There’s a new version of the Agatha Christie film, Death on the Nile in cinemas shortly and I’m looking forward to seeing it. I’m a big fan of a period drama or murder mystery as readers of this blog will know from my previous reviews. Some classics such as other Agatha Christie stories and John Buchan’s, ’The 39 Steps’ have been made into series, films and plays. I saw a theatrical version of the 39 Steps on a couple of occasions and was surprised and enthralled by the fact that the very small cast played multiple roles and the story was presented as a dark comedy. They even managed to present the train chase scene using swaying props, the sound of a train and puppet silhouettes! Despite the laughs, they managed to maintain the sense of impending danger. The constant remaking of these classics again and again does lead one to wonder why producers can’t take a chance on an unknown story of the same vintage and calibre, which brings me to this month’s first review. Its ‘The Mirror Game’ by Guy Gardner and published by The Book Guild Publishing ( https://www.bookguild.co.uk/ ) 28th January.
The book takes the reader back to that familiar Agatha Christie and Downtown Abbey period between the two World Wars, a little later than the setting of The 39 Steps. In London in 1925, Adrian Harcourt a politician and captain the army believed dead with his company on the battlefield of Flanders is sighted looking like he’s been living rough. Harry Lark, a war veteran and journalist, is enlisted by his friend and benefactor, Lady Carlisle to investigate. As he is drawn further into the case and the deaths mount up, he can see that things don’t add up. Where has Adrian been and why can’t he remember parts of his past. As he investigates, Harry’s own past and addiction to laudanum (an opium / alcohol based pain killer) threatens to overwhelm him and he also begins to fall for Freddy Carlisle, Lady Carlisle’s daughter, who was Adrian’s fiancée. Can Harry solve the mystery before it’s too late?
I really enjoyed this book from start to finish. It was one of those books you look forward to being able to pick up again. I spent the hours between reads thinking about the story and trying to guess what exactly was going on. It hit my sweet spot with the period setting and cast of characters, which I appreciate may not be to everyone’s taste, but even if a period thriller wouldn’t normally attract you, the plot would stand up well in a more modern setting, avoiding the more twee aspects of Christie.
Harry Lark is a likeable flawed hero of this tale, giving his all to solving the mystery and falling in love at the same time as fighting his own post war PTSD demons. There are some interesting characters in the rest of the cast too and Harry’s journalistic and soldier past allow him to interact with retired policemen, gangsters and the upper classes believably. I enjoyed the love story too. Sometimes this aspect of thrillers seems a little contrived but here its development and associated drama was a crucial part of the story.
This English jazz pianist and author Guy Gardner’s ( http://www.guygardner.co.uk ) debut novel. as a pianist he has played in venues large and small across the UK and Europe, including Pizza Express in Soho and The Royal Albert hall. he earned his degree in music at Darlington Caollege of arts and went on to gain a PGCE in teaching, which he used to teach music in a prison for a time.. he currently lives in Dorset where he combines writing his next book with teaching piano.
I’d hope to find a follow up to this book soon, hopefully with some of the same cast. I could also easily imagine it as a BBC drama series. It would make a welcome change from all those Poirot and Marple reruns. So, if you want to play a part in the next big thing, buy or download a copy of this book now.
Reviewed by Georgina Murphy
This book review is part of a Random Things blog tour. to see what the other recviwers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.