Miss Christie Regrets by Guy Fraser-Sampson – Review
By Sandra Callard
Miss Christie Regrets is the second in a series of crime novels by Guy Fraser-Sampson called The Hampstead Murders. It is so thoroughly researched into police procedures that it occasionally feels like that is the only aim of the book, but the cleverly conceived plot soon holds the attention.
It concerns an iconic London building and a missing letter from Agatha Christie, which immediately grabs the interest of crime novel fans. The puzzle, of how a modern murder and an eighty-year-old death can be connected is very cleverly excavated and disclosed. The road to the solution is slow and tortuous, and when the protagonists’ finally achieve solution, the relief on the reader is palpable.
“May puzzle some newer or younger readers to the genre”
Fraser-Sampson’s characterisation is a cut above that of most crime novels, as the lives of the detectives and their associates are thrown into sharp relief. The consequence of this is an easy image of the intelligent and intense main players, and a pleasantly double concern for the characters’ lives, both personal and professional.
The minutiae of detective work, police internal rules and the hierarchy of ascension in the force is described in infinite and mind-boggling detail. We wander in a forest of DCs, DSs, DSCs, DCSs, ACCs, DCIs, to name but a few levels of policing, apart from the initialising of various jobs and tasks, ie SOCOs and SIOs. Crime novel readers become used to these initialisations, but they do seem to be particularly profuse in this particular novel.
Running in the background is the affection and knowledge that some of the major characters have for what is known as the Golden Age of Crime Writers, when authors such as Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L Sayers, et al, were at the top of their games in the whodunnit crime novel lists.
Their names, and those of their various fictional detectives, are thrown into numerous conversations with an alacrity that may puzzle some newer or younger readers to the genre. To those of us who are also lovers of the Golden Age, it is an unusual fillip to the senses and produces an immediate affinity and fellow-feeling with the characters.
Miss Christie Regrets is a sophisticated and cleverly plotted book, with twists and turns that dismay and surprise by turn. It is not for a quick and easy read, but gives the reader a thoroughly satisfactory feeling on completion.
‘Miss Christie Regrets’ by Guy Fraser-Sampson is published by Urbane, £7.99