Newspaper article International New York Times

True Detective: Hercule Poirot Lives to Solve Another Crime

Newspaper article International New York Times

True Detective: Hercule Poirot Lives to Solve Another Crime

Article excerpt

From the pen of Sophie Hannah, a British writer of psychological crime novels and an avowed admirer of Agatha Christie - a new Hercule Poirot novel.

The Monogram Murders.The New Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot Mystery. By Sophie Hannah. 374 pages. William Morrow/HarperCollins Publishers. $25.99.

Nobody would dispute the fact that Hercule Poirot, the elegant Belgian detective, he of the patent-leather shoes and the waxed mustache, is dead. Agatha Christie brought him to an end in her appropriately named novel, "Curtain: Poirot's Last Case," and The New York Times itself marked his death with a fictional obituary. But the demise of the hero, and of the author, no longer needs to be the end of the story. The literary executors of James Bond's creator, Ian Fleming, have held this view for some years, and there seems to be no end to the public's enthusiasm for rewritten versions of a whole host of literary favorites.

The purists, of course, shake their heads in disapproval, arguing that fictional characters are the product of a particular imagination and should not be endlessly reimagined by later generations of authors. Others, while not objecting in principle, believe writers should concoct something new rather than reheat old dishes. That might seem a bit stuffy. If we like fictional characters, why should we not have more of them? Those of us who are fans of E. F. Benson's Mapp and Lucia novels are nothing but grateful that Tom Holt and Guy Fraser-Sampson have given us a stream of new reports from the world of those formidable ladies. More power to them. Fans of Babar will also surely applaud Laurent de Brunhoff for continuing where his father left off. Without the son's sequels, there is so much we would never have known about Celesteville.

The Agatha Christie estate has been cautious about joining in this sort of literary resurrection. And with good reason. It has been estimated that some two billion of her books have already been sold throughout the world, and their continued popularity is astounding. Film and television adaptations abound, and her (non- Poirot) play "The Mousetrap" is now in its 62nd year on the West End stage.

And yet a writer's popularity may not last forever. Even those who have enjoyed massive fame -- W. Somerset Maugham, for example -- can eventually become something of a minority taste. Even if Christie appears immune to this literary mortality, it might have been with one eye to encouraging a new readership that her estate agreed to allow a new Hercule Poirot novel. And now we have it, from the pen of Sophie Hannah, a British writer of psychological crime novels and an avowed admirer of the Queen of Crime.

Poirot first appeared in "The Mysterious Affair at Styles," published in 1920, and was then featured in a series of novels and short stories. …

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