Andrew Wilson has come up with a brilliant premise for this novel based on Agatha Christie’s disappearance in December 1926 and executed it with aplomb!
It is all too easy for these types of books, of which I’ve read a few, to come across as cheesy, perhaps because the author imagines that what we know about the famous person concerned will hold our interest through sketchy characterisation. Andrew Wilson has created his Agatha Christie as a strong, intelligent woman who has found herself backed into a corner as she tries desperately to protect her errant husband, she still loves him dearly despite the fact that she knows he is having an affair, and her young daughter. Despite that it took me a couple of chapters before I was convinced…
First to the facts; Agatha’s car was found with a suitcase of clothes and her driver’s licence at Newlands Corner near Guildford in Surrey. She’d left her house, Styles in Berkshire with a note to her housekeeper saying that she was going to Yorkshire. Her husband, Archie Christie had chosen to spend the weekend at his friend’s house in Godalming in Surrey, at a party which his mistress Nancy Neele was attending. But despite a massive man-hunt nothing else was known until Agatha was found ten days later in a hotel in Harrogate where she’d registered as Mrs Teresa Neele from Cape Town. Andrew Wilson has cleverly plotted around these facts so much so that at before long I had to remind myself this was fiction.
To add authenticity the book starts with a meeting between the man who is determined to use Agatha for her own advantage. She is well-known for writing murder mysteries, even if she is struggling with her latest novel, and he wants to use this knowledge for his own purposes.
The reader is allowed inside the head of the man trying to hoodwink Agatha and he is definitely one bad guy, I’d go as far to say that he is one of the creepiest protagonists of all time, and his confident that he’s outwitted Agatha, but is he right? To balance out the creepiness we have an eye on the official investigation into her disappearance led by Superintendent William Kenward with particularly satisfying moments when he puts Archie on the spot about his real feelings for Agatha, and Nancy with Archie being outed as the philanderer he was!
Not only do we have some fab characters that could have stepped from one of her own novels, we are exposed to her knowledge of poisons the settings used are the perfect backdrop to this dark yet utterly enjoyable novel along with references to the early works completed at the time.
With sublime plotting to seal the deal A Talent For Murder gets the thumbs up from this reader for a thoroughly enjoyable read, which I fully admit I approached with a sense of fun because of course I knew that Agatha would be alright in the end, but as to the rest of the cast? Well you’ll have to read A Talent For Murder to find out for yourself.
I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book as part of the review panel for Lovereading and a shorter version of this review will appears on their site.