Book Review: A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson

Name:  A Talent for Murder
Author:  
Andrew Wilson
Number of Pages:
  416 (Paperback)
Published:
March 22nd 2018 by Simon & Schuster UK
Genre:  Mystery

Goodreads

Discover the real-life mystery centered on the queen of crime herself: Agatha Christie. In this tantalizing new novel, Christie’s mysterious ten-day disappearance serves as the starting point for a gripping novel, in which Christie herself is pulled into a case of blackmail and murder.
Agatha Christie, in London to visit her literary agent, is boarding a train, preoccupied with the devastating knowledge that her husband 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—for her rescuer is no guardian angel, rather he is a blackmailer of the most insidious, manipulative kind.
Writing about murder is a far cry from committing a crime, and Agatha must use every ounce of her cleverness and resourcefulness to thwart an adversary determined to exploit her expertise and knowledge about the act of murder to kill on his behalf.
In A Talent for Murder, Andrew Wilson ingeniously explores Agatha Christie’s odd ten-day disappearance in 1926 and weaves an utterly compelling and convincing story around this still unsolved mystery involving the world’s bestselling novelist.   – from Goodreads


My Rating:


My Thoughts:

Anyone who has visited my blog over recent months may have noticed I’ve become a bit of an Agatha Christie fan. I’m still fairly new to her world, having read around 5 or so of over 60 books, but I had read somewhere online about her real life disappearance.
In 1926 Christie disappeared from circulation without trace. After police involvement and widespread speculation several days later she was found; she had been staying at a hotel in Harrogate. No explanation or discussion revealed what had happened during that time, and so the mystery endures, and that’s the starting point for this fictional tale, A Talent for Murder.

Turning a real person into a fictional version and having her star in this tale, giving her voice, is quite intriguing, although at first I wasn‘t sure what to expect.
Wilson has created a character who is intelligent, brave, resourceful, and has her family at the heart of any decision she makes. For her family are the ones at risk when the villain of the piece, Dr Patrick Kurs, approaches Agatha and tells her she is going to commit a murder at his behest. The price if she refuses? He knows things, about her family, things that may prove damaging should they be publicly revealed.
He also knows she has a young daughter. It is perhaps this that ensures he has the attention of the famous novelist with a mind for a good murder plot. But writing fiction, going to dark places in an otherwise safe world is completely different from being faced with such things in reality, and watching Agatha come to terms with her adversary is enjoyable. Will she be forced to go through with the man’s request? Will the imagination that provides so many great and unexpected twists in the tale manage to find a way out before someone dies?

Kurs is a great villain because he’s an awful character. The way he so clinically and calculatingly talks of murder, as though it were such a small thing, and some of the things that happen later on in the story reassert that he is not a nice man at all, and I read on hoping that justice would prevail as far as he was concerned.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is referenced a few times, and I kept reading tentatively, hoping that nothing from that tale would be given away, as I haven’t read it yet and definitely plan to, but never fear, you can read A Talent for Murder without any risk of spoilers for Christie’s original novels.

The story unfolds for the majority from Agatha’s point of view, but there are also chapters from that of Kenward, the officer leading the search into her disappearance, who will not give up and refuses to be deterred despite the amounting expense and time involved in his searches, which are not yielding any concrete results.

Una Crow is an aspiring journalist who becomes intrigued by the disappearance of Mrs Christie, and makes it her work to find out as much as she possibly can to help find the missing novelist and write her own story regarding her disappearance.

A Talent for Murder is fact and fiction blended into an intriguing mystery tale, pitting the wits of a lady writer against a thoroughly nasty villain. It’s the first book in a series, and at the back of the edition I read two further books are detailed. A Different Kind of Evil is already available, I believe, and the following book sounds intriguing as well. I think I’ll be picking up both of them in the future.

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Top Ten Tuesday: The Best of 2018 so Far…

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  Click on the link for more info and to find out about future topics.

This weeks theme is:   Best Books I’ve Read In 2018 (So Far)


I couldn’t miss out on Top Ten Tuesday this week as I’ve been pondering on writing a post dedicated to a few of my favourite reads of the year so far for a while now.
I’ve come across some amazing books and authors over the last few months, so here are just a few of the reading experiences that have stuck with me.
All titles link to my reviews if anything catches your eye and you‘d like to find out more.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – My most recent finish and a book that I adored. It’s historical fiction, the story of Count Rostov living under house arrest in a grand hotel.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton – This one was so good I didn’t want to take the book back to the library. A murder mystery, a country house, an Agatha Christie vibe with added body-swapping, time-bending elements. It was fantastic.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie – My very first experience of reading Poirot. Even though I’d seen the recent movie and knew the solution I really enjoyed reading this.

Wrath of Empire by Brian McClellan – Book 2 in the Gods of Blood and Powder series, and a welcome addition to the Powder Mage world. It was a treat to get back to the adventures of some of my favourite characters. These books are really good.

The Bitter Twins by Jen Williams – Book 2 of the Winnowing Flame series. Talking dragons, war beasts, an enemy invasion, this book had a lot going on, and I cannot wait to find out what’s going to happen next.

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant – Killer mermaids! Need I say more?

The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin – Great characters and a great setting, and top marks for a gorgeous cover too.

I didn’t make ten for this weeks list, but I have high hopes for a few books still on my TBR pile, so perhaps I’ll write another Best Of… post when I’ve conquered a few of those.


Have you read any of these books, and if so what did you think? Which reads have you enjoyed so far during this year?
See you next time for another Top Ten Tuesday!

Book Review: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Name:  A Gentleman in Moscow
Author:  
Amor Towles
Number of Pages:
  480 (Paperback)
Published:
November 2nd 2017 by Windmill Books
Genre:  Historical

Goodreads

On 21 June 1922 Count Alexander Rostov – recipient of the Order of Saint Andrew, member of the Jockey Club, Master of the Hunt – is escorted out of the Kremlin, across Red Square and through the elegant revolving doors of the Hotel Metropol.
But instead of being taken to his usual suite, he is led to an attic room with a window the size of a chessboard. Deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the Count has been sentenced to house arrest indefinitely.
While Russia undergoes decades of tumultuous upheaval, the Count, stripped of the trappings that defined his life, is forced to question what makes us who we are. And with the assistance of a glamorous actress, a cantankerous chef and a very serious child, Rostov unexpectedly discovers a new understanding of both pleasure and purpose.   – from Goodreads


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

A Gentleman in Moscow is utterly charming and an unexpected gem. It’s a novel you want to savour for the warmth and humour that flows from each page.

Placed under house arrest, the world of Count Rostov could become infinitely small – a disheartening set up, moved from his usual suite into a tiny attic room, robbed of most of his possessions, some of which are family heirlooms, and with the understanding that if he leaves the hotel again he will be shot – yet Alexander is of the mindset not to feel bitter, but to make the most and best of his new circumstances, acknowledging that if you don’t master them then they will master you.

Every aspect of the Metropol is bought vividly to life. Not only is it an upmarket hotel but, as the Count discovers, it is a whole world, with much hidden behind many doors that the average guest never even knows exists. In robbing the Count of his freedom to roam, his attention turns towards his new domain, and within the confines of the hotel his world expands infinitely; there is so much to discover, as revealed by the young Nina, who has an inquisitive nature and the master key to unlock any door.

Spending time in the company of Alexander Ilyich Rostov, even in such confines, is a total delight. His turn of phrase, his poise in the face of harm to his rather grand moustaches, splitting his trousers crawling around on the ballroom balcony, to various antics involving wardrobes, and unexpected arrivals, the whole thing is delightful whilst also covering upheavals and change over the decades of Alexander’s imprisonment, for that’s really what it is even if it’s a very grand prison.

I can’t say too much without spoiling this story, and while it may not hang on massive twists or revelations, there were certain points where I just didn’t see something coming, and each new discovery was a new pleasure. The Count is not one to sit idle, waiting on his status as ‘Your Excellency’, put it that way.

There are taunting one-eyed cats, out-of-control dogs, curious children, old friends and all manner of other creations. The Metropol’s door revolves and you just never know what or who is going to come into the Count’s life next, and how it will affect him.

In turning the final page of A Gentleman in Moscow I feel that I’m bidding farewell to old friends. I really didn’t want this book to end, and I can imagine venturing back into the world of Count Rostov for a re-read in the future.

Booking Ahead: July 2018

Booking Ahead is a feature on Pages and Tea where I glance through my never-ending TBR list/pile and select a few potential reads for the coming month. If I’m not reading books I love talking about books I’d like to read, so this post is a perfect excuse to do just that.

Welcome to another wander through my endless TBR pile. Let’s have a look what I might try to read this month:

New Books

The Outsider by Stephen King – If you’d told me as I was writing last month’s version of this post that a Stephen King book would have to reappear there was no way I would have believed it, and yet here we are. I blame all these requested library books (this never usually happens to me, I don’t seem to pick in-demand books!), but I will definitely read this this month.

Books from the Backlist

If I read any Backlist I have no doubt that Agatha Christie will feature. Poirot Investigates is next on my Poirot list, which I still can’t decide whether I should try to read in order. With it being so very hot right now I fancy something like Death on the Nile, or one of the more exotic sounding titles, so we’ll see…

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – I’ve actually already started this and can’t tell you just how much I’m enjoying it so far. I have high hopes that this will be the next 5 star read for me. It’s just so good, and Count Rostov is fast becoming one of my new favourite characters. So good!


What are you hoping to read this month? Have you read of my picks, and if so what did you think?
See you again next month for another Booking Ahead.

Monthly Summary: June 2018

Welcome to another Monthly Summary on Pages and Tea.

Summer is here, it’s warming up, and I’ve hit the garden for some outdoor reading.

June was another decent reading month for me.
I went adventuring with Monsieur Poirot not once but twice, and the only thing keeping me from reading more Christie right now is a massive pile of library books which all have several requests on them. So, necessity first, unless I decide to pass some of these books on unread and wait until they’re out in paperback.

Aside from Poirot’s adventures, I journeyed with Vlora, Olem, Ka-Poel et al in the latest Gods of Blood and Powder novel. I love a good fantasy series, and this is certainly very good. Now to wait for the next instalment.
I also met Leo Stanhope, a frequent customer at the House on Half Moon Street, and watched as a murder mystery unfolded in historical London.
And now, well, I’ve just met the most charming character I’ve come across in a long time, but more about him in another post…

So, it’s been an enjoyable and varied reading month.
I also found time for a Book Tag and at least one attempt at Top Ten Tuesday. Here’s all the latest…

Book Reviews

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Poirot #1) by Agatha Christie

The Murder on the Links (Poirot #2) by Agatha Christie

Wrath of Empire (Gods of Blood and Powder #2) by Brian McClellan

The House on Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve

Featured Posts

Booking Ahead

June 2018

Top Ten Tuesday

Poolside Reads AKA My Summer TBR List

Book Tags

The Mid-Year Freak Out Book Tag

Reading Review

Reading Resolutions 2018

June Progress

Beat the Backlist Challenge Progress

Reading Review: June 2018

Welcome to my Monthly Reading Review.

This post is my attempt to keep track of how I’m doing with my reading challenges and resolutions.

BOOKS I’VE READ

            

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

The Pisces by Melissa Broder

The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie

Wrath of Empire (Gods of Blood and Powder #2) by Brian McClellan

The House of Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve

Total Library Books Read This Month: 5
Total Own Books Read This Month: 0
Overall Total Books Read This Month: 5

Total Library Books Read 2018: 21
Total Own Books Read 2018: 0
Overall Total Books Read 2018: 21

MY READ OF THE MONTH

Wrath of Empire by Brian McClellan. I’d looked forward to returning to the Gods of Blood and Powder series for a long time, and this book didn’t disappoint. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

BEAT THE BACKLIST

My total for this challenge is 10 books read.  I’ve read:

The Watcher by Ross Armstrong
The Christmas Secret by Karen Swan
Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
Year One by Nora Roberts
A Gathering of Shadows by V. E Schwab
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie
The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie

GOODREADS

21 books read so far this year.
So, June was the month that I completed my Goodreads challenge, so I’m curious to find out what my final total is going to be.

GOALS

  • I’ve kept up with reviews and posted quite regularly this month.
  • Participated in Top Ten Tuesday.
  • I’m even working on a non-fiction read at the moment. I very rarely read non-fiction so this was one of my goals for this year.

So concludes June’s Reading Review. See you again next month

Book Review: The House on Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve

Name:  The House on Half Moon Street
Author:  
Alex Reeve
Number of Pages:
  368 (Hardback)
Published:
May 3rd 2018 by Raven Books
Genre:  Historical, Mystery, Crime

Goodreads

Everyone has a secret… Only some lead to murder.
Leo Stanhope. Assistant to a London coroner; in love with Maria; and hiding a very big secret.
For Leo was born Charlotte, but knowing he was meant to be a man – despite the evidence of his body – he fled his family home at just fifteen, and has been living as Leo ever since: his original identity known only to a few trusted people.
But then Maria is found dead and Leo is accused of her murder. Desperate to find her killer and under suspicion from all those around him, he stands to lose not just the woman he loves, but his freedom and, ultimately, his life.
A wonderfully atmospheric debut, rich in character and setting, in The House on Half Moon Street Alex Reeve has created a world that crime readers will want to return to again and again.   – from Goodreads


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

The House on Half Moon Street has a great central character in Leo Stanhope. Leo is a man in his heart and soul, but he was born Charlotte Pritchard, and grew up as a reverend’s daughter. Tired of living a lie, Leo leaves home, conceals his physical form by way of some rather painful sounding cilice bindings, and lives his true life, finding lodgings in London and a job as a coroner’s assistant.

Leo aspired to a genuine love with Maria, a prostitute he regularly visited. For Leo at least, their arrangement had developed into genuine love and affection. I really wanted Leo to be happy, to have his dream of a life and home shared with Maria, and to have that shared afternoon at the theatre which he so looked forward to.
But then Maria turns up on the slab at the mortuary where Leo works, and suddenly everything he believed he knew is called into question.
For there may have been more to Maria, and isn’t it strange that Maria is actually the second body to turn up possibly linked to James Bentinck, the owner of the brothel where Maria worked?

Unhappy that the police are failing to find Maria’s killer, (Leo himself is under suspicion at first), Leo sets out to find out the truth.
The search takes him into the darkest parts of society, into the realms of domestic abuse, prostitution, abortionists and kidnappers. If that sounds a little grim, there’s great balance in that along the way Leo has friends and allies.
I enjoyed the domestic scenes in the pharmacy where Leo lodges with Alfie and his young daughter Constance, who quizzes Leo about various pharmacists’ offerings and what they are used to treat, winning herself tea and cake by outwitting Leo on several occasions.
There are villains who will stop at nothing to further their own ends, which makes them dangerous, and Leo finds himself in peril more than once.

The House on Half Moon Street is the first novel featuring Leo Stanhope. It is an atmospheric, well plotted mystery tale and captures Victorian London really well. Leo is a hero you really root for, a genuinely decent soul in a world that is sometimes quite dark. The cast of secondary characters adds colour, and I hope some of them appear in any future novels, which I will certainly look out for.