Death in a desert land by Andrew Wilson
Simon and Schuster, 2019. ISBN: 9781471173486. 385pp.
(Age: secondary/adult) Recommended. 'Death in a Desert land is not authorised by Agatha Christie Ltd' is written under the author's name on the title page, leaving readers in no doubt about what to expect when the pages of this book are opened. And Christie fans will not be disappointed; all the tropes are presented here: a small group of people in a strange but close situation, clues hidden in plain sight, chance remarks holding clues, an exotic location, several people with hidden pasts and so on, crowding into these 385 pages. At times I thought 'oh no not another one', but I read to the end, hooked by the story, its sweep of odd and unlikely characters and the background at a dig at Ur.
Agatha Christie has been sent by her friend, Davison at the Foreign Office to sniff out some of the background of the people at the dig, a rag bag mix of archaeologists, a rich American patron with his wife and daughter, helpers, a priest, a secretary, a photographer and now Agatha. The death of archaeologist, Gertrude Bell two years ago was deemed to be suicide but new evidence has the powers that be involved and Agatha has joined the party. But of course her investigations into the background of some of the odd group see her having a small passion for the photographer only to find that he like the others is hiding a secret. But another murder has occurred, and when Davison joins the dig to investigate, things hot up.
A mixing bowl of everything Christie, the woman is exposed as vulnerable to the charms of the young man after the blow of her husband's desertion and divorce. Hints are given about her early life, the infamous weekend that she disappeared, the state of her married life and her writing career. So for those who love a good whodunnit, crowded with red herrings, throwaway sentences that bristle with meaning, a living desert and a dig as a setting, then this is a wonderfully engrossing read when told to stay indoors.
And like any good crime novel, is one of a series, the first two emblazoned on the back cover, with a taste of number 4, I saw him die, given at the conclusion of Death in a desert land. Themes: Crime, Agatha Christie, Archaeology, Ur, Murder.