The Killing’s at Kingfisher Hill was my first introduction to Sophie Hannah’s ‘New Hercule Poirot Mysteries’, although I’ve always been a big fan of Agatha Christie’s originals. I was pleasantly surprised how similar the voice was to Christie’s. Continuing the legacy of an author after their death is a difficult line to walk, but I can see why Christie’s estate have allowed Hannah to continue to write about Poirot.
The story opens with a luxury coach trip. Poirot and his loyal companion, Scotland Yard’s Detective Catchpole, have been summoned to investigate the murder of Frank Davenport by his brother, Richard, at Kingfisher Hill. Richard’s fiancé, Helen, has confessed to the murder – but Richard is adamant that his fiancé is innocent. She is due to be hanged in ten days, so Poirot must act quickly to identify the correct killer. However, the drama starts on the coach, with a woman declaring that she has received death threats for sitting in a certain seat, and a different woman confessing to Poirot that she herself has previously killed a man – and gotten away with it.
As with all Poirot stories, the facts seem murky, with many disjointed players and occurrences, but are eventually brought together at the end. The narration – by the trusty Catchpole – is clear and enjoyable, moving at a rapid pace with plenty of twists and turns – some predictable and some not. The flow of the story felt exactly like an original Poirot story, even if some of Poirot’s characterisation sometimes differed a little – but this brought a fresh element rather than feeling out of place. I particularly enjoyed a scene between Poirot and an elderly woman he had to interview – it was where he was the least traditionally Poirot-like, but it was a beautifully described and rather amusing scene and made me like her character immensely. (To say more would be a spoiler, but I’m sure you’ll understand what I mean if you read it).
The weakest part of this book was the ending. It tied everything up more-or-less neatly, but it wasn’t quite as polished or satisfactory as the endings to most Poirot books I’ve enjoyed. That being said, it was very cleverly done, and while I had guessed some parts the precise details were a surprise – always a sign of a good crime novel. Perhaps I simply hadn’t connected to all of the characters enough to appreciate the ending – or perhaps I am viewing this with a more critical eye, knowing that it is not the work of the original author.
Overall, I enjoyed this and would recommend it to all Agatha Christie fans. Go in with an open mind – I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Published by Harper Collins
Hardback: 20 August 2020