was not who anyone thought he was.
For this reader even the entertaining repartee tended to grow a bit tedious as Poirot and Catchpool doggedly worked to solve the case and carry us to a rather improbable ending. Closed Casket is sanctioned by the Agatha Christie estate and her fans will welcome it while I await Poirot and Catchpool’s next adventure.