It was the work of a moment: On 4 December 1926, Agatha Christie became Teresa Neele, resident of the spa hotel, the Harrogate Hydro. With her wedding ring left behind, and her minimal belongings unpacked, On the Blue Trainthe lost days begin.

Lying to her fellow guests about the death of a husband and child, Teresa settles in to the anonymity she so fiercely desires. Until Harry McKenna, bruised from the end of his own marriage, asks her to dance.

In this entrancing novel of creativity and grief, Kristel Thornell combines fact and fantasy to reconstruct Agatha Christie’s retreat from a life that had become too difficult.

If a novel can be given a prize for creating stimulating conversation, On the Blue Train is a winner! Although our scores for this book did not widely vary, our views on whether Thornell successfully portrayed Christie’s lost days did.

Chris commented that she failed to see why this moment in Christie’s life needed to be written about, as it had already been done (numerous times) and we will never really know what happened, as Christie herself has refused to inform.

That said, it is made clear that this is a totally fictional account, blending fact and fiction into a novel that leaves much to the imagination concerning the author’s actions and thoughts. Besides, there were other issues that needed addressing … Denise found the ‘questionable adjectives’ encumbering and felt that Thornell was trying ‘way too hard’. This was an opinion shared by a few of our group which grew into a great discussion  about the importance of language and over compensating with difficult words … a real annoyance for some of us! But for some, the language is what gave us place and time, feeling that it was intentionally written as Agatha Christie herself would have.

It also gave us the opportunity to envisage what we thought Christie might have been going through and experiencing during this time. The death of her mother, her pending divorce and a perceived case of writer’s block to us all added up to a woman going through a very trying time. How would any of us cope with such pressure? Again, some stimulating conversation that never fails to satisfy our  willingness to openly share our thoughts on the more challenging stuff of life!

Generally, we found the characters a little on the light side, but everyone gave points for the research and descriptive hand used. It was agreed that this book is not a ‘sticker’, in the sense that it will be with you long after the reading. Then again, if you are a fan of Christie and her world (fictional or otherwise) it could be considered an essential read.