This year marks the 100th anniversary of the year Agatha Christie created Hercule Poirot. After last year’s first reincarnation in The Monogram Murders, it’s clear Sophie Hannah has inhabited Poirot’s world, to so many reader’s delight. She celebrates this anniversary with the second volume, Closed Casket,taking Poirot to Ireland and a house filled with bitter relatives, all with a motive for murder.
This is vintage Christie in style and Hannah does a grand job with a compelling plot that has a most clever climax at its end.
Lady Athelinda Playford has long inhabited the world of youths in her beloved children’s book series which feature the precocious juvenile Shrimp Seddon and her band of child detectives. Auntie M particularly enjoyed the description of Shrimp’s dog, as mentioned by Scotland Yard’s detective Edward Catchpool, (not a fan of Shrimp Seddon) as the ” . . . fat, long-haired Anita.”
Catchpool has been invited to Lady Playford’s estate Lillieoak in County Cork for no apparent reason he can discern, yet such is the Playford name’s weight that he decides the author must wish to have him correct her descriptions of detectives and he decides to attend. He is surprised to find his acquaintance, the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, has also been invited for the week, as has Lady P’s two lawyers.
The household contains Lady P’s two children, the married son Harry, Viscount Playford, and his wife Dorothy; daughter, the Hon. Claudia and her fiancé, Dr. Randall Kimpton; Lady P’s secretary, Joseph Scotcher; his nurse, Sophie Bourlet; and the usual staff of a cook, a maid, and a peculiarly quiet butler.
Into this set up, classic Christie, comes the whopper that thrusts the action forward: Lady P has had Michael Gathercole, one of her lawyers, redo her will that afternoon. Instead of leaving her estate divided equally between her son and daughter, as had been expected, she now intends to leave her entire estate to . . . her dying secretary, Joseph Scotcher.
With only weeks to live, Scotcher is surely an unusual choice on so many levels, her action makes Poirot decide he and Catchpool have been invited in order to stop a murder.
Yet a murder does occur, and very soon after the dinner where the will change is announced, in spite of Poirot’s plan to stop it. Now his task is to determine the real reason why Lady Playford changed her will–and who is the murderer.
He soon finds out that most of the household had a motive for the killing, which might stump a normal brain, but then, we are dealing with those little grey cells. Kirkus’s says: ” . . . the climactic revelation that establishes the killer’s motive is every bit as brilliant and improbable as any of Christie’s own decorous thunderclaps.”