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Cracking the Agatha Christie case

Where did the legendary mystery writer disappear to in 1926?


The case of the missing mystery writer

If you want to master the art of solving television crime dramas before the second commercial break, then you could do worse than read the works of Agatha Christie (1890-1976). The creator of HerculePoirot and author of Murder on the Orient Express presented a doctoral education in mystery solving across her 100-plus books. At the time of her death, she was the best-selling author in the English language, as many, many cover blurbs proclaimed at the time. But, you ask, what about the great mysterious event in her life three-quarters of a century ago? What, ho? Let me explain.

Londoners woke on the morning of December 7, 1926, to find the front page of the Daily Mirror covered with photos of Christie and the search parties seeking her. The headline trumpeted: "Mystery of Woman Novelist's Disappearance." Christie was missing, having left behind an abandoned car containing a bag of clothes and her fur coat. Luminaries such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dorothy Sayers were drafted into the search effort.

Suspicion fell on Christie's husband, Archie, who had been having an affair. The ensuing week and a half brought a great deal of publicity and very little in the way of results. As opposed to C.S.I. or The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, grim patience solves more crimes in the real world. Like other unhappy spouses and spouses-to-be over the years, Christie had run away. She was recognized as a guest at a hotel in Harrogate. The police did not endorse her claims of amnesia, though they were forgiving based on the current stress of her life. (In addition to her husband's straying, Christie had recently nursed her mother through a fatal illness.) However, it took Christie two more years to dispose of Archie in divorce.