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A Talent for Murder (Agatha Christie #1)
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Group reads > August 2018 - A Talent for Murder - SPOILER Thread

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Susan | 9641 comments Mod
Our August read is a modern mystery with a Golden Age feel, based upon a real life event, featuring the 'Queen of Crime,' Agatha Christie, and written by Andrew Wilson.

I wouldn't scream if I were you. Unless you want the whole world to learn about your husband and his mistress.

Agatha Christie, in London to visit her literary agent, boards a train, preoccupied and flustered in the knowledge that her husband Archie is having an affair. She feels a light touch on her back, causing her to lose her balance, then a sense of someone pulling her to safety from the rush of the incoming train.

So begins a terrifying sequence of events. Her rescuer is no guardian angel; rather, he is a blackmailer of the most insidious, manipulative kind. Agatha must use every ounce of her cleverness and resourcefulness to thwart an adversary determined to exploit her genius for murder to kill on his behalf.

On the night of 3rd December 1926, Agatha Christie went missing, and was eventually discovered in a hotel in Harrogate ten days later. But what happened to her in that time? To this day, the disappearance of one of the world's most famous and successful crime novelists remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries.

Taking this real life conundrum as its premise, A Talent For Murder, weaves together a convincingly labyrinthine detective story, full of unexpected twists and turns, that is as good as any of Christie's own.

'Wilson not only knows his subject but he deftly moves the tale away from mere literary ventriloquism and into darker territory. Great fun, too' - The Observer

Andrew Wilson's sequel to A Talent for Murder, 'A Different Kind of Evil', is out now.

Please feel free to post spoilers in this thread.


Susan | 9641 comments Mod
I wondered what we thought of Dr Patrick Kurs. He seemed a little more vile than most GA villains. I am thinking of the threats against children, etc. Did you feel it was out of character of the feeling of the period, or was the author right to make the characters unlike those in books.

Also, Una's murder would probably never have happened in a GA crime novel. She would, undoubtedly, have been rescued? When a heroine is in danger in a Patricia Wentworth novel, for example, you know that Davidson would have whisked her away from the dastardly villain...


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8608 comments Mod
I saw from the notes at the end that Una Crowe really died, and I've just had a quick look for details - I found a short report from an Australian newspaper:

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/ar...

Very tragic, she was so young. I do wonder why the author included this case, as it doesn't have any connection with Christie? Perhaps just because it happened at the same time, but it seems like an odd decision, to me anyway.


message 4: by Mark Pghfan (new)

Mark Pghfan | 362 comments Dr. Kurs did seem a little too nasty for GA mysteries, especially when it got to the dog's paw business. I really found the book pretty unpleasant, and only finished it to participate in this discussion. I doubt I will read the next novel.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8608 comments Mod
I agree about Dr Kurs, Mark - he is a bit of a fiendish Bond/cartoon villain, who I half expect to say "mwahaha"! I also thought the dog's paw was a bit much.


message 6: by Frances (new)

Frances (francesab) | 364 comments I will say upfront that a few months back I got about 100 pages into this and decided to give it up-it just didn't feel true to Christie and I was also quite put off by the degree of "unpleasantness"-not what I want in my GA mysteries! Just wondered what others have thought and if I should give it another try.


Susan | 9641 comments Mod
In a way, I was glad that this was so different from a GA novel. As I said, I think in any GA mystery, Una would have survived, but this surprised me, by breaking the rules.

I also liked the way the beginning was something of a homage to Christie, with the scene from, The Man in the Brown Suit The Man in the Brown Suit (Colonel Race #1) by Agatha Christie


message 8: by Mark Pghfan (new)

Mark Pghfan | 362 comments Frances, I totally understand. I truly would have given up the book if not for the fact that I committed myself to finish it for the discussion here. An unpleasant read, though glad I did finish it.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8608 comments Mod
I've had a look to see if I could find any more reports about Una Crowe's death, and I found one from the New York Times - I can only see the first little bit since I'm not a subscriber, but, interestingly, it does link her to Christie, with this line:

"She had been missing since Dec. 11, when her disappearance, following that of Mrs. Agatha Christie, attracted some attention."

https://www.nytimes.com/1926/12/21/ar...

Since Una died in real life, she couldn't be saved in the book - I imagine the author was working backwards to see how her story could be linked with Christie's, to lead to her death.

But I agree with you, Susan, that I don't think this kind of tragedy to one of the detectives would typically be included in a GA novel.


message 10: by Jill (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 1950 comments I was not at all keen on this book. I felt it was another book adding a famous person to up the sales. To me any chemist with a child or loved one would have done. The story I felt was good enough to stand on it's own feet without having to add Christie. The time would have fitted so that poisons could still be kept by people, however a chemist could have got them anyway. Ok , another story of a newsworthy incident was added , and adapted to suit the plot, but I don't think this particularly added to the story. I think it was obvious that Kurs was a ruthless person, by the way he intimated what would happen to the child if his plans weren't carried out and the dog's paw stressed that. Also the death of Flora's parents backed that up


Susan | 9641 comments Mod
To me, this novel put Christie completely central to the plot. I don't think this could have worked without Christie, as it felt quite a homage, in many ways, to me and had a lot of biographical details.

Perhaps it was not quite GA enough, but I like modern crime, as well as GA novels, so I didn't object to the mild violence. I will certainly read the next one, at some point, so will let everyone know if the author has made the next more general.


message 12: by Jill (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 1950 comments I also like modern crime stories, and I did feel the violence in this was very tame, compared to others. Still wouldn't do if we all feel the same about everything.


Susan | 9641 comments Mod
No, and I do share your feelings about inserting 'real' people into fictional settings, which can feel uncomfortable.


message 14: by Judy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8608 comments Mod
I also thought that Christie was central to the plot here - one problem was that the real mystery of the disappearance, for me anyway, is so much more interesting than the made-up story!

I also thought Josephine Tey's life was central to An Expert in Murder (I am going to get these two titles mixed up forever), since there was so much about her real-life play Richard of Bordeaux.

I'm sure it's true, though, that using real people does help sales, since I probably wouldn't have picked up either of these without the hook of the famous names!


Robin I read this a while ago, and from recall, was unimpressed. I am intrigued by the discussion so am about to do a speed read to join in.


Susan | 9641 comments Mod
In a way, the 'real' reason was mixed up with the plot though, and the dastardly Dr gave a reason for her choosing the name 'Neele,' and the odd behaviour - dancing to "We have no bananas," for example!


Robin I have read as far as Christie's arrival in Harrogate and the 'bananas' dance. Although extremely cruel, I thought the latter an interesting touch, particularly with the addition of some of the most foolish words in the song. What a dreadful song it was, poor Agatha! I thought that the plot was good, with its introduction of Christie's novels. The doctor scene on the station, the emphasis on the dressing case (although it was a jewellery case in The Blue Train). My problem is the writing. The novel is so over written, almost turgid, and the conversation so stilted. I thought this a poor novel, but don't object to someone trying their hand at weaving real people into a fictional landscape. I later read another about Christie, involving her meeting with her second husband and another of her novels, can't remember the name at the moment, and really enjoyed it.


Susan | 9641 comments Mod
I have read a couple of novels featuring Agatha Christie - one The Woman on the Orient Express The Woman on the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford also followed on from Christie's disappearance.


message 19: by Judy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8608 comments Mod
Did you like The Woman on the Orient Express, Susan? How does it compare with this one?

I was expecting A Talent for Murder to be a murder mystery, so was a bit disappointed when it turned out not to be - I suppose the author would have found it hard to weave a detective story into the events of the disappearance, though. I assume the rest of the series will be detective stories?


message 20: by Judy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8608 comments Mod
Robin, I must agree that Bananas is not a great song - I went to a vintage fair type event earlier this year where it was blaring out over a very loud microphone, and I felt inclined to run away rather than dancing to it! ;)


Susan | 9641 comments Mod
I liked The Woman on the Orient Express, Judy.

I think the series is going to involve Agatha doing some undercover investigations for the government, in some shape or form. I must say that, after bemoaning the fact that she was going through so much in this book, she seemed quite chipper about going off to get involved in another possibly dangerous situation, but that's fiction!


Roman Clodia | 758 comments I enjoyed this in parts, especially as though I love Christie, I've never known anything about her life. BUT, as others have said, the tone seems to shift wildly from GA/cozy to something much more violent: the dog's paw has been mentioned but what really shocked me was the assertion that Christie's daughter would be raped and tortured by a violent paedophile - this felt very crude within the context of the story.


Lorraine Petkus | 43 comments I did enjoy The Woman on the Orient Express, a little YA for me but enjoyable. I did not like A Talent For Murder. Don't feel the author brought her to life and even though we don't know the truth, this was obviously a lie. Have the authors next, may start it but don't know if I'll finish it.


Sandy | 2634 comments Mod
I have mixed feelings about this book, but didn't enjoy it much and probably won't read the next. I never really got involved in the plot or the characters. I think it only works with Christie as a character, but because I was more interested in what was true than I was in the story. If the lead had been an unknown I would not have persisted. So glad the author identified the facts at the end. He did a good job weaving a story around them.


Sandy | 2634 comments Mod
I'm also unsure if it should be compared to a GA mystery. On one side, why use Christie if its not going to be GA - seems a bit of false advertising. On the other hand, it is a modern novel and could be considered GA brought into the modern age. So I guess I'm okay with the tone.


Susan | 9641 comments Mod
I agree that it reads like a much more modern novel. I felt much the same way about the recent mystery The Mitford Murders, although I enjoyed that less.


message 27: by Tracey (last edited Aug 08, 2018 01:06PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Tracey | 246 comments Agree with many of the comments above. Struggled with this book. Found the scenes with Flora quite unbelievable. Kurs was certainly a villan, hinted that it was a personality change was due to head injury (mentions of bad /neuro breath). But how he was involved in with a network of other undesirables was never really explained - unless this was the dossiers that Davison mentioned?

Enjoyed Una as a character, so it's a shame she's been killed off at start of the series.

I recently read Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie and much preferred the portrayal of Agatha in that.


message 28: by Judy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8608 comments Mod
Tracey wrote: "Agree with many of the comments above. Struggled with this book. Found the scenes with Flora quite unbelievable. Kurs was certainly a villan, hinted that it was a personality change was due to head..."

I agree that Flora was totally unbelievable - her relationship with Agatha was one of the novel's weakest points. Tracey, thanks for the explanation about Kur's bad breath, I hadn't picked up on this at all.


message 29: by Judy (last edited Aug 12, 2018 12:06AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8608 comments Mod
Robin wrote: "My problem is the writing. The novel is so over written, almost turgid, and the conversation so stilted. I thought this a poor novel, but don't object to someone trying their hand at weaving real people into a fictional landscape. ..."

Robin, I agree - I found the writing style pretty weak, especially in the sections narrated by Agatha. She didn't seem to have much individuality as a character, and was always referring to her "dear" or "sweet" daughter, with no little anecdotes or individual touches. I also thought the dialogue wasn't very good overall.

I was underwhelmed by this book on the whole and won't be reading on in the series, but I will go on with the Nicola Upson/Josephine Tey series, which I found far more enjoyable.


Sandy | 2634 comments Mod
I wondered if Kurs accident that lead to a personality change could also cause bad breath. Does that have any basis in fact?


Lesley | 384 comments Sandy wrote: "I wondered if Kurs accident that lead to a personality change could also cause bad breath. Does that have any basis in fact?"

That struck me as rather an odd thing too, Sandy. I wondered if she was implying he took to drinking?


message 32: by Mark Pghfan (new)

Mark Pghfan | 362 comments Or maybe just to add another dimension to his unpleasantness. Or is it known that Agatha was just especially aware of bad breath?


Tracey | 246 comments That struck me as rather an odd thing too, Sandy. I wondered if she was implying he took to drinking"

I'd not thought of drinking as a possibility.

Some years ago I worked in a neurology unit and I remember neuro breath mentioned then (I think there are all manner of theories ranging from glutamate imbalance to just poor oral care). Maybe sombody else might know more about this?

It is amazing that he manages to maintain a seemingly sucessful medical practice with such revolting breath.


Sandy | 2634 comments Mod
Thanks for the neurology hint Lorraine. I googled 'neuro breath' and it exists.


Lesley | 384 comments Tracey wrote: "That struck me as rather an odd thing too, Sandy. I wondered if she was implying he took to drinking"

I'd not thought of drinking as a possibility.

Some years ago I worked in a neurology unit an..."


That's very interesting and something I'd never heard of. Learn something every day!


message 36: by Judy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8608 comments Mod
What did anyone think of the Romeo and Juliet/ Lazarus-type poison? Seemed too unlikely to me!


message 37: by Lesley (last edited Aug 14, 2018 07:12PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lesley | 384 comments Judy wrote: "What did anyone think of the Romeo and Juliet/ Lazarus-type poison? Seemed too unlikely to me!"

Yes, it did seem that way, but then both tropes are well used in murder mysteries through the generations. And I guess one would have to therefore say the same about Shakespeare and the Bible stories!

The book seems to have a lot of incidents that stretch the imagination. Doesn't seem to be either and cozy mystery or bordering on a more modern day thriller. Many of the characters are quite unpleasant people along with the deeds some perform.

Yet for all that it was largely a good mystery read for me.


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