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The Killings At Kingfisher Hill: A New Poirot Mystery By Sophie Hannah: Review/Giveaway/Interview

IN THE October 3 ISSUE

FROM THE 2020 Articles,
andLorie Lewis Ham,
andMysteryrat's Maze
SECTIONS

by Lorie Lewis Ham

This week we are thrilled to be reviewing the new Sophie Hannah Poirot book The Killings At Kingsfisher Hill, and interviewing Sophie! Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book, and links to purchase it.

I have been an Agatha Christie fan ever since I was a teenager, and her Hercule Poirot stories have always been some of my favorites. I have to admit that I was hesitant to try the new books featuring Poirot written by Sophie Hannah, but I am glad I finally gave in and tried them because they are a lot of fun and wonderfully done.


The Killings at Kingfisher Hill is the fourth book in this series. It begins with Hercule Poirot traveling with his friend Inspector Catchpool on a luxury passenger coach to the exclusive Kingsfisher Hill estate for a case. They have been hired by Richard Devonport to prove that his fiancée Helen did not murder his brother Frank. However, Richard has asked them to investigate secretly and to pose as enthusiasts of the board game Peepers, which his father created. To make matters even more complicated, Helen confessed to the murder, but Richard doesn’t think it is possible that she really did it.

Poirot and Catchpool have two very strange encounters on the trip before they even get to Kingfisher Hill. One being that a young woman insists that if she doesn’t trade seats she will be murdered, so Poirot changes seats with her. The second being that the woman he is then seated by confesses to him that she has murdered someone but refuses to tell him her name. Poirot is convinced these events are somehow connected to the Devonport case. When they arrive at Kingfisher Hill they find a very strange and dysfunctional family and their interesting friends.

This book is filled with plenty of red herrings and surprise twists to keep you guessing. While I miss Hastings, I do like Catchpool who is the narrator of this series of Poirot stories, and he seems to be a good partner for Poirot. Poirot himself is perfectly written as though Christie was writing him herself. It has been so much fun to have new stories about my favorite character and I look forward to the next one.

Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and a contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds. Explore Lorie’s mystery writing at Mysteryrat’s Closet.

Interview With Sophie Hannah:

KRL: How long have you been writing?

Sophie: For as long as I can remember! My mum is a writer and I suppose it was just a very normal thing to be doing in our house; I thought that’s what everybody did! I think as soon as I could read and write I was writing short stories and poems.

KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?

Sophie: The first novel I had published was Gripless, which came out in 1999. It’s about a woman who falls crazily in love with a hugely unsuitable guy and decides to pursue him at all costs despite his apparent indifference. Basically, it’s about what can happen when you lose touch with reality as a result of uncontrollable lust! Then, my first crime novel was Little Face, which came out in 2006. It’s about a new mum, Alice, who becomes convinced that the two-week-old baby she’s looking after is not her own – to the despair of her husband who insists she is either lying or insane. As the DNA results come in, Alice and the baby go missing and the police, who’d initially dismissed her story, begin to investigate. I started writing Little Face just after the birth of my daughter, after a weird experience in the hospital when I mistook another baby for her! Little Face is the first of my Culver Valley Crime series starring Detectives Charlie Zailer and Simon Waterhouse, I’m working on the latest – book 11 – as we speak!

KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?

Sophie Hannah

Sophie: I actually began my writing career as a poet and have six collections published as well as an anthology. It sounds like I’ve had a huge change of direction, but I think poetry and crime have a lot in common: both rely on structure, balance and have to be tightly crafted in order to work well. Prior to Little Face I’d had three non-crime novels published which I suppose did all contain elements of mystery – mainly the mystery of unfathomable human behavior! I’ve always been fascinated by the human psyche and it is key to my plots.

KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?

Sophie: I strongly believe that a book has to be entertaining first and foremost, in order to be any of the other things it might want to be! You could have the cleverest, most enlightening book on the planet but if it’s a struggle and not tempting to pick up, there’s little point in its other merits. I think a good crime novel though has the upper hand—if you can hook the reader in and make them want to finish the book, then they’re on board with all the rest of it. I want my readers to enjoy my novels, to be unable to put them down; anything else they might ‘take away’ is completely their own business!

KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?

Sophie: I am very big on scheduling and am constantly devising and trying new methods for managing my time. I have so many projects on the go that I couldn’t possibly stay on top of everything without imposing some pretty strict plans, things don’t always go to plan of course, but that’s okay because the not-going-to-plan situations are something I’ve learned to manage too!

KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?

Sophie: I am a highly dedicated planner; for me it’s an absolutely crucial part of the process so that by the time I sit down to do my first draft I know everything there is to possibly know about my plot and how each chapter unfolds. I wouldn’t feel at all comfortable starting to write a novel without knowing where’d I’d end up. I like to know chapter-by-chapter what’s happening before I start writing, when I have this clear vision it’s so much easier.

KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?

Sophie: I’m an afternoon writer, ideally! I like to get all of my admin and non-writing tasks done first thing, followed by a dog-walk and late breakfast/early lunch before settling down to write. I couldn’t concentrate on my book with a bursting in-box lurking, plus I’m definitely not a ‘morning person’!

KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?

Sophie: Yes, very difficult – and this is the case for almost all writers no matter what level of success they end up achieving! Before I wrote Little Face I’d written two crime novels which were rejected by publishers countless times, each rejection was disappointing of course, but because I didn’t doubt I’d succeed eventually I kept on writing, I improved, became resilient; the experience was helpful in so many ways.

KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?

Sophie: The story that I most want to tell people—and especially other writers—about any rejection, is that it’s an inevitable part of life. So often the story writers tell themselves when they get a ‘No’ is that something has gone wrong, they’ve failed, it’s a sign they’re not and will not be a success. We need to tell ourselves a different story – one which doesn’t involve unnecessary suffering or give us an excuse to quit: rejections and disappointments are evidence of our striving. If we’re not getting them, it usually means we’re trying to avoid them and not progressing.

KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?

Sophie: Once I was signing books in a bookshop in Johannesburg, South Africa. An elderly lady came up to get her book signed. Then she tried to pay me. I said, ‘No, I’m not taking the money – you need to pay at the till over there.’ She said, ‘Oh, I can’t be bothered to wait in another long queue!’ and she leaned over, reached into my top and stuffed the money inside my bra!

KRL: How did you become involved in writing the new Poirot books?

Sophie: The situation came about through coincidence really, my agent – knowing I was a huge Agatha fan and seeing a pile of her books on a shelf during a meeting at HarperCollins – made an off-the-cuff suggestion that I could write a continuation novel but this was dismissed because as far as anybody knew at the time, the Christie family had no plans for any further novels. But just a couple of weeks later the family approached HarperCollins with their idea of doing just that and of course I came straight to mind! I had a plot I’d wanted to use for ages which wasn’t right for a contemporary novel, but I realized would be perfect for Poirot!

KRL: I take it you are an Agatha Christie fan?

Sophie: Absolutely! I’ve had a lifelong love for her books since reading the stunning The Body in the Library when I was 12 years old; by the time I was 14 I had collected and devoured everything she’d ever written and then proceeded to re-read them all over the years. You can imagine how thrilled I was at the opportunity to bring back Poirot – the greatest fictional detective of all time.

KRL: What did you have to do to prepare for writing this series, and what kind of research did you have to do?

Sophie: As I’d only written contemporary fiction before it was a new challenge to create a 1930s setting and in practical terms this involved a lot of Googling as to whether certain things existed in the 30s and, if not, what would serve my purposes while being historically accurate. The best research though has been my dedication as an Agatha Christie reader – immersing myself in that world through her books – even though I didn’t realize that’s what I was doing at the time of course!

KRL: What has been the biggest challenge?

Sophie: Agatha Christie’s writing is incredibly skillful because her books are incredibly intellectually puzzling and challenging. If you want to test your wits, her books are perfect, but at the same time, they are not difficult to read. You can let them wash over you, then be impressed at the end when Poirot reveals the solution. I really wanted to achieve that perfect meeting point of easy and difficult and had to think very hard about how to go about it, it was a departure from my normal style.

KRL: How did you come up with the idea for The Killings At Kingfisher Hill?

Sophie: Amazingly, the idea for this book seemed to just arrive fully formed in my brain! Of course, it needed tweaking and ironing out, but the hook, the murderer and their motive came to me all at once. I constantly have thoughts churning away in the background and I think this idea was a result of my preoccupation with how certain family dynamics might play out; I’d imagined certain characters with particular traits and the result was the mystery of The Killings at Kingfisher Hill!

KRL: How does writing these books compare to your other writing?

Sophie: The puzzles I give Poirot can be more elaborate than the ones I use in my other books because Poirot himself demands a complicated mystery. There is also no CCTV or DNA testing, which allows the investigation to have more emphasis on logic than in a contemporary psychological mystery. Poirot has such a great personality, too: he is obsessed with justice, and he is also a prolific matchmaker, so he is able to engage with the other characters and their mysteries on an emotional level.

KRL: Future writing goals?

Sophie: I’m working on Book 11 Culver Valley Crime Series at the moment, which should be coming out next year; it’s been quite a wait for fans of Charlie and Simon so I’m very excited about that! I have also absolutely loved writing my two self-help books: How to Hold a Grudge and Happiness, A Mystery: And 66 Attempts to Solve it. I would love to do more in this genre.

KRL: Who are your writing heroes?

Sophie: Agatha Christie is of course my ultimate writing hero and has had the strongest influence on me as a writer. Agatha showed me the blueprint for what I believe the ideal detective story ought to be: an intriguing, structurally ambitious mystery – far more interesting and puzzling the apparently impossible being shown to be possible; the combination of a fun, hooky read with psychological insight and an awareness of the depths of darkness in every human psyche. I absolutely love Ruth Rendell too, who, along with Agatha, showed me the importance of a hook and how to use the endless depths of the ‘ordinary’ person (who is, of course, anything but!) as a basis for a brilliant mystery.

KRL: What do you read?

Sophie: It won’t surprise you to hear that I love crime and psychological thrillers! I strongly object to the idea that genre fiction is in some way inferior. A story without a mystery seems a bit of a waste of time to me: where’s my motivation to turn the page? I’m also a devourer of self-help books: Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now changed my life when I read it and I’ve been obsessed with self-help and coaching ever since.

KRL: Favorite TV or movies?

Sophie: My favorite film of all time is 12 Angry Men which is a brilliantly taut and thrilling courtroom drama, I am also a massive fan of musicals (I have recently co-written 2 of my own) and always have a good box-set on the go; thrillers and shows with amazing, flawed characters are the ones I’ll binge on.

KRL: Oh how amazing! Anything you would like to add?

Sophie: I’m currently very excited about my coaching program for writers, Dream Author, which is just going into its second year. It’s already helped loads of writers achieve success and happiness and is for anybody who feels they need help with their writing lives: the program is designed to equip writers with all the mental and psychological tools we need to survive and thrive in the business and there’s lots of practical and creative help too. Anyone who’s interested should visit dreamauthorcoaching.com

KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Sophie: I’m a wild-swimmer who likes nothing better than plunging into freezing cold river and lakes!

KRL: Where can people find you online?

Sophie: Website: sophiehannah.com
Twitter: Twitter.com/sophiehannahcb1
Facebook: facebook.com/sophiehannahauthor
Instagram: instagram.com/sophiehannahwriter

To enter to win a copy of The Killings At Kingfisher Hill, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “kingfisher,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 10, 2020. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. BE AWARE THAT IT MAY TAKE MUCH LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. A new episode goes up next week!

You can use this link to purchase this book from indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy, and KRL gets a portion of the sale:

You can use this link to purchase the book on Amazon. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Glen Davis October 3, 2020 at 11:51am

Interesting interview! Count me in!

Reply

2 Teresa Warner October 4, 2020 at 9:30am

Sounds good, would love to give it a try! tWarner419(at)aol(dot)com

Reply

3 Dianne Casey October 4, 2020 at 1:02pm

Sounds like a great book. Would really like to read.
diannekc8(at)gmail(dot)com

Reply

4 Kara Marks October 5, 2020 at 1:22am

This sounds great! Legallyblonde1961@yahoo.com

Reply

5 Karen October 7, 2020 at 8:57pm

A great character to bring back!

Reply

6 Mary Holshouser October 8, 2020 at 10:14am

Haven’t read many of the Poirot
mysteries. Would like to make
up for that. thanks
txmlhl(at)yahoo(dot)com

Reply

7 Katherine Holom October 11, 2020 at 6:37am

Great interview! The book sounds really good.

Reply

8 Lorie
Twitter: @mysteryrat
October 13, 2020 at 12:51pm

We have a winner!

Reply

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