Saturday, 7 September 2013

New Poirot novel to be written by Sophie Hannah

A few days ago, as I'm sure most of you noticed, the Agatha Christie estate announced that crime writer Sophie Hannah has been commissioned to write a new Poirot novel to be published in September 2014. The novel will be set in the late 1920s, between The Mystery of the Blue Train (1928) and Peril at End House (1932), so the character won't be resurrected from the dead, as some reports suggested (that would have been a seriously bad idea). The media coverage was massive (see, for instance, the BBC, The Guardian, The Independent and The New York Times). First reactions were  largely negative (see, for instance, these pieces in the Guardian (they seemed to have missed the 'resurrection' point, though) and the Independent, not to mention the comments sections and the Agatha Christie Facebook page (for fan reactions)).

Personally, I'll reserve judgement until I've seen the finished product. However, I do struggle to see what a new novel can add to Christie's position as the Queen of Crime. Still, I understand (to some extent) the reasoning behind it. As the links above suggest, the family and the publisher see this as a way of renewing the interest in Christie and grabbing the attention of a younger audience, much in the same vein as the computer games and comic books they've released in the last couple of years. Keeping Christie relevant and at the centre of crime fiction is both necessary and important. Also, from what I've seen so far, Hannah seems to be a real Christie fan who will hopefully stay true both to the character and the novels (I would be terrified at the pressure to succeed that she will be facing!).

I think Twitter user and Christie researcher JC Bernthal summed it up accurately: 'I'm looking forward to reading Sophie Hannah's new Poirot novel. But the Agatha Christie brand does not equal Agatha Christie'.

6 comments:

  1. I read the news on Christie FB page and I didn't like the idea, partly because I read a book by S. Hannah and didn't like it. Are you going to post a comment on your reading ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure yet. But if I end up reading it, I will probably post my reactions on here.

      Delete
  2. I read an interview with Suchet, in which he says he wouldn't do a film or TV version of this new novel because, "I am Agatha Christie's Poirot." That seemed very Poirot-like somehow. It's fun to read about somebody like that "being" the character. It's also kind of a shock to see how different he looks when NOT in Poirot costume!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I hear Suchet, in indignant-Poirot-voice, saying to another author, screenwriter or director, "I am not your Poirot! I am Agatha Christie's Poirot!"

    ReplyDelete
  4. If by "resurrected from the dead" you mean it literally...it would be a bad idea. But you know what has been done many times with Sherlock Holmes: a pastiche re-writes an original story (often The Final Problem / Empty House arc), and we are told to believe that the original was censored for the sensibilities of the times, or something.

    I have found, on other pages, fans who refuse to read or watch Curtain, or acknowledge it as canon! They just can't accept that Poirot dies! I have a much harder problem with the fact that he KILLS, and with the fact that he complete absolves the people who do the physical deeds of any responsibility, blaming the murders entirely on "X."

    But the fans who refuse to believe it happened are rubbing off on me. I think I could almost live with Poirot "resurrected from the dead" if it was set around the time of Curtain or a little after, with the premise that Curtain was not really what happened.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have read it!

    One important thing to say in favor: it doesn't mess with canon in anyway. It takes place in the late 1920s and nothing that happens necessarily changes anything from any existing Poirot story (i.e., there is no "The book X that Hastings published was a lie; here's what really happened" (as is often done with Sherlock Holmes stories, particularly The Final Problem and The Empty House.)

    This book could simply be a case that happened in between those we know about and which hasn't been published until now (which would be understandable since neither Hastings nor Mrs. Oliver got involved.)

    I do not feel that Hannah gets either Christie's "voice" or Poirot's precisely right. She shows Poirot engaging in behavior that is suppose to show off many of the quirks we're used to...but they are variations on those quirks that don't quite feel right. I don't know how else to explain it.

    For some reason, I kept picturing an un-costumed Suchet as the detective (perhaps because I bought Poirot and Me and have been looking through it during the same period of time I read this book)? The Poirot voice is best (closest to the books) during passages when he is making a Reveal.

    I think Hannah comes a little closer to the "voice" and tone of the series than of an original Christie, in several ways:

    1) I feel she took some cues from Suchet's interpretation of the character - whether on purpose or not (and ironically, given that Suchet doesn't want to act in her story.) For example, she has him openly and directly criticizing English conventions, tallying with how Suchet interprets his values, but in language I feel would not have been used in Christie, at least not by Poirot (actually, I think Christie was inconsistent.) but that might possibly have gone into the series.

    I think Poirot is also sharper towards the sidekick/narrator (an original character, Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard) than I would have thought Poirot was toward his sidekicks - it verges on meanness. Again, not PRECISELY on point with the Suchet-Poirot of the later, darker episodes, but closer to that than to the books.

    2) Hannah attempts some of Christie's plotting techniques, but the solution is more layered and complex than would be the case in a Christie book. Almost like fictional-stories-within-stories or shows where the mystery genre is being parodied - but again, a little closer to some of the more complex endings at the end of the series, than to the books.

    3.) It follows the series' trend of having a murder happen in the vicinity of where Poirot is staying in an attempt to rest!

    4) There is some very oblique homoerotic subtext, calling somewhat to mind the Five Little Pigs and Halloween Party (among others) of the series. It is just barely hinted that Catchpool is gay and struggling with the fact: he comments a few times on how he's NOT going to fall for any of various women he's met; and when he meets a character who argues that those in love should act on it regardless of all rules of society, the Church, or even their marriage vows to other people (!), he seems moved in a way that implies HE'S having to choose between love and "the rules."

    But I'm not contending there's anything between him and Poirot - although they do stay at the same lodging-house. In fact, Poirot is, as I have already said, harsh with Catchpool, and Catchpool shows a lot of frustration with Poirot, and much less admiration than Hastings, Ariadne, or most of Poirot's other police friends.

    Poirot is the only regular Poirot character that Hannah uses - I can't decide if including others would have been better or worse. I admit to hoping to read that the forbidden love issues that come up had reminded Poirot of Countess Rossakoff - but no, there's no mention of her.

    ReplyDelete

About Me

I'm a passionate fan of Poirot, Agatha Christie and the ITV series. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions or requests, please e-mail me at poirotchronology@gmail.com, post a comment on one of my blogs, or get in touch on Twitter @pchronology. (I used to call myself HickoryDickory)