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The Killings at Kingfisher Hill: A Hercule Poirot Mystery


The Killings at Kingfisher Hill: A Hercule Poirot Mystery

In a clever move that would have pleased Dame Agatha Christie immensely, the latest Hercule Poirot mystery from British author Sophie Hannah found its U.S. release on her birthday, September 15th. This is the fourth undertaking that Hannah has made into the Christie family-approved continuation of this classic series. We are now enjoying 100 years of Christie’s work, and readers worldwide may offer huge thanks to Hannah, who not only keeps this beloved character alive on the page but also has turned these books into contemporary page-turners.

Christie’s birthday brought about a terrific article I read recently about the best opening passages from her various novels. I would like to add the first paragraph from THE KILLINGS AT KINGFISHER HILL to this list:

“It is not midnight when this tale begins, but ten minutes before two on the afternoon of 22nd February 1931. That was when the strangeness started, as M. Hercule Poirot and Inspector Edward Catchpool (his friend, and the teller of this story) stood with thirty strangers in a dispersed huddle --- no one too close to anybody else, but all of us easily identifiable as an assembly --- on London's Buckingham Palace Road.”

"THE KILLINGS AT KINGFISHER HILL is one of my favorite reads of 2020 and the most addictive page-turner of the four Poirot books that Hannah has written. I wait with bated breath for her next offering in this outstanding revival."

Hannah’s descriptive eye is keenly evident here; it had me hooked and eager for more. As Poirot and Inspector Edward Catchpool ride aboard the luxury Kingfisher Coach Company vehicle, their destination is Kingfisher Hill --- and they are going there under false pretenses. More on that in a moment. Before they can get settled on their ride, everyone on board is alarmed by the screaming outburst from a young female passenger. The only seat left on the coach is hers, and she makes a commotion about sitting there. When Poirot and Catchpool ask her why, she indicates that a man warned her that the person who sat in that seat would be murdered. Once they calm her down, Poirot offers to switch seats with her to keep the peace and allow for the vehicle to move on.

This beautiful woman, who Poirot nicknames the "Sculpture," is reading a book titled Midnight Gathering, which seems to alarm her even more. Catchpool spends time chatting with the frightened lady, who says her name is Joan Blythe of Cobham. During a brief stop, the passengers disembark for lunch at a pub. It is here where Poirot shares with Catchpool a letter that he received from a man named Richard Devonport and the real reason for their trip. Richard pleads with Poirot to help out his fiancée, Helen Acton, who was found guilty and sentenced to death for the murder of his brother, Frank. He is confident that Helen is innocent and needs the great Poirot to come to the same conclusion and save her from hanging.

Poirot and Catchpool are to visit Richard's parents, Sidney and Lilian, and pose as fans of a board game called Peepers, which was invented by Sidney and his exuberant American partner, Godfrey Laviolette. It is Godfrey who picks them up and drives them to the Devonports’ estate. Upon arrival at their home, nicknamed “Little Key,” Poirot and Catchpool are surprised when they are introduced to Richard’s sister, Daisy, who turns out to be their very own “Sculpture” from the luxury coach ride.

This would be far from the last surprise that Little Key has in store for them. Soon after having her true identity revealed to them, Daisy “outs” Poirot and Catchpool, indicating that they don’t care about Peepers. Immediately insulted by their ruse, Sidney has them ushered out. Even though their initial visit is a brief one, Poirot’s little gray cells are turning, and there is much to spark their curiosity to dig further into Richard’s request to find out who killed his brother. They head directly to the local constabulary to get their take on the murder and how Helen was found to be the guilty party. Mind you, it did not help that she shouted “I killed him” right after Frank was pushed to his death from a high balcony. It also turns out that she had been engaged to Frank and then became Richard’s fiancée after their first meeting.

Catchpool gets the approval from Scotland Yard to reopen the investigation with Poirot as his consultant. It is not long after their return to Little Key that Daisy, who is engaged to a young man named Oliver Prowd, confesses that she, not Helen, killed Frank. There are so many moments like this that will confound readers and make their heads spin. Thankfully, Poirot is not confused by the multiple red herrings as he works his way through this mystery. Then things get kicked up a notch when a second murder occurs at Little Key --- a woman’s body is found badly bludgeoned to death at the foot of the fireplace. In true Poirot fashion, he puts together for Catchpool a list of all they know and the questions that are raised from this information. Readers will get chills as Poirot attacks this case and makes everything seem so logical with his resolutions for all that has taken place.

Murder mystery fans will truly enjoy THE KILLINGS AT KINGFISHER HILL and the cadence of the language that remains unique to a Dame Agatha Christie novel featuring Hercule Poirot. For lovers of Poirot and all things Christie, like myself, you will be in a state of nirvana. Sophie Hannah has long ago blurred the lines between her hand and that of Christie’s to the point that the two are indistinguishable from each other. THE MYSTERY OF THREE QUARTERS, my favorite book of 2019, contains one of the best denouements I have ever read, almost rivaling the solution that Poirot outlines in the classic MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS.

THE KILLINGS AT KINGFISHER HILL is one of my favorite reads of 2020 and the most addictive page-turner of the four Poirot books that Hannah has written. I wait with bated breath for her next offering in this outstanding revival.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on September 18, 2020

The Killings at Kingfisher Hill: A Hercule Poirot Mystery
by Sophie Hannah