Peter Swanson’s tribute to Agatha Christie inspires new novel ‘Nine Lives’

When Peter Swanson sat down to write his next mystery novel, he wanted to write a tribute to Agatha Christie. “Nine Lives” was the result.

“‘And Then There Were None’ has always been my favorite Agatha Christie novel – my favorite crime novel, really,” said the best-selling author.

“I wanted to write a tribute to this book in which strangers are united because they are targeted by the same killer. But I didn’t want them to be on an island or in a snowy house, because it happens so often This is how I came up with the idea that each character will have received a mysterious letter before they start dying one by one.

“Nine Lives” follows nine strangers who are given a cryptic list with their names on it. Soon the aliens begin to die – under bizarre circumstances.

Swanson – whose books have been translated into more than 30 languages ​​- has already written seven novels. They include The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and Her Every Fear, a 2017 NPR Book of the Year.

Currently, he lives on the North Shore of Massachusetts with his wife and cat. On Wednesday, it will be hosted virtually by Diesel Bookstore.

Q: What common elements do the nine strangers have, and why is this important to the plot?

A: The mystery of the book is that they have no common elements, or at least they don’t seem to. What binds them is that they have all received this mysterious letter and are all under threat of death. Of course, there is actually a common element between them, but it’s not immediately apparent, or at least I hope there isn’t.

Q: Who is Sam Hamilton and why is he important?

A: There are a few detective characters in this novel, and Sam Hamilton is one of them, a detective from a small town in Maine with an interesting background, having grown up in Louisiana with Jamaican parents and having visited an English grandmother when he was a young boy. This grandmother introduced him to the mysteries of the golden age, so he is particularly interested in this case because it reminds him of a plot of the genre he likes.

Q: Which of the nine characters in your book was your favorite to write? Which was the hardest to write?

A: The hardest to write was Jessica Winslow because she’s an FBI agent, and I didn’t want to mess up the details of her job. I hate to research this stuff, which is why most of my detective stories aren’t told from a detective’s perspective. The easiest character to write was Jay Coates, an aspiring psychopath. I always like to write from the point of view of despicable characters.

Q: Please explain why you wanted an epigraph from Wislawa Szymborska.

A: I fell in love with Szymborska’s poem “A Word About Statistics” a few years ago. It has a very simple premise, which is that although humans are different, we are all united in the fact that we will die one day.

Q: Why did you style your chapters in descending order?

A: I guess that was my version of the figurines disappearing from the dining room table in “And Then There Were None”. I wanted to acknowledge that the cast is shrinking.

Q: What’s it like to be writing a story you love?

A: I like to be writing a story only if it goes well! Otherwise, it’s quite unpleasant. But if you know where you’re going as a writer, sitting at the desk becomes almost a pleasure.

Q: Why do you think crime is so popular to read, watch or listen to via books, TV and podcasts?

A: It’s a combination of being fascinated by the morbid, but also seeking that strange solace that scary stories can bring. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always found dark movies and books comforting. Maybe because bad things happen to other people, and we’re there just as witnesses.

Nine Strangers” by Peter Swanson (HarperCollins, 2022; 336 pages)

The Diesel Bookstore presents Peter Swanson

When: 3 p.m. on March 16

Or: Virtual event via Crowdcast

Tickets: Free

Call: (858) 925-7078

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Davidson is a freelance writer.