Author: Andrew Wilson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 18 May 2017
Length: 416 pages
Available from: Amazon
‘You, Mrs Christie, are going to commit a murder. But before then, you are going to disappear.’
December 1926: world-famous author Agatha Christie suddenly goes missing, only to be discovered in a Harrogate hotel ten days later. But what happened during her dramatic disappearance?
Gone Girl meets The Murder of Roger Ackroyd in this brilliant new novel from Andrew Wilson. In a mystery worthy of Agatha herself, facts from the news that gripped the nation are seamlessly interwoven with a gripping, utterly believable story of betrayal, blackmail and murder.
Agatha Christie, in London to visit her literary agent, boards a train, preoccupied and flustered in the knowledge that her husband Archie is having an affair. She feels a light touch on her back, causing her to lose her balance, then a sense of someone pulling her to safety from the rush of the incoming train. So begins a terrifying sequence of events. Her rescuer is no guardian angel; rather, he is a blackmailer of the most insidious, manipulative kind. Agatha must use every ounce of her cleverness and resourcefulness to thwart an adversary determined to exploit her genius for murder to kill on his behalf.
Like the author of this book, I was a child when I first read an Agatha Christie novel. I was twelve, on school summer holidays and bored; my grandfather gave me his copy of Murder on the Orient Express, and that was it – I was hooked.
All these years later, as soon as I read the NetGalley synopsis for the book I just had to read it. Agatha Christie fascinates me, and the book’s premise is compelling: ‘a mystery worthy of Agatha herself’.
Perhaps I’d have had lower expectations if I had come to the book via the descriptive Amazon synopsis rather than the sales-copy NetGalley one. As it was, as I read I thought: I wouldn’t compare this novel to the taut psychological page-turner that is Gone Girl, and is it quite worthy of the real Agatha?
I was hoping for more intrigue and complexity to the plot. While I admire the author’s meticulous research and like the idea that this fiction is interwoven with facts, I wonder whether sometimes fiction needed to take precedent over fact in order to make a truly gripping story.
I was also a little disappointed in the characterisation of Agatha at times. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t believe she would consider committing the murder, no matter her fragile mental state and the ammunition of the blackmailer. The real Agatha had Poirot say: ‘Everyone is a potential murderer – in everyone there arises from time to time the wish to kill – though not the will to kill.’ I couldn’t believe the heroine had either the wish or the will.
But there is a charm to the book that reminded me of my first Agatha reads. The villain of the piece is deliciously sinister and depraved, and one of his victims isn’t woefully naive but is a fabulous character – strikingly brave. The 1920s’ setting is vivid and believable, and the conclusion is satisfying in the main (I especially like a twist at the very end that gives Agatha quite the role in British security).
If you’re a fan of Agatha Christie, A Talent for Murder is well worth reading. You may be convinced by the story, you may not, but you’ll likely be entertained along the way as you use those ‘little grey cells’ to make up your mind.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.