Friday 21 January 2022

Murder Isn't Easy: The Forensics of Agatha Christie by Carla Valentine

Crime/ forensics / police procedure
Agatha Christie

I’m new to writing ‘cosy mysteries’ although I watched many murder mystery dramas on TV (preferring the more detailed series like Lewis, Foyle’s War, Vera... Morse is OK, but the character is somewhat dour). Then there’s the printed world of fiction, and I must admit I do tend to stick to the lighter cosy mysteries, which are more Miss Marple in style than Rebus, Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford or Adam Dalgliesh. My favourite series is Debbie Young’s Sophie Sayers Mysteries. Cosy Mysteries are usually about amateur sleuths who stumble upon unexpected mysteries (a murder) and solve the case before the professionals do. Often, but not always, the cosy does not have detailed gruesomeness – we get a glimpse of the body only. There’s very little police procedure (well, these are amateur sleuths after all) with the plot being character driven, with a touch of romance also involved.

Even with an amateur sleuth the author needs a certain amount of ‘professional’ knowledge to keep the narrative believable, and of course Agatha Christie is the Queen of Crime for that very reason: she worked as a nurse during WWI so saw more than her fair share of amputated limbs and ghastly injuries. She then went on to work in the pharmacy – and learned all about poisons. Which stood her in good stead for her many best-selling crime novels.

Murder Isn't Easy makes a superb ‘how to do a whodunit’ reference book for new or established mystery writers. Apart from being extremely interesting in the area of modern day and 'historical' forensics, it delves into Miss Christie’s life and her writing in an entertaining and informative way. The author delves into giving away insider information about all manner of ‘essentials’ where the accuracy of writing crime is concerned – did you know that the term is ‘blood spatter’ not ‘blood splatter’? 

 The book illustrates Christie’s knowledge, her ability to observe people and create ingenious plots. It was Christie who first used the term ‘scene of crime’ not the police! 

But what is particularly useful for the historical fiction writer is that most of this book is concerned with the era between the Great War and WWII – so a must for that period crime writer researching the facts.

It is also jolly interesting, especially if you are an Agatha Christie fan!

My only grumble is that the e-book, as always with mainstream publications, is priced at £9.99 while the hardback is available at £10.42 (although the RRP is higher) - so a few pennies more for printing, paper, shipment... Why do these publishers put such high prices on their e-books?

Highly recommended

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Helen Hollick
 e-version reviewed

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