Editorial note: I received a copy of this novel in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
I’m a huge historical fiction fan. Some of my favorite ones are based on real people. I usually spend plenty of time Googling them after I finish the book!
When I read the premise for The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, I knew instantly it was a must-read. I had no idea that beloved writer Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days back in 1926. And it was never confirmed what exactly happened—the mystery writer kept her greatest mystery close to her chest. So this is where historical fiction comes in. Marie Benedict takes a fictional look at what happened during those 11 days. And it’s an entertaining ride!
In December 1926, Agatha Christie goes missing. Investigators find her empty car on the edge of a deep, gloomy pond, the only clues some tire tracks nearby and a fur coat left in the car — strange for a frigid night. Her World War I veteran husband and her daughter have no knowledge of her whereabouts, and England unleashes an unprecedented manhunt to find the up-and-coming mystery author. Eleven days later, she reappears, just as mysteriously as she disappeared, claiming amnesia and providing no explanations for her time away.
The puzzle of those missing eleven days has persisted. With her trademark historical fiction exploration into the shadows of the past, acclaimed author Marie Benedict brings us into the world of Agatha Christie, imagining why such a brilliant woman would find herself at the center of such murky historical mysteries.
What is real, and what is mystery? What role did her unfaithful husband play, and what was he not telling investigators?
Agatha Christie novels have withstood the test of time, due in no small part to Christie’s masterful storytelling and clever mind that may never be matched, but Agatha Christie’s untold history offers perhaps her greatest mystery of all.
The story is told in dual timelines—one follows Agatha’s husband, Archie, on the day it’s found out she has disappeared. The other timeline starts when Agatha and Archie first meet and documents their rocky relationship. Eventually, the two timelines will come together.
Let’s first talk about Archie’s storyline. It’s not a spoiler to say that Archie is the worst. He shows no interest in Agatha and is annoyed that his weekend away with his mistress is interrupted. It’s clear the police believe he’s the number one suspect. But what they don’t know is that Agatha left behind a letter to Archie advising him on what he must do and act. So we quickly learn that Agatha’s disappearance is all of her own doing but she has a very valid reason.
Archie is selfish, mean and just all around a big jerk. So it was interesting being in his perspective for half the novel—it reminded me a bit of Nick in Gone Girl.
Agatha’s storyline starts off with so much hope as she falls for Archie. She was even engaged to another man but gave him up for Archie. But it becomes clear that Archie isn’t who she expects him to be and he’s emotionally abusive to her. He wants all the attention, even after the birth of their daughter, but nothing is ever good enough for him.
But where Agatha does find her biggest joy is her writing. And I enjoyed reading about her process to craft together her famous novels. But unfortunately, her toxic relationship does get in the way of her happiness—until she decides to take back her own narrative.
I really enjoyed The Mystery of Mrs. Christie. It’s part mystery, a portrait of a failed marriage and a look at a famous historical figure. There’s so much to discuss for book clubs with this one. Check out my book club questions here.