New Delhi, Oct 5 (IANS) International bestselling author of crime fiction Sophie Hannah, published in 49 languages and over 50 countries, is out with “The Mystery of Three Quarters”. A die-hard fan of Agatha Christie, she brings alive one of the world’s most beloved detectives, Hercule Poirot — the legendary star of Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” — in her latest novel that has just arrived at Indian bookstores.
The novel is set in the London of the 1930s. In an email interview from London, Hannah told IANS that when she was in initial talks with HarperCollins and the Agatha Christie estate about writing Hercule Poirot novels, one of the publishers told her that there were four years in which no original Poirot stories were published or set in: Between 1929 and 1932.
“This is bang in the middle of the ‘Golden Age’ of crime fiction, the period we really associate with Agatha Christie and Poirot, so it seemed like a gift. I think London is always going to be a fascinating setting because it’s at the very heart of everything about our country: It is a multi-industry, multi-cultural metropolis. Besides, Poirot lives in London. However, in ‘The Mystery of Three Quarters’, he quickly gets drawn away to a large family estate in the English countryside,” said Hannah, who has written two previous Poirot novels, “The Monogram Murders” and “Closed Casket”.
In 2013, her novel “The Carrier” won the Crime Thriller of the Year Award at the Specsavers National Book Awards. Two of her other crime novels, “The Point of Rescue” and “The Other Half Lives”, have been adapted for television.
She said that she has always loved Agatha Christie, ever since she first read “The Body in the Library” at 12.
“Her books are excellent mysteries but also really engaging psychological novels. I’ve always loved Hercule Poirot — he has a deep commitment to justice and a romantic spirit. I find him very lovable. I was approached in 2013 to write a new Poirot novel for the Agatha Christie estate and for her publishers and fans, and I jumped at the chance. I had an idea for a mystery at the time… It needed a traditional Golden Age detective, and it suited Poirot perfectly,” she shared.
Interestingly, Hannah quipped that many of her plots start out with “real life incidents”.
“Whenever I’m in a strange situation, I am making mental notes. A crime writer is interested above all in psychology, and that is always grounded in real life. For example, my recent thriller ‘Did You See Melody?’ opens with a woman getting checked in, by mistake, into the wrong hotel room. That’s something that happened to me a few years ago. Luckily, I was just confronted by a rather startled grumpy man — the character in my book walks into a crime scene of a most peculiar kind. But the inspiration was right there in real life,” she pointed out.
Hannah maintained that, every day, we are trying to solve mysteries. Even though most people may never encounter a real murder mystery, but our daily lives are full of unsolved and unsolvable puzzles, she said.
“We never really know what other people mean, even if we understand what they’re saying; and we never know someone else’s back-story or motivations. When the crime genre puts the puzzle foremost, it taps into that very human desire to work out what’s going on around us — and it promises a solution, which is tremendously reassuring.”
Published by HarperCollins India, “The Mystery of Three Quarters” is available in paperback edition at Rs 399. Surprisingly, a quick search on Amazon throws up the imported edition of the novel, priced at Rs 1,594. Make sure to dig deeper for a fair price.
(Saket Suman can be contacted at [email protected])