“Joan felt a little gentle glow as she turned away from her image in the glass. She thought, Well, it’s nice to feel one’s been a success at one’s job. I never wanted a career, or anything of that kind. I was quite content to be a wife and mother. I married the man I loved, and he’s been a success at his job – and perhaps that’s owing to me a bit too. One can do so much by influence.”

Absent in the Spring is the book that Agatha Christie describes as her favourite piece of work – not because it is her best but because it was the book she really wanted to write.

Amazingly, it is a pretty good story even though there is not a single murder in sight!

The story follows Joan Scudamore, a middle-class wife and mother who is returning from a visit to her daughter in Iraq and is stuck in the middle of nowhere, in a desert, because of the railway lines being flooded. Oh, the irony.

Anyway, Christie fabulously uses Joan’s isolation to let her reflect on her life and ponder over her relationship with her husband and with her daughter.

The crux of the story is that Joan’s perception of herself and of the people around her are as much an illusion as the mirage she experiences when out walking in the desert.

The question, however, that keeps the story quite tense is whether Joan will realise this by the end of the book.

I found myself reading this book with some apprehension as I had no idea what to expect. Of course, the biggest surprise was that I could hardly put the book down once the characters had been introduced and Joan’s dilemma became clear.

“What was it Blanche had said? You’ve gone up in the world and I’ve gone down.’ No, she had qualified it afterwards – she had said, ‘You’ve stayed where you were – a St Anne’s girl who’s been a credit to the school.’”

4* (out of 5*)