5 stars out of 5
In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie disappeared from her home and her seven-year-old daughter Rosalind; 11 days later, she turned up in a hotel - safe and sound, but according to her, unable to recall what had happened. Later, biographer Andrew Norman reportedly wrote that she suffered from amnesia and was suicidal, and much speculation has come from other sources. Was it a publicity stunt to draw attention to her books? Was she distraught over learning of her husband (at the time) Archie's mistress, Theresa Neele?
To this day, the mystery of her disappearance remains unknown. The author, however, has given it his twist in this book - creating an engrossing account of the missing time in a work worthy of the late, great English crime novelist, playwright and writer of short stories that seems to me to be well-researched. A little far-fetched? Perhaps, but no more so than one of Christie's own novels.
The tale begins as Christie is saved from falling in front of an oncoming train. Or was she? It seems her "rescuer," a physician, has darker things in mind. His offer of comfort as they share tea in a cafe following the near-fatal accident quickly becomes an offer of another sort entirely. The not-so-good doctor, it seems, knows everything there is to know about Christie and her family - including her husband's infidelity. Unless she follows his plan to the letter - the first step of which is that she must disappear - he'll reveal all and possibly even cause physical harm to Christie's young daughter.
So begins her frightening journey into a fictional adventure that mirrors all too closely the intricate novels for which she is becoming well known. It is a journey filled with intrigue, cover-ups and murder; throughout, Christie's resourcefulness is put to the test as she tries to extricate herself from the tasks she's being blackmailed into doing without jeopardizing the lives of her family, friends, and even herself. How (and to what extent) she pulls that off is the stuff of this clever, well-researched novel. Well done!
A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson (Atria Books, July 2017); 320 pp.