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Review: AGATHA AND THE TRUTH OF MURDER (2019)

In 1926 author Agatha Christie disappeared for eleven days, that much is known. What she was doing during that time has never been explained. The 1979 film Agatha with Dustin Hoffman and Vanessa Redgrave in the title role offered one possible explanation. And a 2008 episode of Dr. Who, The Unicorn And The Wasp, suggested that everyone’s favourite Time Lord had a hand in it. Now writer Tom Dalton (The Pharmacist, Agatha and the Curse of Ishtar) and director Terry Loane (At Water’s Edge, The Last Rifleman) give us a different take on those eleven days in Agatha And The Truth Of Murder.

The film opens with another real-life unsolved mystery, the murder of Florence Nightingale Shore (Stacha Hicks, Free Rein: The Twelve Neighs of Christmas, Captain Phillips). The goddaughter of Florence Nightingale, she was found bludgeoned and near-death on a train, her money and jewellery missing. She died without regaining consciousness.

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Picking up six years later, Christie (Ruth Bradley, Primeval, Grabbers) is approached by the dead woman’s best friend and partner Mabel (Pippa Haywood, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break) and asked to solve the murder. At first, she refuses, she writes about detectives, but that doesn’t make her one. However, bedevilled by writer’s block and with her marriage failing, she decides to give it a try.

Taking an assumed name, she lures the suspects to a remote house under the pretext of the reading of a will. But as in her novels, bringing this kind of rogues gallery together has definite risks. Sure enough, Wade (Dean Andrews, Dark River, Elfie Hopkins: Cannibal Hunter) her prime suspect, takes a bullet.

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Agatha And The Truth Of Murder is a mix of historical fact, fiction and lightweight British TV mystery. It even opens with a game of golf between our heroine and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Michael McElhatton, The Wheel of Time, The Autopsy of Jane Doe). The back and forth between these two lets us know just what to expect from the film. Impeccable period detail, crisp dialogue and solid performances.

As a mystery, Agatha And The Truth Of Murder is absorbing enough to keep you interested while never becoming overly complex. However, it also lacks a real feeling of threat, even after death strikes again. Probably because we know Agatha Christie will, of course, survive. And she’ll solve the case.

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One of the neat plot turns is that she ends up working with Detective Inspector Dicks (Ralph Ineson, The First Omen, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance) to solve the case. He was the man tasked with leading the investigation into her disappearance and is not amused by any of this. He’d rather arrest her and fine her the cost of the massive search.

A fine way to spend an hour and a half, Agatha And The Truth Of Murder has already spawned a pair of sequels. It will be available on digital and VOD on April 7th and on DVD on April 21st in the US from Vision Films. In Canada, it’s available on Netflix.

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