Monday, January 26, 2009

Where Was Agatha?

by Anne Carter

She has been called the best-selling writer of books of all time, and the most famous mystery writer in the world. Her well-known sleuths, Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and the inquisive, elderly spinster Miss Jane Marple, are enormously popular characters among mystery buffs of all kinds.

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born September 15, 1890, in Devon, England. She got the “Christie” from first husband Archibald, an airman with the Royal Flying Corps. The marriage, which lasted from 1914 to 1928, was not a happy one, and they divorced two years after Agatha discovered that Archie was having an affair. Her first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was published in 1920, introducing the venerable Poirot, who “went on” to appear in 32 more novels and 54 short stories.

In 1926, Christie created a mystery of her own. After quarreling with Agatha, Archie reportedly took off to spend a weekend with his mistress, a Miss Nancy Neele. Agatha left later that same day, leaving a note for her assistant that she was off to Yorkshire. Although her car was found abandoned, she was not seen again for 11 days; she turned up as a guest at a hotel in Yorkshire, where she registered as “Miss Teresa Neele”. She gave no accounting of where she’d been for those 11 days; two different doctors declared her as suffering from amnesia. Some suggested she had suffered a nervous breakdown, while others were certain her mysterious disappearance was simple a publicity stunt. There was even speculation that Mrs. Christie had attempted to cast a shadow on her cheating husband, hoping that officials would think he’d killed her.

As recently as 2006, biographers were still studying the matter. Biographer and former doctor Andrew Norman is certain that Christie was experiencing a "fugue state", or an "out of body amnesia" induced by stress, wherein she would have acted in a trance-like state.

Where was Agatha? Reports are that she was in the spa hotel in Yorkshire the entire time, but did not acknowledge who she was or respond to reports about her disappearance. It’s not likely we’ll find out more anytime soon. Anyone who had knowledge of her condition during those infamous 11 days surely would have come forth by now, 33 years after her death.

Knowing what we now know about her skill in crafting mystery, it is entirely possible that she disappeared on purpose, weaving a personal “whodunit” of her own as she hid away somewhere in the English countryside. For 11 days, at least, she had the whole world wondering what had become of her, and she just may have been laughing at the fingers pointing to her Cassanova spouse. Well… could happen!

Anne Carter is the author of paranormal romantic mystery POINT SURRENDER. Visit her at Beacon Street Books!


Morgan Mandel said...

Her life does sound kind of like a mystery story.

Morgan Mandel

Libby McKinmer said...

Very interesting! What a cool blog idea -- write a bio of a favorite mystery writer...and a mystery in his/her life.

Nocturnal Intellect said...

I was always fascinated with Agatha Christie's books, and was reading them as a little girl. Translated of course to ma native language.
She definitely was a mystery herself.
My grandmother must have liked her, too. She named me after her.

Anne Carter said...

Now that's a cool story.

The more I read about her mystery, the more I think she likely did have some kind of memory disorder, such as that described by the researcher. Still, it's a lot more fun to imagine her plotting her own mysterious disappearance, possibly in revenge toward her cheating husband and his girlfriend. Why else would she deliberately choose the adulteress' last name?

Kerrie said...

Hello Ann
I've just dropped in to invite you to submit this blog posting (and indeed any others you write about Agatha Christie books, past and future) to the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Carnival. It is a monthly Carnival linking to posts on people's bloggs.
Check it out at