A mystery imagining what happened when Agatha Christie disappeared for 10 days in 1926 is worthy of the crime queen herself,
A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson, Simon & Schuster.
Long before domestic noir and “Scandi crime”, Agatha Christie explored what English author and biographer Andrew Wilson calls “the murky reality of human nature” and became one of the best-selling crime writers of all time. Indeed, 40 years after her death, barely a month goes by without a new TV or film adaptation of a Christie masterpiece.
Wilson has been in her thrall since the age of 12 when, for a school assignment, he wrote his first homage to Christie. The 46-page story, which he confesses was “a childish effort”, was a twisting murder mystery inspired by Death on the Nile and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Christie, claims Wilson, is anything but cosy; she has “a radical spirit of subversion that runs through the pages like a dark poison”.
In A Talent for Murder, the author has concocted his own poison and written an intoxicating literary serenade to his mentor while also illuminating a curious chapter in her life when Agatha, age 36, disappeared for 10 days. No one has managed to explain what really happened and here Wilson lets his Christieschooled imagination run wild.
It was December 1926, when Agatha Christie left her home in the English county of Berkshire, abandoned her car – containing her driving licence and a fur coat – in the dead of night at a local beauty spot and vanished, leaving her husband and daughter without a word. Agatha had recently lost her mother and learned that her husband had been having an affair and it was thought by police that he may have murdered his wife. She later turned up in a hotel in the north of England where she had checked in under the name of her husband’s lover.
“The crime writer never talked about the scandal,” Wilson tells The Australian Women’s Weekly. “I thought the subject was ripe for fictional investigation.”
The resulting novel, based on the key facts, is delightful and dark and, yes, could almost have been penned by the queen of crime herself. In fact, a fair chunk of the narrative is told through Agatha’s eyes as she is cruelly manipulated by a shady doctor who is himself inspired by that Christie classic which came out in 1926, The Murder of Roger
Ackroyd. Wilson’s murder mystery is impeccably constructed; a thoroughly enjoyable read with a plot that surprises at every turn. In truth, he’s out-Christied Christie with a plot dripping with malice and danger and female characters who are courageously bursting out of the confines of society’s corsets with – for some – disastrous consequences. Sheer delight.
Agatha had learned that her husband had been having an affair and it was thought by police that he may have murdered his wife.