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A Talent to Deceive: An Appreciation of Agatha Christie
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A Talent to Deceive: An Appreciation of Agatha Christie

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  54 Ratings  ·  12 Reviews
A Talent to Deceive is an analysis of Agatha Christie's masterful solutions, of her strategems of deception, and of her unmatched ability to divert the reader's attention from the matter of real importance.
Paperback, 211 pages
Published August 1st 1987 by Mysterious Press (first published 1980)
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Jan 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, mystery
An enjoyable critical analysis of Christie's works: Barnard gives us an overview of Christie's talents and the way she used them, discussing her types of detectives, suspects, motives and murder styles, while also looking at how her own life affected the works, and how her ouevre can compare to 'real literature'.

He's well-read, and this comes across. On the one hand, it's a very good thing as he is able to look at the detective fiction movement from its origins to 'present day' (the late '70s),
Mary Ronan Drew
Dec 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Robert Barnard is one of my favorite creators of detective fiction (if you haven't read Fete Fatale, do so immediately.) A graduate of Balliol, he is not your run-of-the-mill mystery writer. He has clearly thought about the genre and the best practitioners of the art.

In A Talent to Deceive he turns his attention to Agatha Christie, telling a bit about her life, analyzing her style, looking at the sorts of characters she creates, and describing her two most famous detectives, Hercule Poirot and
Oct 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Mr. Barnard was a delight to read. Was this an appreciation or not? I'll let you decide. Highly recommend it for Christie lovers.
Red Heaven
Aug 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Pretty good discourse of some aspects of Christie's work and its mass appeal, vs other writers who might be considered better than her. Just as it becomes a bit tiresome, it conveniently ends at the 125 page mark.
Dec 23, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this well enough. Barnard has some interesting insights into Christie, her techniques, and her success, although he is a little too inclined to excuse her flaws.
Mike Clarke
Jul 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Analysing Agatha: Robert Barnard's critical examination of the Christie oeuvre - in reality eight short essays plus an overview and annotated bibliography - remains the high water mark for critical treatment of her work. Barnard (himself a respected crime novelist and Eng lit prof) is still the overall authority, his judgement on each of her books taken from the annotations and one of the joys of this work is quoted against each in its Wikipedia entry. Sympathetic yet with a keen critical eye, h ...more
Mar 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
My favorite part of Barnard's research was finding out that Christie herself preferred a 50,000 word manuscript and even had Christie-surrogate Ariadne Oliver say "when I count up I find I've only written thirty thousand words instead of sixty thousand, and so then I have to throw in another murder and get the heroine kidnapped again. It's all very boring" (p. 96). It made me laugh out loud. As a reader who dislikes the trend of super-sizing novels and mysteries, I'm firmly in Christie's camp.

Dec 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Thoughtful analysis of the mode in which Agatha Christie was writing and the reasons for her success. One needs to be familiar with the classic Christies at least to really enjoy this - but if (like me) you've been reading them since childhood, this will help you appreciate them more. And Barnard is no uncritical fan: he begins the book with the case against Agatha Christie's writing (chapter one is "Counsel for the Prosecution") and some of his capsule reviews are devastating.
Steve Gross
Feb 12, 2013 rated it liked it
The author tries to explain why Agatha Christie is still so popular and widely read while most of her contemporaries are no longer in print. His answer is that Christie uses stock cardboard characters that allow the readers to substitute their local versions of the people.
Not quite a biography of Agatha Christie but a great bibliography. Interesting dissection of her writing style.
Aug 23, 2014 rated it it was ok
Kind of dry -slogged through.
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Jack Heath
Sep 18, 2018 marked it as to-read
Shelves: b, mpl-cd
Synopsis: an analysis of Agatha Christie's masterful solutions and deceptive strategems.
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Aka Bernard Bastable.

Robert Barnard (born 23 November 1936) is an English crime writer, critic and lecturer.

Born in Essex, Barnard was educated at the Royal Grammar School in Colchester and at Balliol College in Oxford. His first crime novel, A Little Local Murder, was published in 1976. The novel was written while he was a lecturer at University of Tromsø in Norway. He has gone on to write more t