Wilson, Andrew. “I Saw Him Die: A Novel”, Washington Square Press, 2020.
A Classic Whodunit
Andrew Wilson’s “I Saw Him Die” is a classic whodunit filled with red herrings and double-crosses. Bestselling novelist and part-time undercover sleuth Agatha Christie is looking forward to a nice rest but that is interrupted when her friend John Davison begs her to help him protect a retired British agent turned hotelier who has been receiving threatening letters.
Christie and Davison travel to Dallach Lodge, a beautiful estate on Scotland’s Isle of Skye. There they move among the hotel’s illustrious guests, including members of the owner’s family, a leading lady of the theater, a brilliant botanist, a local doctor, and two sisters who co-author romance novels. After a very nice first evening, Christie does not think that any of them are capable of evil, much less murder. But early the next morning. the hotel owner is found dead in the arms of his nephew after shots were heard. At first, it appears to be a simple hunting accident, but as Christie digs deeper, she discovers that each and every one of the residents has a motive for wanting the man dead.
At first, it seemed like a terrible accident, but there are those letters so Agatha and Davison feel that they must investigate. “British reserve” and class lines are kept to here. The real cause of death turns up and we learn that the dead hotelier was not a very nice person. Someone, who has been summoned to the Lodge and took revenge.
Finally, at the gathering in the drawing room seems rather tedious and unnecessary because Mrs. Christie is really good at this. In an afterward, “The Facts” with more historical information gives confirmation of an interesting historical fact that Christie relates in the text. While the murder is well-set up, I must admit that I figured out who was responsible early on.
Christie was constantly making assumptions and was easily misled. She was worried that someone would realize that she, as a mystery writer, was trying to solve the mystery. She constantly lied, and no one called her on it even when she contradicted her previous stories.
Christie has a big reveal scene during which she gives a very lengthy recounting of every false lead and confusing turn. When revealing whodunit, she gave no evidence for murder, just supposition. She made no effort to avoid being the murderer’s last target. Too much of the murder scheme required everything to happen just so, and the motive wasn’t a compelling reason for murder. Christie
keeps us guessing and lays red herrings in with the clues before the murderer is finally revealed. A fun aspect of this book are all the references to plots that the real Agatha Christie used in several books.