Putting on the Bloxham: Monogram Murders Book Launch

Today saw the release of Sophie Hannah’s continuation Poirot novel, The Monogram Murders, being touted as ‘the first new Poirot adventure in 39 years.’ Perhaps surprisingly, given how people like to moan, it has been overwhelmingly well-reviewed.

Geek alert. I don’t understand this 39 year thing, since Black Coffee (novelised 1999), ‘The Dog’s Ball’ (pub. 2009), ‘The Capture of Cerberus’ (pub. 2009), and ‘The Greenshore Folly’ (pub. 2013) contradict that date. Then again, if we mean first newly-written Poirot, then the gap should be 42 years, since Curtain (pub. 1975) was written in the 1930s, making the last ‘new’ Poirot Elephants Can Remember (1972). </end geek>

I was lucky enough to have attended the launch at the Ritz in London. And what a launch! The people at HarperCollins have pulled out all the stops, determined to make this, in their words, ‘the publishing event of the year.’

For the night, the Ritz became the Bloxham, the top-notch hotel (and scene of the crimes) in The Monogram Murders. The whole thing was kicked off months ago in a deliberately confusing way, when mock news stories appeared in papers and on Secret Escapes announcing the ‘relaunch’ of the Bloxham. The Ritz was filled with actors who stayed in character (pretty much!) all night as they steered us around cocktails, roulette, and the scene of a crime.

For a book-launch the whole event was both unusually posh and unusually fun. This is the rarest combination imaginable. There were speeches from David Brawn at HarperCollins, Agatha Christie’s grandson Mathew Prichard, and of course, Sophie Hannah herself. Mathew said that ‘project Sophie’ had been characterised by ‘sheer love for my Grandmother’s work.’ He said that anyone who handled Agatha Christie had to take her seriously. This reminds me of something Rosalind Hicks, Christie’s daughter, once told David Suchet, which he often quotes: ‘We should laugh with Poirot, but never at him.’ Sophie described herself as Agatha Christie’s sidekick — revealing the latter’s brilliance through her own work.

We rounded off the evening with gift bags ccontaining beautiful copies of Murder on the Orient Express, dwarfed, of course, by the inclusion of Poirot cufflinks. Guess what I’ll be wearing at #Agatha2015 …

Only three personal regrets for the evening. One is that I never got to try the Bloxham cocktail, because as we got to the front of the line, the body was discovered and the cocktail bar closed. Ah, well — there is always the second launch, on Sunday in Torquay.

Second, I found my name in the acknowledgements and squealed and tormented Sophie, who was trying to leave, with incoherent splutters of gratitude.

The other thing is nastier. The doorman at the Ritz tried to turn me away. Not sure if it was my outfit or my ‘Oh-my-such-oppulence-I-don’t-belong-here’ attitude. The invite wasn’t enough, apparently. Luckily, I ran into Agatha Christie’s family who were very lovely said I was with them. ‘Don’t worry, he’s in character’ said Mathew’s wife, Lucy (again: clothes or personality? Both were me!). Either way, the doorman backed off. Whereupon everyone was lovely, of course. But he never apologised, which I think is just appalling. Ah, well — Christie was once turned away from a Mousetrap party held in her honour at the Savoy.

None of this greatly distracted from the ritzy glitzy glamour of the evening. It was as sparkling and as beautiful as the book itself, which is a physical work of art.

I read about 100 pages of The Monogram Murders on the train back, but haven’t had much time for reading since. Will post a review post-haste.

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The invite featured a shiny Poirot.

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The gift-bag (via @lauradigiuseppe). GEEK ALERT: The bookmark states that Poirot has appeared in 2 plays. I have no idea what this is based on. Christie wrote one stage play, one television play, and one radio play featuring the little Belgian. In addition, two further ‘official’ stage plays have been written by third parties. An additional musical play, Death Beat, a vehicle for Peter Sellers, was written but never staged in the 1960s.

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Those cufflinks, though!

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It was a great evening! Just ignore the strange expression on the weird young socialist’s face….

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A body! (via @QueenOfCrime).

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Final speeches (via @QueenOfCrime) — ignore the nasty unshaven socialist in the bottom right…