Hey, everyone. It’s time for the last Mystery Monday post of 2021. This month’s story is about one of my favorite authors.
Agatha Christie is known for her sixty-six detective novels, fourteen short-story collections, and the world’s longest-running play, The Mousetrap. Her books have sold over a billion copies, making her the best-selling novelist of all time.
Several of her books were made into movies, including Murder on The Orient Express. I enjoyed the 1974 film with its all-star cast including Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery, Lauren Bacall, Albert Finney, and Jacqueline Bisset. (I was highly disappointed in the 2017 remake. The only positive thing I can say about it is Johnny Depp’s portrayal of the murderer Ratchett.) But enough about that.
Agatha Christie was born Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller in 1890 in Torquay, Devon United Kingdom into a wealthy upper-middle-class family. Her American-born father home schooled her, something highly unusual at that time. Agatha’s mother was an excellent storyteller and didn’t want her daughter to learn to read until she was eight. Being the only child at home (and bored) Agatha taught herself to read at the age of five.
Agatha married British military officer and businessman Col. Archibald Christie in 1914. But after twelve years together, their marriage began to fall apart. Archie Christie was involved with another woman, Nancy Neal. He asked Agatha for a divorce.
On December 3, 1926, Archie left their home saying he was going to a weekend house party, most likely a rendezvous with his mistress. Between 9:30 and 11:00 that night, Agatha left the house. According to maids, she was visibly upset and carried a small travel bag and her fur coat. She left a note for her secretary asking that all her weekend appointments be canceled.
The following morning, Agatha’s car was located an hour’s drive from her home. It had gone off the side of the road, but there was no sign of the famous author. Several eyewitnesses said they encountered Agatha before she disappeared. One man, Earnest Cross, said she seemed upset and wore only a thin dress despite the cold weather. He claimed she drove in the opposite direction from Newlands Corner, the village where her car was found.
Two railroad porters also spoke with Agatha outside the station and thought that she had boarded a train.
Eleven days after Agatha Christie was reported missing, she was located at an elegant spa, two-hundred miles from her home. She had registered under the last name Neal, the same name as Archie’s mistress. The chief inspector notified Archie and brought him to the spa.
Archie and Agatha soon left. They never commented about her mysterious disappearance. The press concluded Agatha had suffered from amnesia.
Others, including author Gillian Gill, think otherwise. “I believe that Christie had a definitive and terrible fight with her husband. It drove her over the edge. She had been depressed, now she becomes on some level psychotic. She is not herself. She takes on another identity. She wanders off. She gets on the train. She takes another name. She goes into this hotel and she lives another life. That’s very, very, very rare, but it’s known. It’s documented in the annals of psychology. And we know that Agatha Christie was an unusual woman.”
Still others, including author Gwen Robyns believe it was a publicity stunt. “I think she plotted and planned it from the start. She would use the media to push the only thing she knew, which was revenge, mystery, and the possibility of murder. She checked in to this hotel under the name Neal, her husband’s girlfriend’s name. I think it’s just madly funny. I think she took endless delight in the fact that the police shadowed Archie. He couldn’t go anywhere because they suspected him of murdering her. And I think she took marvelous delight in reading this in the papers. Again, I think in a sort of revenge and twisted up sort of way, she was thinking it was very funny.”
Not long afterward Agatha and Archie separated and divorced. He married Nancy Neal in 1928. Two years later, Agatha married archaeologist Max Mallowan. They remained married until her death in 1976. Agatha, a 1979 movie starring Vanessa Redgrave, Dustin Hoffman, and Timothy Dalton was based on the famous author’s mysterious disappearance.