New book with Agatha Christie characters debuted

By Christine Florence

At last weeks Fall for the Book event, author Sophie Hannah introduced her book “The Monogram Murders,” a new Hercule Poirot story.

Hannah received permission from Agatha Christie’s family and the Agatha Christie Estate to write the continuation novel. This is the first time in almost 40 years that her characters have been used.

“I never in my wildest dreams imagined I’d be writing a Poirot novel,” Hannah stated at her presentation.

Not only did murder-mystery writer Sophie Hannah never imagine writing a new Agatha Christie novel, it was not even her idea.

“Last thing I want to do is stress the Agatha Christie family,” she said when discussing the yearlong process of proposing and writing the highly contested novel.

Even before the book hit stores, die-hard Christie fans thought the whole idea was a “morally wrong thing to do”. Hannah found it interesting that people were so against it considering that authors have been writing continuation novels, such as James Bond, for years. Official reviews, such as The New York Times, have been quite favorable.

Fans at the presentation were eager to learn how Hannah managed to successfully bring back one of literature’s most beloved characters.

“I couldn’t have written a continuation novel for anyone but Agatha Christie,” Hannah said. In one sense, Hannah’s writing process for “The Monogram Murders” developed backwards. She had the solution to a mystery floating around in her mind for quite some time, but could not seem to write the actual story in her usual contemporary story setting. She points out that Golden Age mystery novels are “more fun” than contemporary murder stories.

Hannah also made the decision to not bring Poirot back from the dead, stating that it was “[never] an option”. The novel is set in 1929, around forty years prior to Poirot’s late 1940’s death in Christie’s 1975 novel Curtain.

She assured fans, however, that she was not trying to copy Christie by writing a new Poirot novel. Which is why, she explained, a few of Christie’s classic characters are missing and a new narrator guides readers through the story.Does this mean fans will continue reading new Poirot novels? “I don’t know” was her simple answer. “Nobody has thought beyond this book”. The book has already been published in 32 languages and is in the top 100 ranking on Amazon’s Hot New Releases list under the mystery category.

This will not be Sophie Hannah’s last mystery novel, however, and fans wondered how writing a Poirot novel would affect her own characters. Hannah reassured them that he already had. Simon Waterhouse, from her Simon Waterhouse & Charlie Zailer Series, “deliberately [follows] in the steps of Poirot”.

She drew from the Golden Age novel idea that readers don’t need to know about a detective’s personal life to be invested in the story as a whole. This de-personalization of characters is what separates realistic characters from timeless legends.

What makes a Christie novel so appealing and successful? Her stories have a way of “[expanding] our imaginations and what’s possible.”

Photos by Amy Podraza