Death at Greenway by Lori Rader-Day puts Agatha Christie’s estate at the center of its own murder mystery.
There are a lot of elements to this book that will speak to plenty of people. Firstly, it’s a historical fiction based on fact—Agatha Christie’s manor was indeed made home to evacuated children during World War II. Many of the details in this novel are true, thanks to meticulous research on the part of the author.
For those interested in getting a slice-of-life story about the people who lived through WWII, Death at Greenway also has a lot to offer. This might not be boots-on-the-ground in the way many other stories of the war have been told, but it certainly shows the devastating effects this moment in time had on everyone back home in England.
The main character, Bridget, was a nurse trainee when she was accused of administering the wrong dose of medication to a man who later died. As penance, she’s sent away to care for evacuated children at the Greenway estate.
Much of the story deals with Bridget’s struggles with grief and identity. Having lost her mother and siblings to a bombing, she closes the door to any kind of love—that of the children, a friend, or even a partner. It makes her cold and calculated, but it also aids her in being a nurse.
That is, if she really were a nurse. Having been sent away before she finished her training, Bridget is living a lie at Greenway. But she might not be the only one. The other nurse, Gigi, doesn’t seem quite up to the task, and each of the characters in the book have their own motivations for being there.
The true backbone of this story is seeing how each of them handle the war, which feels both a million miles away and just outside their door—especially when the bombs start dropping along the hills where they reside.
Though I’m not, by any means, an expert on this time period or this area of England, it appears to me that great care was taken in bringing this very real place to life. Some of these characters are people from history, while others are fragments of fiction stitched together.
Either way, Death at Greenway transports you back to a tumultuous time in world history. Bridget is forced to reconcile her own mistakes, and she does so by trying to save the handful of people she’s surrounded herself with.
Unfortunately, she isn’t always successful. Amidst the drama of the war, Greenway sees its own form of death in the shape of a man who’s been murdered. This mystery takes a backseat to the other goings-on around the estate, but it’s never far from Bridget’s mind. The answers come late in the book, as they do in any good crime novel, but they seem less important than watching Bridget separate who she is from who she wants to be.
Although the novel takes place at Agatha Christie’s home, the woman hardly features in the book. She’s a constant presence in other ways, as characters wonder why she’s allowed strangers into her home while she’s away, what motivates her to write about murder, and who she really is once you set all the rumors aside.
Greenway is merely a backdrop to the story of Bridget Kelly, but it provides an atmosphere that Aggie herself would revel in.