Today’s guest blog is by author Hans Olav Lahlum. He is also a historian, a World Champion chess player and a biographer. His series of crime novels are set in 1960s Norway and inspired by the Golden Age. His most recent novel is Satellite People and is dedicated to Agatha Christie. Hans Olave Llahlum is a big fan of Agatha Christie and her influence shows throughout Satellite People. Today he is trying to explain his Christie fascination.
“Lahlum is nothing but a reborn Agatha Christie”, was the conclusion in one of the Norwegian newspaper reviews about my third criminal novel. It was actually one of the most critical reviews I had that year. The reviewer intensely disliked classical crime in the style of the Golden Age and considered it without any relevance for today’s literature.
Three years later I still disagree with him. 40 years after her death, Agatha Christie remains the empress above the many new “crime queens”. No other crime writer has yet been able to surpass the creative and logic plots from her best novels. True enough she wrote too many not very good novels. Still her top ten can qualify for an all time top 25 list of crime literature plots. Not for no reason they are still reprinted in notable numbers all over the world. Neither for no reason she has still sold better than any other novel writer in the history of literature worldwide – and more than any French novel writer in France.
Still, my on-going fascination for Agatha Christie hides somewhat mixed feelings. One might well argue that she remained a genius crime writer for five or six decenniums, without ever developing into a great novel writer. It seems somehow she, despite an obvious talent, never really tried to become one. Many well-qualified readers consider the characters in her novels too cardboard. Myself I too often find they work out more like chess pieces – just moving around the board to complete her master plans, living like stereotypes and not leaving much of a personal touch.
As much as I admire Christie and as much as I enjoy her best crime novels, I am still inspired by her work only about plots. Although having some principle similarities to Poirot and Captain Hastings, my two main characters are more inspired by Conan Doyle than Christie. Simeon remains my main inspiration regarding the characters minds and feelings as well as for the descriptions of their environment. Whether Agatha Christie is the greatest crime writer of all time depends much upon whether you consider characters or plots the most important thing in a criminal novel. But anyway she is one among the greatest also seen in the retrospect mirror from our time. I am still fascinated by her books – and still feel proud every time my own crime novels are compared with them.
Oslo, 1969. When a wealthy man collapses and dies during a dinner party, Norwegian Police Inspector Kolbjørn Kristiansen, known as K2, is left shaken. For the victim, Magdalon Schelderup, a multimillionaire businessman and former resistance fighter, had contacted him only the day before, fearing for his life. It soon becomes clear that every one of Schelderup's ten dinner guests is a suspect in the case. The businessman was disliked, even despised, by many of those close to him; and his recently revised Will may have set events in motion. But which of the guests - from his current and former wives and three children to his attractive secretary and old cohorts in the resistance - had the greatest motive for murder? With the inestimable help of Patricia - a brilliant, acerbic young woman who lives an isolated life at home, in her wheelchair - K2 begins to untangle the lies and deceit within each of the guests' testimonies. But as the investigators receive one mysterious letter after another warning of further deaths, K2 realises he must race to uncover the killer. Before they strike again . . .
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