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The Unexpected Guest    by Agatha Christie & Charles Osborne order for
Unexpected Guest
by Agatha Christie
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2000 (2000)
Paperback, Audio
* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

This story has the elements expected in an Agatha Christie tale: a very English setting, and unexpected twists and turns. Michael Starkwedder is marooned on a lonely country road. In search of help, he arrives at an elegant country home, entering through the unlocked french doors when there is no answer to his knock. A sombre scene greets him. A lovely young woman is holding a gun and staring down at the body of a man in a wheelchair. She confesses to Starkwedder that she has murdered her husband.

Hard-headed and skeptical, Starkwedder questions her before calling the police, and becomes convinced that she is lying. The victim, Richard Warwick, was a cruel man, whose character and activities alienated many. As far as Starkwedder is concerned, there are additional candidates for the position of murderer, including other members of the household. Starkwedder is a typical Christie protagonist. Determined and shrewd, he perseveres to the end, unveiling layer after layer of misdirection. A touch of romance is also typical of many of Christie's stories - Starkwedder's sympathies are engaged by the lovely young widow.

The Unexpected Guest was adapted as a novel by Charles Osborne from a play scripted by Agatha Christie. Osborne, an authority on theatre and a Christie admirer, does a good job of respecting the author's voice in this adaptation. He also earned acclaim for his previous adaptation of Black Coffee, featuring Hercule Poirot. Although this was an enjoyable read, I found the ending abrupt, perhaps because the book is shorter than a typical Christie novel (although the edition I read has 287 pages, the print is very large). Still, any fan will be delighted to have a new Christie to read.

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