Hercule Poirot has returned.
HarperCollins has announced it will publish a new novel centered on Agatha Christie’s famous protagonist – a Belgian detective famous for his carefully tended moustache – to be written by author Sophie Hannah. The book is authorized by Agatha Christie’s estate.
The novel by Hannah will be “a diabolically clever murder mystery sure to baffle and delight,” according to HarperCollins. The new book, which will be the first work about Christie’s characters since the author’s death in 1976, is set to be published next September.
Hannah, who is the author of novels including “The Carrier” and “Kind of Cruel,” said many would call her a “devoted” and "some might even say obsessive” Christie fan.
“It was Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple who, between them, made me want to devote my working life to crime fiction,” the writer said in a statement on Christie’s website. “And it was Christie's brilliant plotting and deep understanding of the human psyche that shaped my identity as a crime writer. Therefore, it is almost impossible to put into words how honoured I am to have been entrusted with this amazing project – in fact, I still can't quite believe that this is really happening. I hope to create a puzzle that will confound and frustrate the incomparable Hercule Poirot for at least a good few chapters.”
Matthew Prichard, Christie’s grandson, said in a statement for the Christie site that he believes it’s important for a new generation to appreciate Christie’s work and that he has full faith in Hannah’s ability to meet what will undoubtedly be high expectations.
“It was her enthusiasm and respect for my grandmother as an author that convinced us that this was the person to take on the daunting task,” he said.
The last novel in which Poirot appeared was Christie’s novel “Curtain.” The Belgian detective first came on the scene in Christie’s book “The Mysterious Affair at Styes” and has been famously portrayed by actor David Suchet in the British television program “Agatha Christie’s Poirot.” Poirot died in Christie’s novel “Curtain,” which was released in 1975, one year before the author’s death.
Some fans aren’t happy with the announcement of the new novel because of that decision by Christie, with Katherine Butler of The Independent writing, “Agatha Christie emphatically killed off Hercule Poirot with a heart attack back in the 1940s. But never mind what Agatha wanted.”
Butler says she feels any iteration of Poirot that isn’t written by Christie is bound to be “as appealing as imitation leather.”
“A television adaptation of a Christie plot is one thing, ‘borrowing’ the product of her extraordinary imagination for your own made-up story is another,” she wrote, referencing the TV adaptation starring Suchet. “What possible pleasure is there for the reader in having a faux version of your favourite novelist or crime hero? And in artistic terms, what is the difference between what Hannah is attempting and those very talented painters in that Chinese village where they do fakes of the Mona Lisa by the dozen?”
Guardian writer John Sutherland also felt bringing back Poirot after his creator killed him was disrespectful to Christie’s memory. Sutherland discussed how the author wrote “Curtain” during World War II, placing it in a bomb-proof safe in case she was killed during the bombing of England. After the war ended, she wrote other Poirot works and waited to publish “Curtain” until she was finished with the character.
“It isn't just Christie's emphatic full stop on Poirot that makes him out of bounds, it's also the honourable story behind it,” Sutherland wrote, referencing Christie’s decision to stay in England despite the dangers. “Please, let Dame Agatha, and Hercule, rest in peace. Having said that, of course I'll download it 30 seconds after it comes out in 2014.”