Read an Extract from Sophie Hannah's New Poirot Investigation: The Mystery of Three Quarters
Following the success of The Monogram Murders and Closed Casket, Sophie Hannah once more takes on the mantle of Agatha Christie in The Mystery of Three Quarters; a diabolically challenging new puzzle for Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. Published on 23 August 2018 and available to pre-order now signed by the author, read an enticing extract from the heart of the mystery.
By Sophie Hannah
Frustrated by his inability to find me, my Belgian friend had set about discovering all he could about Barnabas Pandy and almost the first thing he found out was that Pandy had been represented in all matters of a legal nature by Peter Vout, the senior partner of Fuller, Fuller & Vout on Drury Lane.
Poirot had made an appointment, or rather his valet, George, had made one for him. He arrived punctually and was shown into Vout’s office. He tried to conceal his shock when he saw the room in which the solicitor worked.
‘Welcome, welcome,’ said Vout, rising from his desk chair to shake his visitor’s hand. He had an engaging smile and snow-white hair that peaked and curled in random tufts. ‘You must be Herc-ule Poir-ot—is that correct?’
‘C’est parfait,’ said Poirot approvingly. Rare indeed was the Englishman who could pronounce both the Christian name and the family name correctly. Was it appropriate, however, to feel admiration for any man who could work in conditions such as these? The room was an extraordinary sight. It was large, about twenty feet by fifteen, with a high ceiling. Pushed up against the wall on the right were Vout’s large mahogany desk and green leather chair. In front of those stood two straight-backed armchairs in brown leather. In the right-hand third of the room there was also a bookcase, a lamp and a fireplace. On the mantelpiece above the fire, there was an invitation to a dinner of the Law Society.
The other two thirds of the available space were occupied by scruffy cardboard boxes, piled high, one atop another, to form an enormous and uneven edifice that was breathtaking in its grotesqueness. It would have been impossible to walk around or through the boxes. Effectively, their presence reduced the size of the room to a degree that any sane person would have found intolerable. Many of the boxes were open, with things spilling out of them: yellowing papers, broken picture frames, old cloths with dirt stains on them. Beyond the gargantuan box-structure was a window at which hung strips of pale yellow material that could not hope to cover the glass in front of which they dangled.
‘C’est le cauchemar,’ Poirot murmured.
‘I see you’ve spotted the curtains.’ Vout sounded apologetic. ‘One could make this room more appealing to the eye if one replaced them. They’re terribly old. I’d have one of the office girls pull them down, but, as you can see, no one can reach them.’
‘Because of the boxes?’
‘Well, my mother died three years ago. There’s much to be sorted out, and I’ve yet to make inroads, I’m afraid. Not all the boxes are Mama’s possessions, mind you. A lot of it is my own... paraphernalia.’ He sounded quite happy with the situation. ‘Please, do be seated, M. Poirot. How may I be of assistance?’
Poirot lowered himself into one of the available armchairs. ‘You do not mind working in here, with... the paraphernalia?’ he persisted.
‘I see you’re fascinated by it, M. Poirot. I expect you’re one of those chaps who likes everything to be ship-shape at all times, are you?’
‘Most assuredly I am, monsieur. I am inordinately fond of the shape of the ship. It is necessary for me to be in a tidy environment if I am to think clearly and productively. It is not so for you?’
‘I’m not going to let a few old boxes bother me.’ Vout chuckled. ‘I don’t notice them from one day to the next. I’ll tackle them at some point. Until then... why let them worry me?’