I’ve loved author Agatha Christie since i was 12 years old. I’ve read all of her mysteries, many more than once. Or twice. I am unfailingly impressed at how she weaves her stories, how she carefully tosses out her red herrings, and how she wraps the mystery up at the end of the book.
Murder at Mallowan Hall, by Colleen Cambridge, is the first in a new historical mystery series that takes place at Mallowan Hall, the fictional home of famed author Agatha Christie and her second husband, archeologist Max Mallowan. In real life, Christie and her husband remained happily married in their rural English estate until Christie’s death, though it was not called Mallowan Hall.
In the novel, Christie hires her personal friend to be their housekeeper and manage their estate. Phyllidia Bright and Christie are long-time friends, and Bright is hired because she has the author’s complete trust. For her part, Bright is protective of her friend and faithful as all get-out. Plus, she has a crush on Hercule Poirot.
Things are fine until one day, Bright is opening up the house, and stumbles upon a body in the library. She recognizes the person as a fellow who had shown up late the night before uninvited and a stranger. The Mallowans are having a house party that weekend, and no one wants to make a fuss. They allow the man to spend the night, but the good intentions have a tragic ending.
Bright does all the right things. She calls the police. She alerts her employers. She does what she does best: manages the crisis. However, when it becomes clear to her that the local police are inept at best, she begins working on solving the crime herself, with Christie giving her own advice and input. And when a second person is murdered — this time a member of the staff — Bright realizes the murderer must be someone attending the house party. Who could be next?
I found the plot to be clever and fun, or at least as fun as a murder mystery can be. I liked the fact that it wasn’t Agatha Christie who solved the murder, but instead, her intelligent and faithful friend.
Murder at Mallowan Hall is purported to be the first in a series, and I’m looking forward to book number 2.