Agatha! Darling!

Gavin Collinson, An Accident in Paris

Gavin Collinson, An Accident in Paris

How are you? You must tell me everything!

But first of all, tea. You always loved tea. Couldn’t bear coffee. The author Felix Francis recently told me a lovely story about his father, Dick Francis. Yes, the famous writer and your good friend. He said his father couldn’t stand tea but always drank oodles of the stuff whenever you visited, simply because he didn’t want to incur your wrath by suggesting coffee was a suitable alternative. Don’t tell him I told you!

Right. Got your cuppa? Good. I’ll begin. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!

Oh, you probably don’t want a fuss, but it’s 100 years since The Secret Adversary was published. Can you believe it? Your first thriller hit the bookstands a century ago. Yes, I know it was your second novel, but your first, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was much more of a straight-forward murder mystery, wasn’t it?

Whereas The Secret Adversary was a full-on adventure that you crammed with conspiracies, bluffs, fights, chases and daring escapes. I’ve done exactly the same for my thriller, An Accident in Paris, so clearly, I’ve learnt from the best. I even used your technique of having a real-life historical mystery as a central element, in my case – the death of Princess Diana and what really happened when -

Sorry. Let’s stick to your books. You know, people still insist on claiming the secret to their success was your ability to write ingenious mysteries. I think we both know that’s not quite true. You see, dozens of your contemporaries churned out brilliantly plotted enigmas but their names are largely forgotten. They simply didn’t understand people as you do. I believe that’s why your works resonate and capture the imagination. Your characters, with all their flaws and authenticity, give your stories life!

And love. Oh my lord. You write about love so astutely. Not the beauty of the blessed thing. But the inconvenience of love. The absurdity of love. Its danger and awkward obligations. As for passion, yep. You nail that, too. I adore it when Miss Marple reflects that old men’s attraction to young women is a kind of insanity. So true.

Don’t worry. I made sure that the characters in An Accident in Paris are as important as the plot twists and action. Its hero, Marc Novak, is described as ‘a knight errant in a world that no longer wants knights errant’. He’s a good man. I think he’d get on very well with Jane Marple. We really must introduce them at some stage, don’t you think?

Your tea’s getting cold, Agatha. I’ll stop wittering and let you finish it. Sorry. Again. But I did want to drop you this note to express how much your writing has inspired me. Terrific, teasing mysteries populated with characters we recognise and want to spend time with. Even the villains. And you make it look so simple!

One of your book titles claims, ‘Murder is Easy’. Well, not for most of us. But then, we don’t have your little grey cells, do we?

Thanks, Agatha,

Gavin Collinson

An Accident in Paris by Gavin Collinson, is published by Welbeck Publishing on 7th July, £8.99

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