Sophie Hannah has undertaken the formidable task of reintroducing Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot into the crime-solving world. Closed Casket is her second Poirot novel. The beloved Belgian is portrayed as eccentric as ever, with all due recognition to the power of his “little grey cells.” But, adieu Captain Hastings, for Poirot is now teamed up with Scotland Yard detective Edward Catchpool, who narrates the story.
It is autumn of 1929 when Lady Athelinda Playford invites a number of houseguests to spend a week at her estate in Klonakilty, Ireland. Poirot and Catchpool accept invitations though neither has ever met the aristocratic widow. On the first evening of the holiday week Lady Playford makes an astonishing announcement. As dinner begins she tells her assembled guests—which include her son and heir and her daughter—that she has changed her will and will leave her entire estate to her terminally ill secretary, Joseph Scotcher. Unfortunately, before day’s end Scotcher is found dead, his head hideously bashed in.
Poirot and Catchpool set to work. Several in the manor have sufficient motivation to want Scotcher dead. The only clue they have is an overheard conversation to the effect that “it must be a closed casket.” It is Poirot’s fabled understanding of human psychology that leads him unerringly to the killer.
Though it’s wonderful to have Poirot back on the scene, I can’t say Closed Casket makes my list of favorite mysteries. The plot is complicated enough, but I found it implausible overall. The dialogue is repetitious, the denouement tedious and the characters unpleasant. However, if you are an Agatha Christie fan, then it’s certainly worth a try.