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Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot back in new novel by UK author

By Paul Casciato

LONDON (Reuters) - Bestselling British crime novelist Sophie Hannah will revive Agatha Christie's fictional detective Hercule Poirot in a new novel due out next year.

When Hannah's agent told her he had suggested to publisher HarperCollins that they ask her to write a continuation novel, an idea she had been trying to turn into a novel for years suddenly took shape, the author told Reuters.

"As soon as he said 'Agatha Christie novel' I thought actually that idea would work perfectly as a story set in the 1920s," said Hannah, a life-long Agatha Christie devotee.

When she met the Christie family, the decision on whether it would be Poirot or her other famous character, Miss Marple, was still up in the air.

"The Poirot novels were the first ones that I've read. I've read all of them, I've seen them all on TV," she said. "From my point of view, the particular plot idea that I had, I could just see it as a Poirot, totally."

The Christie family readily agreed.

"Her idea for a plot line 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," Agatha Christie Limited chairman and grandson of the famous novelist, Mathew Prichard, said in a statement from publishers HarperCollins.

Hannah's story will be set in the interwar "golden age", but the dapper Belgian sleuth who Christie introduced in "The Mysterious Affair at Styles" in 1920 will have to make do without his usual sidekicks Hastings and Inspector Japp in the as-yet-untitled book by the psychological crime fiction writer.

"I think we all felt that if Hastings and Japp were in it, it would be too much like trying to write an Agatha Christie novel," she said.

"What I'm trying to do is write a Poirot novel that both fits in with the other novels, but does its own thing as well."

The announcement of Poirot's return follows the success of other novels reviving iconic characters from 20th century fiction.

"Any Human Heart" author William Boyd is set to become the third author in recent years invited by the estate of James Bond creator Ian Fleming to write an official Bond novel.

"Birdsong" writer Sebastian Faulks is due to revive Evelyn Waugh's Jeeves and Wooster characters in a book out this year and has also written a Bond novel.

Hannah, 41, said that although the Poirot and Miss Marple series were both turned into popular film and television series, she was not considering treatment for the small or big screens.

"I'm sure Agatha Christie Limited might consider this at some point, especially since all of the other Poirots have ended up being filmed. But that's not something that I would be at all involved in," she said.

Christie, dubbed the "Queen of Crime" has sold over a billion copies in English and another billion in other languages and is only outsold by the Bible and Shakespeare.

Hannah, bestselling author of "The Carrier" (2013) is also working on a new novel in her own genre entitled "The Telling Error", due out in April.

(Additional reporting by Georgia Musson; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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