Is murdering husbands an addiction or merely a bad habit?
This is the question facing Private Investigator Cat Harrington when rich builder, Tom Drayton, dies shortly after his wedding night. Suspicion falls on his widow, Anastasia Rodriguez, the survivor of three previous ‘lost’ husbands.
Two years later, Anastasia is engaged again, to Cat’s friend Angelo, an Italian snail collector.
Angelo’s sister, Gia, employs Cat and the SeeMs Detective Agency to discover if her brother’s financé is a killer.
The search for Anastasia’s lost husbands takes Cat and her team from Scotland to the South of Spain and on to Argentina.
They have just a few weeks before the wedding to discover if Anastasia is a murderer and save their friend from becoming victim number five.
Comparing Netflix Inventing Anna with The Mystery of the Lost Husbands
Watching Inventing Anna on Netflix I was struck two things, firstly, how well stories adapt to their own era, while remaining the same basic tale of human desire and secondly, that Anna had many similarities with Anastasia in The Mystery of the Lost Husbands, beyond just their names.
Netflix Anna, living in 21st Century New York, courts the rich and powerful and hopes to build her own business. Anastasia, in 1980s southern Spain, looks for marriage to be a secure base from which to do her photography. Both are searching for a background from which to achieve their dreams.
Like Anna, Anastasia, was a Russian émigré, although Anastasia’s family emigrated to Spain and Anna’s to Germany. Both are clever and multilingual, want careers in the arts and had families that were short of money yet longed to have the advantages of wealth. But while Netflix Anna was estranged from her family and, after trying to create an impossible persona, ended up in jail, Anastasia was encouraged by her family to marry into money and thus started on a career of connubiality. A career that found her under suspicion of murdering her previous four husbands while about to marry a fifth.
What is it about stories that pulls us in and makes us want to go on reading or watching? Either our own involvement with the characters portrayed or an exciting plot. If we can believe in those characters, imagine ourselves behaving the way they do, or be totally horrified and fascinated by what they do, we will want to know more, even if the plot seems a bit thin.
While Netflix Anna is not a particularly sympathetic character, the question of why and how she managed to convince New York society she was an heiress makes for compelling reading. She is a mass of contradictions; she seems to like manipulating people, but then lets the journalist manipulate her. She steals money, but then gives most of it away. Is she a Robin Hood like character or trying to buy friendship?
Anastasia, in The Mystery of the Lost Husbands, starts as a warm girl enjoying what little fun was available to her in the rigid atmosphere of 1980s southern Spain. At first, she too is manipulated by her family but, as slides from one tragedy to another, life hardens and toughens her, until by the end of the book she is the manipulator, or is she? Does she only think she is in charge of her life, while in fact still being manipulated?
In both Inventing Anna and in The Mystery of the Lost Husbands, there is another woman (the journalist, Viv, or the detective, Cat) searching for the person behind the fantasy. Both external women question whether a man would have found himself in jail at the end of the run, or rather have become a president or CEO? Netflix tries to propound this as a theme, but originals like Anna have always existed, sometimes they become President’s wives like Evita, other times they are burnt at the stake, like Joan of Arc. Isn’t this more a question about humanity and time, than genre?
At the end of both stories there are questions left unanswered. If Anna Sorokin had been given the loans she required, without stealing and lying, would she have made a huge success of her business? There are moments when she seems like a genius, and others when she seems like a fraud. Would Anastasia Rodriguez have been a success had she been born forty years later, in an environment more sympathetic to a woman with her skills? Or, was it simply that neither women actually wanted to do the work required, that they preferred to take a shortcut to getting what they wanted? A shortcut that ultimately did not work. Questions which then beg another: for a story to be compelling must it leave us asking questions?
Thank you, Gina Cheyne and Rachel’s Random Resources.
About the author
Gina has worked as a physiotherapist, a pilot, freelance writer and a dog breeder.
As a child, Gina’s parents hated travelling and never went further than Jersey. As a result she became travel-addicted and spent the year after university bumming around SE Asia, China and Australia, where she worked in a racing stables in Pinjarra, South of Perth. After getting stuck in black sand in the Ute one time too many (and getting a tractor and trailer caught in a tree) she was relegated to horse-riding work only. After her horse bolted down the sand, straining a fetlock and falling in the sea, she was further relegated to swimming the horses only in the pool. It was with some relief the racehorse stables posted her off on the train into eastern Australia to work in a vineyard… after all what could go wrong there?
In the north of Thailand, she took a boat into the Golden Triangle and got shot at by bandits. Her group escaped into the undergrowth and hid in a hill tribe whisky still where they shared the ‘bathroom’ with a group of pigs. Getting a lift on a motorbike they hurried back to Chiang Rai, where life seemed calmer.
After nearly being downed in a fiesta in Ko Pha Ngan, and cursed by a witch in Malaysia, she decided to go to Singapore and then to China where she only had to battle with the language and regulations.
Since marrying the first time, she has lived and worked in many countries including Spain and the USA.
For a few years Gina was a Wingwalking pilot, flying, amongst others, her 64-year-old mother standing on the wing to raise money for a cancer charity. She was also a helicopter instructor and examiner and took part in the World Helicopter Championships in Russia and the USA.
She became a writer because her first love was always telling a good yarn!
Under the name Georgina Hunter-Jones she has written illustrated children’s books such as The Twerple who had Too Many Brains, and Nola the Rhinoceros loves Mathematics.
She now lives in Sussex with her husband and dogs, one of who inspired the Biscuit and Pugwash Detective Series about naughty dogs who solve crimes.
The Mystery of the Lost Husbands is the first in the SeeMS Detective Agency series and Gina’s first crime novel for adults.