Monday, January 18, 2021

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict


I first read about the real-life mystery of Agatha Christie's disappearance in 1926 a few years ago and was fascinated by it. What intrigued me the most is that no one, to this day, knows what exactly happened, and why she disappeared for eleven days in December, 1926. This lead to a wave of news media and police searching for her, fearing the worst. And yet after eleven days, she's found staying at a hotel near London, under an assumed name. 

Agatha Christie never explained her disappearance--never talked about it for the rest of her life. Instead, she went on to become the most popular author of all time, writing mysteries that defined the genre and made her so famous she still steadily sells books and has movies based on her works produced 100 years later. Amazing. 

Marie Benedict was also intrigued by this real-life mystery and decided to craft a novel around it, with a possible explanation as to the "why" of it. It's an interesting take on a mystery that will never be solved. 

This novel moves back and forth between the eleven days of Agatha's disappearance, and the years leading up to that December of 1926. The novel starts off in 1912, as Agatha meets Archie Christie at a dance. She's already engaged to another man, but Archie is boldly attracted to Agatha and pursues her. She, in turn, it captivated by this handsome man who clearly wants Agatha. He courts her, and she falls in love. They are married when Archie is fighting in World War I. Agatha helps out taking care of wounded soldiers, and this is where her knowledge of medicine and poisons comes from; her talent at writing is natural and something she has always done but never seriously. Archie starts to show his true colors-he's self-centered, demanding, and falls into depression pretty regularly. Taking her mother's terrible advice, Agatha does everything she can to be the perfect wife to Archie. 

As the years go by, Agatha loses more of herself in the process. She does all she can to keep Archie happy, and gets little in return. Even the birth of her daughter Rosalind is tempered by the knowledge that Archie must always come first. It causes permanent damage in her relationship with her daughter, who doesn't understand why her mother doesn't spend more time with her. Archie is one annoying man! 

Meanwhile, Agatha's stories are gaining in popularity. At first supportive of her writing, it's now just another thing that Agatha does that irritates Archie. She just can't win with her husband. 

And then Archie does the unforgivable, and it sets off a chain of events concluding with Agatha's reappearance, claiming amnesia. This story is just one author's imagining; it seems that Agatha left us with one mystery that we can't ever absolutely solve. 

It took me a bit to read this novel, mostly because i was a bit unsure where it was headed. I'll admit to being a touch disappointed at the final reveal as I read it. However, spending some time thinking about the ending afterwards, I will admit it is pretty clever. 

You may want to do some sleuthing of your own after reading this, and delve into the internet to read up on the real-life disappearance and reappearance of Agatha Christie in 1926. It's pretty interesting; you'll find yourself crafting your own explanation to a mystery that went to the grave with the Queen of Suspense.

Rating: 4/6 for a dive into the marriage and mystery of Agatha Christie. It's also a novel about a women finding her talent and her power to live life her way. Anyone who has read an Agatha Christie mystery or watched a movie based on her books will want to read this. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

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