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I don't think Agatha Christie had anything to worry about
on 25 June 2013
In recent years I've come out of the closet as an unashamed Georgette Heyer fan - in my teens I bought all her regency romances, wore them to shreds, and threw them away when I thought it was time to move on to a more respectable read. But in the last decade I've bought and read them all over again, and I can finally appreciate them for the expertly researched, wittily observed and brilliantly polished historical novels that they are.
So after all these years I thought I'd give one of her detective novels a go - I'd left it so long because I always suspected that she only wrote them to ride on the Agatha Christie bandwagon, in the hope of making a few bob. After reading this one (chosen at random, so I suppose it could be the worst of the bunch) it gives me no pleasure to say that I think I was right.
It's the usual 1930s upper middle class country house murder - family gathered for a social occasion, someone gets bumped off, detective gets called in, where were they all at the time, and who will be next? etc - which fans of Poirot and Miss Marple could probably write themselves by now.
Some of Heyer's wit and wicked character assassination is in evidence, and the scene setting and dialogue (apart from the annoying teenager who talks like a 1930s American gangster) are fine. But the plot is hackneyed, the characters are sketchy, there's very little suspense, the revelation of whodunnit at the end is rushed and obvious, and there's a gaping hole at the centre: there's no protagonist, no-one to identify with or care about. Superintendent Hannasyde, who's called in to solve the murders, has no character at all, and I don't think I could pick the very dull young lovers out of a crowd, either.
I've read worse, but surely this is an author who's just going through the motions and rushing to meet a deadline at the end? Three stars is being very generous: if it was someone other than the Great Georgette I'd give it two.
I'm disappointed, but not surprised - I won't be reading any more of these.