Two ris­ing stars of the genre are em­brac­ing the mystery tra­di­tion of Agatha Christie. Crime Scene meets the next big Nordic Noir writer and the au­thor of a best­selling de­but set to be­come a Hol­ly­wood movie


RUTH WARE Agatha with aded grip-lit

When Ruth Ware pub­lished her 2015 de­but In A Dark, Dark Wood, it be­came a best­seller brack­eted with other so-called grip-lit sen­sa­tions Gone Girl and The Girl On The Train. The psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller was soon op­tioned for a movie by Reese Wither­spoon.

The novel about a hen party that goes very wrong had a con­tem­po­rary feel, yet the com­par­isons to Agatha Christie were hard to ig­nore. “I was a huge Christie fan as a teenager, and ob­vi­ously that was in the back of my mind when I wrote In A Dark, Dark Wood,” says the au­thor from north London. “I gave it to my agent, and lit­er­ally the first thing she said was that it reads like an up­dated Agatha Christie. As soon as she said it, I re­alised that she was right.”

As Ware was still edit­ing the book, she de­cided to put in a ref­er­ence to Christie’s And Then There Were None as a “kind of thank-you re­ally”. The re­mote lo­ca­tion of the hen party has an echo of one of Christie’s great­est – and most sin­is­ter – nov­els. “I just re­alised what a debt I owed to her in terms of how I plot­ted In A Dark, Dark Wood, and the ti­tle is from a nurs­ery rhyme, which Christie did so well with things like One, Two, Buckle My Shoe,” says Ware.

When it came to writ­ing a fol­low-up, Ware em­braced the clas­sic mur­der mystery ap­proach for The Woman In Cabin 10, which hooks the reader with a seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble crime. A jour­nal­ist on a lux­ury cruise wakes up in the night when she hears screams from the neigh­bour­ing cabin, rushes to the bal­cony and sees what ap­pears to be a body in the sea. Se­cu­rity are called and break into the cabin only to dis­cover that it is not only empty but never had a pas­sen­ger on board. “I was think­ing of all those things Christie did so well in terms of the locked-room mystery, and Death On The Nile and Mur­der On The Ori­ent Ex­press, where you have these os­ten­si­bly very lux­u­ri­ous sur­round­ings and yet there’s an un­der­cur­rent of nas­ti­ness,” Ware ex­plains, ad­ding that it touches on “the fear of not be­ing be­lieved”.

When Crime Scene meets Ware at the Theak­ston Old Pe­culier Crime Writ­ing Fes­ti­val in Har­ro­gate, she’s just ap­peared on a panel dis­cussing the Golden Age of crime fic­tion, so the con­tin­ued rel­e­vance of Christie is on her mind. “Most peo­ple who la­bel her as a cosy writer, I think, haven’t ac­tu­ally read her,” says Ware. “They’ve usu­ally seen the tele­vi­sion adap­ta­tions, which are very dif­fer­ent and are won­der­ful but they fo­cus on the pe­riod set­ting and the maids in starched uni­forms. Ac­tu­ally if you read some­thing like And Then There Were None or some of her other stan­dalones, they are blood scary – they’ve got a re­ally chilly in­sight into psy­chol­ogy and the hu­man ca­pac­ity for evil that she doesn’t shy away from.”

Asked for her favourite Christie, Ware men­tions And Then There Were None be­cause it is “fan­tas­ti­cally well plot­ted, and I re­ally love the re­cent BBC adap­ta­tion”, but ul­ti­mately she opts for an­other work. “In terms of the book that I wish peo­ple would read, it might be End­less Night,” says Ware. “Be­cause it’s so cold and the char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion is so well done, I think maybe peo­ple would re-as­sess her if more peo­ple knew about that book.”

When it comes to the se­ries char­ac­ters, Ware loves Poirot but opts for Marple. “There are not many books where old women get to kick ass, and Miss Marple does that with style,” she says. Would she like to fol­low So­phie Han­nah’s Poirot ex­am­ple and write a con­tin­u­a­tion novel for Marple? “Bloody hell, yeah! I don’t know if I could do her jus­tice, but yeah.”

Ware is also con­scious that while she has wel­comed the com­par­i­son, she’s not sure Christie would be a fan of her books. “I think Christie would prob­a­bly hugely dis­ap­prove of my very wayward char­ac­ters, hard-drink­ing and hard-partying women,” she ad­mits. “I think she would prob­a­bly think they were ab­so­lutely rep­re­hen­si­ble.”

In A Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman In Cabin 10 (Harvill Secker) are out now.

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