Crime author Sophie Hannah is to write a new Agatha Christie novel, featuring the author's famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.
The book, which has been fully authorised by the Christie estate, now managed by Acorn Productions Ltd, will be published by HarperCollins in September 2014. It is the first ever Christie "continuation" novel to be written.
Hannah is a well-established crime writer whose novels, published by Hodder, include Kind of Cruel and The Other Half Lives. She is also a poet and has been shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize.
The author, who picked Christie's Murder on the Orient Express as one of her Desert Island Books for We Love This Book, called herself an "obsessively" devoted Christie fan who read all her novels as a 13-year-old.
She said: "It was Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple who, between them, made me want to devote my working life to crime fiction, and it was Christie's brilliant plotting and deep understanding of the human psyche that shaped my identity as a crime writer."
Christie's grandson Mathew Prichard [pictured], chairman of Agatha Christie Limited, said: "It was pure serendipity that led to Sophie Hannah being commissioned to write this book. Her agent happened to approach HarperCollins in exactly the same week that my colleagues and I had started discussing a new Christie book. Her idea for a plotline was so compelling and her passion for my grandmother’s work so strong, that we felt that the time was right for a new Christie to be written."
Christie published her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, in 1920, with Poirot making his debut appearance. She went on to write 80 crime novels across her career, as well as plays and other works. Her last book, Sleeping Murder, was published in 1976. Her sales are cited at more than a billion copies in English, and the same figure in translation. After originally publishing the Bodley Head, she has been published by Collins, and then HarperCollins, since 1926.
HarperCollins will publish the new book, which is as yet untitled, globally in English in print and e-book, with Acorn Productions handling foreign rights.
David Brawn, publisher for estates at HarperCollins, said: "Agatha Christie was—and still is—the world’s bestselling novelist. The stories she wrote and the characters she created have withstood the test of time and been successful on film, television, audio, stage, and online. But as we approach what would have been Agatha Christie’s 125th birthday, I am delighted beyond measure that Hercule Poirot will live again in the pages of a book, and take readers back to where it all started."
The new Christie novel follows on the heels of new prequel and sequel novels for Ian Fleming's James Bond, J M Barrie's Peter Pan, Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and others.