A Talent for Murder

Andrew Wilson, best known for his biographies of Patricia Highsmith (Beautiful Shadow) and Sylvia Plath (Mad Girl's Love Song), smoothly moves into mystery writing with the aptly titled A Talent for Murder. In it, he imagines Agatha Christie at the center of a diabolical cat-and-mouse battle with a deranged physician.

In 1926, after her sixth novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, brought her great acclaim, Christie disappeared from her home. Thousands of police and volunteers joined a 10-day manhunt before she was found. While Christie never discussed her disappearance, Wilson uses this headline-grabbing incident to create a fast-paced, pleasingly twisted and creepy thriller. Christie is being blackmailed into committing a murder for the sadistic, bearded Dr. Patrick Kurs, who reeks of a "poisonous cloud of halitosis." Can the distraught Christie figure out a way to turn the tables on the deranged doctor without imperiling the lives of her young daughter and philandering husband?

A Talent for Murder reads like an amalgamation of a clever Agatha Christie puzzler with the darker characters and psychological insights found in Patricia Highsmith's thrillers. Wilson alternates first-person chapters from Christie's point of view with third-person chapters following a charming amateur sleuth named Una Crowe--who is smarter than the police (they think Christie is dead) but may unwittingly be putting herself into the path of Christie's tormentor. With strong characters, shrewd plotting and a skillful blending of fact and fiction, A Talent for Murder is a compelling period mystery that will keep whodunit fans captivated. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

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