Murder mystery The Book of Mirrors, snapped up by publishers in 18 countries, is expected to make Eugene Chirovici a seven-figure sum
He came to live in Britain only three years ago, now Eugene Chirovici’s first attempt at writing a novel in English has become a global publishing phenomenon.
The Romanian author’s murder mystery, The Book of Mirrors, has been snapped up by publishers in 23 countries – with auctions having involved up to 11 publishers in each territory. Smaller countries such as Iceland, which tend to wait until an untested English-language book has proved itself in the UK and US, have also bought the novel before its publication in 2017.
Chirovici, 51, who lives in Reading, wrote 10 “literary mystery” novels in Romania over the past two decades, but the market was too small for him to live off his books and he worked as a journalist. Now he is expected to make a seven-figure sum from the publishing deals alone.
He said: “I’m not sure I realise what’s happening. It is very overwhelming and unexpected.”
The author, who writes as EO Chirovici, was signed up by the first British agency he tried, Peters Fraser and Dunlop (PFD), after he was rejected by six US agents. Recalling their rejection letters, Chirovici said: “They didn’t explain why.”
Rachel Mills, of PFD, described The Book of Mirrors as “a really well-plotted murder mystery”. She added: “It is such an incredible novel, so sophisticated. You would never know it was written by someone whose first language wasn’t English.”
Marilia Savvides, who has only just become an agent at PFD, had fallen in love with it immediately and signed him up as her first author five weeks ago.
PFD began submitting the manuscript worldwide three weeks ago. An Italian publisher was in touch within three hours, while 11 German publishing houses fought for it. Nine wanted it in France and six in the UK, where it has been acquired by Century, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
In a statement, Century’s editor, Francesca Pathak, described the book as a cross between Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind. She said: “[It] is a truly brilliant book which grabbed me from the first page. This is going to be a huge debut launch for us.”
Set in the present day, Chirovici’s novel is a story about the murder of a charismatic professor at Princeton University in the late 1980s. It begins with a New York literary agent receiving a partial manuscript called The Book of Mirrors in which the author – a student at Princeton at the time of the murder – hints at a confession or a revelation about who committed the murder.
The writer dies before the literary agent has a chance to find out more, sparking a quest to solve the crime. Mills said: “The opening is really good. There’s a letter that comes with the manuscript … saying this manuscript is going to tell you what really happened.”
Chirovici said that his literary inspirations are “very classical”, and include Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and William Golding.
He came to Britain because his son was studying at Cardiff University and his wife had a great job offer as a financial analyst. “My intention was to become a full-time writer,” he said.