Tag Archives: historical fiction

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict (Goodreads Author)

Amy Caudill‘s review

During the winter of 1926, famed author Agatha Christie disappeared for eleven days.  Mrs. Christie was subsequently found, but claimed amnesia of the circumstances of her disappearance once she was recovered.  The mystery of these happenings was never solved.  Marie Benedict is not the first to write about the real-life mystery surrounding the life of the author, but she makes a very compelling case in an historical fiction version of events.

I’ll admit that when reading the prologue and first few chapters of this story I wasn’t entirely sure who was the narrator, only that we were seeing the intimate thoughts of one of the parties involved, as well as a letter and instructions from one of the other main parties.  After a few chapters, the narrator became clear, and this revelation added to the drama already ensued.

Part one, which takes up three quarters of the book, alternates between each chapter with the point of view of Dame Agatha herself, and that of her first husband, Archibald Christie.  In the Agatha chapters, which take place in the past of the main storyline, we catch a brief glimpse of the author’s childhood and youth, followed by Archibald’s courtship of her and their married life.  In the Archibald chapters, which take place in the “present,” we see the events of the disappearance itself, along with the reactions of family and the public to the author’s disappearance.

The second part of the story is told completely in Agatha’s point of view, and details the events of her recovery and the consequences of her, and others’ actions.  This part of the story delves heavily into speculation on the part of author Benedict, but oh what a story she weaves.

Benedict’s Agatha Christie is the epitome of a strong female character.  She has suffered emotional neglect and betrayal at her husband’s hands, but reacts by literally becoming the heroine in her own story.  She “takes control of the narrative of her life” in order not to become the villain to her daughter.  In a time period when divorce and single mothers were frowned upon, she ensures that she has the most favorable outcome for herself and her daughter.  She engineers events so that her husband will be forced to admit his guilt, and thus accept the blame for their divorce, so her reputation does not suffer. 

I loved this book.  The author clearly did a vast amount of research into the Christies’ history, and told a very convincing story of the true events.  While we may never know if some of her theories and conclusions are real, the reader cannot help but wonder and perhaps hope that this is the way it happened.  I give this story five stars, and recommend it to fans of mysteries, especially those of Agatha Christie, and those of historical fiction and romances.


Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Loch Down Abbey

Loch Down Abbey by Beth Cowan-Erskine

Loch Down Abbey by  Beth Cowan-Erskine

Amy Caudill‘s review

In a story that combines the social mores of Downton Abbey with the recent panic created by COVID-19, the staff of a noble household must determine if someone killed the head of the family, the Earl, or if it was a tragic accident.  With an entire household of self-involved relatives with numerous secrets of their own, an inept local police Inspector, and a staff largely bedridden with a mysterious plague, Head Housekeeper Mrs. MacBain has her work cut out for her.

In 1930s Scotland, a prominent family is on the verge of collapse.  Their family business is in ruin, not helped by the death of the father or the ascension to the title of his oldest son, Angus, who does nothing all day but hide in the tennis pavilion with his brother-in-law, Hugh. 

The younger son, Fergus, has had a plan to try to save the family fortune, but neither father nor brother listens to him.  After his father’s death, this situation puts him on MacBain’s suspect list, but she cannot find evidence to tie him in.  Of course, there are others with far more motive. 

When the will is read, the Earl’s wife’s Lady’s maid is left a stipend, as is the family ward, whom was rescued from an orphanage.  Why is Iris given the same stipend as the Earl’s younger children?  The more the family try to hide, the more the secrets will come out, thanks to a depleted staff and a number of family children running wild, as well as a desperate search for valuables to sell to save their home.

Meanwhile, the illness is forcing the remaining healthy staff to wear mask and gloves while waiting on the family, and shortages of flour, sugar, and toilet paper created some humorous situations and tantrums from the more entitled residents.

In the end, the mystery is solved, the spoilt occupants of Loch Down Abbey get their just rewards, and the Abbey is sold to begin a new era, with new owners that remain a mystery up to the end of the book.

This book was more of a spoof than an actual mystery, but it was an entertaining read.  I enjoyed the fact that it combined the setting of a period drama with modern day issues and did so while being true to the time period and the behavior of the characters.

I give the story four stars and recommend it to fans of both mysteries and historical fiction.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Old Bones

Old Bones by Douglas Preston

Old Bones (Nora Kelly #1) by Douglas Preston (Goodreads Author), Lincoln Child
Amy Caudill‘s review

The latest spinoff from authors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child features two feisty alums from a handful of the Pendergast series books, Dr. Nora Kelly and newly-minted Special Agent Corrie Swanson of the FBI.

Readers of the series will remember Nora Kelly is an archeologist and the wife of the late investigative reporter Bill Smithback, another series regular who was (spoilers!) tragically murdered in an earlier book.  Nora has returned to her roots, working for the Santa Fe Archeological Institute, when she receives an offer to help find a lost camp of members of the infamous Donner party, where pioneers headed to California were stuck in a blizzard and resorted to cannibalism in an attempt to survive.

Meanwhile, Corrie Swanson, former Goth protégé of Pendergast, is a rookie at the FBI and anxious for her first real case.  What comes her way is a series of grave robbing’s and a murder that are inexplicably linked to the same camp, and the same group of pioneers, that Nora’s expedition is about to uncover.

A theft of human bones, uncovered at the dig site, as well as a presumed accidental death and a murder lead Corrie to closing down the dig, bringing her into conflict with Nora, as well as the rest of the party and local law enforcement.   However, events will soon occur that force the two strong women to rely on each other for survival.

This new book, the first of the planned “Nora Kelly series,” contains only a subtle hint of the paranormal energy that readers often encounter in books by these authors. An innocent child, a victim of the Donner tragedy and subject of campfire tales for the expedition, may or may not haunt members of the archeological support staff and render timely assistance on multiple occasions. However, in this case, as the authors are relying on real, historic events for their fictional plot, I think anymore of the normally present psychic energy would be a mistake.  The small amount they include is affectionate and respectful of the “haunting” subject.

As an avid fan of these authors and the main “Pendergast” series, I have followed the development of the vast array of characters that populate this universe and am happy to see these two women, both who have been friendly and at odds with Pendergast in the past meet.  Their introduction includes conflict and understanding, rivalry and mutual respect, and I am curious to see if Corrie Swanson appears again in the series.  If anything, Pendergast’s cameo in the last chapter of the book seems to foreshadow this.

I sat down and read the bulk of this book overnight, something I seldom have the luxury to do, which should indicate how much I enjoyed it.  Prior knowledge of the series/characters is helpful, but not necessary to enjoy it.  For the record, I am giving this novel five stars, and would recommend it to any readers of detective stories, historical fiction, and any readers who enjoy action stories featuring strong female protagonists.