Title: Miss Christie Regrets
Author: Guy Fraser-Sampson
Publisher: Urbane Publications
The second in the Hampstead Murders series opens with a sudden death at an iconic local venue, which some of the team believe may be connected with an unsolved murder featuring Cold War betrayals worthy of George Smiley. It soon emerges that none other than Agatha Christie herself may be the key witness who is able to provide the missing link.
As with its bestselling predecessor, Death in Profile, the book develops the lives and loves of the team at ‘Hampstead Nick’. While the next phase of a complicated love triangle plays itself out, the protagonists, struggling to crack not one but two apparently insoluble murders, face issues of national security in working alongside Special Branch. On one level a classic whodunit, this quirky and intelligent read harks back not only to the world of Agatha Christie, but also to the Cold War thrillers of John Le Carre, making it a worthy successor to Death in Profile which was dubbed ‘a love letter to the detective novel’.
I hugely enjoyed Miss Christie Regrets – it had all the elements of a classic, golden-era whodunnit but with a modern setting, and this contrast, along with the slightly old fashioned language, was very unique and appealed to me.
The story is surprisingly pleasant to read, despite the inclusion of murder. I enjoyed every page really, with witty comments from those trying to solve the murder/ crimes within the novel’s pages, and plenty of good, ‘old fashioned’ detective work! This is certainly not one of the gritty, disturbing crime novels which are so prevalent at the moment (and which, don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy), but I felt like this was a breath of fresh air and something a little different. There are also plenty of references to classic detective stories by a range of authors, and I found myself noting down some of them to read as there were plenty which I’m a little embarrassed to say that I’d never really thought about reading before! The style of the story made me want to read more like that in the future, and I liked that Agatha Christie’s legacy was also included in the story.
The characters are likeable and well-rounded, with their own quirks and sleuthing habits, and some of their personal relationships are included too, but all without any element of cheesiness. They, and the story itself, are quite self-aware at times; for example at one point towards the end Willis says “Miss Christie regrets… it could almost be the title of a book, couldn’t it?”
This is a great detective novel for anyone wanting a change from gritty, harrowing crime novels or just something a little more light-hearted and pleasant to read. The characters, story and golden-era style, all set in the modern day, make it both unique and fun to read, and I really enjoyed it!
Many thanks to the author, Guy Fraser-Sampson, for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.
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