I’ve long been a fan of Agatha Christie, having read and re-read all of her books, some more than twice. I always enjoyed it when she stepped out of the mold and wrote an unconventional murder, such as in the book “And Then There Were None” or the play “The Mousetrap”. For that reason, I was excited to try out a new to me author, Anita Waller with her book “A Testament to Murder” which is due to be published in early February and was made available to me through NetGalley and Canelo Publishing in the form of an advance digital copy.
While the book has some of the same elements as Ms. Christie’s books, particularly the gathering of numerous suspects in one spot, it differs greatly in that the intended victim is actually the one who is purportedly setting up a house party expressly for the purpose of enticing someone to kill him. This wasn’t the only difference between this book and the earlier ones mentioned, but it was enough to make reading it intriguing. If you are interested in learning more about the book, here’s the review I wrote for the publishers and NetGalley.
My thanks to NetGalley and Canelo Publishing for providing me an advanced digital copy of A TESTAMENT TO MURDER by Vivian Conroy. A murder mystery that is stand-alone as opposed to being part of a series. Jasper, a retired police inspector, is called in to determine who murdered two of the guests who’ve been invited to spend a week with a dying relative.
The invitation to visit is not without strings. Once the family arrives they learn of their Uncle Malcolm’s plan to change his will every night at the stroke of midnight to name a different heir for his multi-billion dollar fortune. The reason? To see if anyone of the relatives has the courage and the intelligence to murder him without being caught on the day they are named heir. The catch? He will not be providing any information regarding who is named on any particular day.
In the vein of such classics as Murder on the Orient Express and And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, each character has something to hide and everyone lies about something to protect themselves or someone they love. To make it more complicated, Malcolm doesn’t die, although there are two murders that Jasper must solve.
An interesting premise, which provides the reader with an opportunity to speculate on who is committing murder and why. The book is evenly paced, throughout, with characters well-defined. The downfall for me is that none of the characters are particularly likeable or sympathetic. Jasper might be, but he is introduced late in the book and isn’t central to the action so much as he spends time asking questions and trying to get to the bottom of the mystery.
There is a “twist” at the end, which was the exact solution I expected to be the answer to this mystery. The author then throws out a short paragraph designed to cast doubt on one last person at the end, leaving the reader to decide the validity of the statement. It doesn’t change the outcome of who is the murderer, but does speak to the motive for the entire book. If a reader likes this type of open-ended solution, this may be the book for them.
I’m not sure how this book will sit with other people, so I’m leaving it up to you to decide how you want to rate it. The book is well-written, and the characters well drawn enough to paint a complete picture. While the location isn’t written about in overwhelming detail, there is enough that you can create a setting of your own. For people who want a book that doesn’t follow the conventional lines of detective fiction, especially those who like some opportunity to continue to add solutions to the end, this may be just the ticket. So, check it out if it sounds like you’re style of writing and for now, Happy Reading.