Murder Will Out by Alison Joseph

Murder Will Out1923, a small village in Berkshire. The war is over and village life is beginning to return to something resembling normality. A young writer is beginning to find success with her mystery novels but when trying to concentrate on her latest novel, she finds herself distracted by a real-life murder. A young man, Cecil Coates, is found poisoned in the library. Yes, there’s been a murder at the vicarage! And there’s a body in the library! Can you guess the writer’s name by any chance?

As Agatha finds herself getting pressurised by her neighbours into investigating the crime – despite her complete lack of experience as an investigator – another poisoning occurs. It seems that secrets from the past are having lethal ramifications in the present and the killer might not have finished yet…

God bless Twitter. Michael Jecks tweeted about the existence of this book – I’d never heard of it – and it perked my interest in two different ways. First off, I trust Michael’s judgment so it sounded good. But on the other hand, a book with Agatha Christie as a sleuth? That is a brave move from the author. Readers are going to expect a Christie-esque mystery, which is always a big ask. And we all know what happened the last time someone had a go at a Christie pastiche… The good thing about buying a book (it’s only £1.99 on Kindle by the way) is that, unlike a book that I’m asked to review, I can give full vent to giving it a good kicking…

I’m not going to, though. It’s rather good. The plot feels like something out of a Christie novel, with a number of possible suspects, secrets from the past, people not being who you think they might be, and moreover, it doesn’t feel like it’s a re-hash of an actual Christie plot.

It’s not approved by the Christie estate, by the way – note the lack of Agatha’s name on the cover – but there’s nothing controversial about Christie’s life here (unlike in the recent Josephine-Tey-as-sleuth books). There’s a little about her discontent with her marriage but only a hint. The only odd thing is that if this is set in 1923 (as per the blurb) then she takes her time between thinking of Miss Marple as a character and writing the first short story in 1927.

So many thanks to Michael for the recommendation and I’ll be sure to check out more of Alison Joseph’s work in the future, in particular if there’s more from this series. Far better than I expected – in fact, it’s Highly Recommended.

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7 comments

  1. “The only odd thing is that if this is set in 1923 (as per the blurb)….”
    Do you mean that the year is mentioned only in the blurb and cannot be determined from the story ?
    Rather strange !

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    • I did a search of the text to check and couldn’t find 1923. It’s certainly the twenties as the Great War is mentioned as recently-ish ending but given that she is considering writing a spinster detective (first Marple short story is 1927) the stated date seems a bit early. Relatively minor niggle though.

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  2. I have read the book. I do not share your enthusiasm for the book.
    First, there are just too many characters. As a result, no character gets developed. To make matters worse, there is frequent switching between surnames and first names. I was utterly confused and had to write down the names on paper.
    Second, it is not a fair play mystery. Several information known to Agatha Christie are not made known to readers.
    Finally, there are some obvious holes in the solution.

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    • Fair enough. In my opinion, a) the characters were fine – I didn’t have any problems there; b) some of the unknown info could have been at least guessed at from what we were told and c) I didn’t spot any major holes (unlike, if you think about it, some massive holes in the plot of Sparkling Cyanide which didn’t bother me but were there). We’ll have to disagree on this one.

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  3. Also, I found the repeated statement and thought of Agatha Christie as to fiction being different from real life rather irritating. I thought you also detested that type of thing !

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