How powerful would you consider the irony, if the world’s greatest crime fiction writer was to be sucked into a real life mystery in which she herself takes centre stage? Will Mrs. Christie fall victim to the schemes of a mad doctor or will she use her expertise to escape his dangerous game?
I am sure you’ve heard the many, many retellings, theories, stories, and conspiracies behind the 11 day disappearance of Agatha Christie. Not only have there been films made on it but fan fiction and spoofs have come out of the woodwork on this subject as well. Frankly speaking, I didn’t really care much for them; until now.
Andrew Wilson has woven, in a Talent for Murder, a story about Mrs. Christie’s disappearance that I secretly wish was the truth. This frighteningly believable story begins with Mrs. Christie walking around London, her head swimming with thoughts about her mother’s recent demise and the discovery that her husband, Archie, was having an affair with a Miss Neele. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd had just been released and met with an overwhelmingly positive response which unfortunately, she was unable to enjoy at the time. Then suddenly, an encounter with Dr. Patrick Kurs in Chapter 1, swings the novel forward with such force that before you realise it, you’re flipping pages like a maniac.
‘You, Mrs. Christie, are going to commit a murder. But, before then, you are going to disappear’
Andrew Wilson, A Talent for Murder, page 12
The novel itself is based on existing facts and research regarding Christie’s disappearance and her state of mind at the time. The events that took place in real life – from the discovery of her abandoned bottle nose Morris Cowley at Newlands Corner to her own discovery almost a fortnight later at Harrogate’s the Swan Hydropathic Hotel – is cleverly mirrored in the novel and is intertwined with Wilson’s own version of events with such dexterity, that you hardly realise where reality leaves off and fantasy begins.
Just like in her own novels, Wilson’s also has the necessary evil doctor, an appallingly stubborn policeman, amateur sleuths, unexpected murders, and her favourite weapon, poison. What struck me first about the story was how perfectly atmospheric it was and how it was written so much like a golden age crime fiction novel only with one of the era’s greats as a central character.
The novel has blackmail, intrigue, and a strong play on the themes of religion and conscience which is very important to the plot and is handled with delicacy. It reminded me a bit of Poirot‘s inner monologues in Curtain. In fact, you will see elements of some other Christie novels subtly staring at you from the pages as well, and if you’re observant enough, you might even spot two of her most famous detectives in the mix.
No one knows what actually happened during Agatha Christie’s disappearance. When she was finally discovered in Harrogate, she didn’t even recognise her husband. The doctors put it down to temporary amnesia due to the stress she was going through at the time. Even in her autobiography, Christie makes no mention of these 11 days leaving her family, friends and fans, in complete darkness but still theorising and trying to solve the greatest mystery she left behind as part of her legacy.
Wilson’s story almost feels as if his imagining of events really did pan out and at every step of the way, it leaves you wanting to believe it more and more in order to fill the gaps of her disappearance that are in truth lost forever.
I am itching to give you more details as to what happens in the novel, but this is one you’ll want to relish with a strong cup of tea. A book that I had to tear myself from to enjoy my family holiday, A Talent for Murder, will no doubt, have a special place on my book shelf.
You can read more about her disappearance in one of our older posts here
A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson is out now and is available to buy here
Watch the book trailer below: