A POPULAR novel with a mysterious author has won the 70th Planeta Prize. 

The €1m Planeta award — the world’s highest paying literary trophy — was given to Carmen Mola, a writer everyone believed to be a female university professor working under a pen name to maintain anonymity.

But in a plot twist worthy of an award-winning novel, it was revealed that three middle-aged men had in fact penned the prize-winning fiction. 

Jorge Diaz, Agustin Martinez and Antonio Mercero wrote The Beast together under the female pseudonym. 

The grand reveal has come as a huge surprise to literature fans around the world, who believed that Carmen Mola was the ‘Spanish Elena Ferrante’  — a reference to the reclusive, and also pseudonymous, Italian literary novelist. 

Instead of three men – all scriptwriters in their 40s – the public believed Mola was a teacher who combined her teaching work with writing. 

The first book, published anonymously in 2018, named The Gypsy Bride was a story that attracted international acclaim. The debut was followed by The Purple Network  and  La Nena, with the series focused on Elena Blanco, a police inspector who has to face the toughest and most gruelling cases in Spain. 

“Carmen Mola is not, like all the lies we’ve been telling, a university professor,” said Diaz on winning the prize. “We are three friends who one day four years ago decided to combine our talent to tell a story.”

In his speech, Diaz said the award-winning fourth novel – La Bestia– was devised by the trio years ago and added that they were delighted for the recognition after years of secrecy. 

“It is a night that all of us who dedicate ourselves to writing dream of,” he added. 

Co-author Mercero said that their latest novel,  set in Madrid in 1834 during the cholera outbreak, was ‘very similar to the restrictions faced by Spaniards during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

“It is a story of death, nothing new from Carmen Mola, and a story of conspiracy that is bleak, terrifying and chaotic,” he said. 

The book is due to be published by Planeta under Carmen Mola’s name next month, although Mola is still listed as a Penguin Random House author.

The Beast scooped the top prize after beating competition from 653 other novels, of which 389 came from Spain, 104 from South America, 53 from North America, nine from Central America and 23 from the rest of Europe.

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