Red herrings, twists and turns, lots of lies, confusing motivations and a long list of characters make The Killings at Kingfisher Hill by crime writer Sophie Hannah the type of book you need to read when fully alert. Fourth in Hannah’s series of continuation Hercule Poirot mysteries, I finished it with mixed feelings.
Direct comparisons of Hannah and Christie seem unfair as these are continuation novels. Christie was a highly accomplished author who balanced likeable characters with dense but ultimately solveable crimes, while at the same time making the novels appealingly comfortable to read. If The Killings at Kingfisher Hill were a standalone novel featuring an unknown detective, it would be free of these comparisons. I enjoyed The Mystery of Three Quarters, third of Hannah’s Poirot novels, and will continue to read this series. It has also given me renewed impetus to re-read the Christie originals.
The complications start at the beginning. Poirot and Inspector Edward Catchpool are about to board a char-a-banc for Surrey and the exclusive Kingfisher Hill development, when they encounter not one but two women passengers behave strangely. One fears she is about to be murdered on the bus if she sits in a specific seat. The second woman confesses she has killed someone. Christie’s novels always have options – for victim, and murderer – but the options here did seem rather full-on with numerous characters introduced or mentioned in quick succession with none fully-formed in my mind. At one point I felt as Inspector Catchpool does, ‘My mind blurred, then went blank.’ So many possibilities in quick succession made me long for Christie’s more leisurely pace. True to character, Poirot is totally in charge of his investigation. He tells Catchpool, ‘Once one has a point of focus, all of the other details start to arrange themselves around it.’
Throughout I felt two steps away from the action because the murder has happened before the book begins. We are told the story of Poirot’s investigation by Catchpool and hear much of the necessary information as told to Poirot by third parties. Hearsay. I longed to be in the moment as it actually happened, or at the very least immediately afterwards – I think here of Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express, Evil Under the Sun and Death on the Nile.
The Killings at Kingfisher Hill wasn’t quite what I expected.
BUY THE BOOK
Here’s my review of The Mystery of Three Quarters.
If you like this, try:-
‘No Other Darkness’ by Sarah Hilary
‘Cover Her Face’ by PD James
‘The Secrets of Gaslight Lane’ by MRC Kasasian
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE KILLINGS AT KINGFISHER HILL by @sophiehannahCB1 #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-58W via @Sandra Danby