Hello all, and happiest of Saturdays! Today was my last day of work before a nice week-long vacation, and MAN do I need it. I can’t wait to use this break to get back into blogging about my favorite thing: Amazing books. What better day to start then today? I bring you The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict, a book I was so excited to read because of my ever abiding love of Agatha Christie and obsession with her disappearance. I can’t say it *completely* lived up to expectations, but I will let you be the judge. So without further ado…
From the Publisher:
Marie Benedict, the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Only Woman in the Room, uncovers the untold story of Agatha Christie’s mysterious eleven day disappearance.
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 husband and 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 exploration into the shadows of history, 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 a murky story.
What is real, and what is mystery? What role did her unfaithful husband play, and what was he not telling investigators?
A master storyteller whose clever mind may never be matched, Agatha Christie’s untold history offers perhaps her greatest mystery of all.
What I Loved:
- Agatha Mutha-Effin Christie. I simply loved the chapters from Agatha Christie’s point of view. From a young girl in love, to the shine being take off of marriage, to being the first British woman to surf (fact!), to Agatha writing her first novel to one up her prissy older sister – I loved it all. This is a woman I empathize with, who is at first uncomfortable with motherhood but loves her daughter, who is quick to joke and laugh, and who eventually managed to break free of a miserable man after being repressed for far too long. This made me love Agatha Christie even more, and I feel like we have much in common.
- The “Mystery.” There have been many theories of where Agatha Christie went in her eleven day disappearance. One of my favorites is from the movie “Agatha and the Truth of Murder,” which posits that Agatha Christie was solving a murder during her disappearance (it is on Netflix, and I highly recommend it!) A new favorite is now discovered in The Mystery of Mrs. Christie. Without spoiling too much, this book is the perfect blend of retribution, self-discovery, and closure, and it delivers. I can only hope that even a modicum of this story actually played out for Agatha Christie, who up until her deathbed claimed she had no memory of her disappearance despite being found checked into a hotel under her husband’s mistresses’ name.
What Didn’t Work for Me:
- Mr. Archibald “I’m a Selfish Prick” Christie. When you have a narrative split between two narrators, it is fairly common to have them be uneven characters to create tension. However here, Mrs. Christie goes too far. Archie Christie is by far the most odious human being I have read about, and all the worse because he tortured my darling Agatha (If only we weren’t separated by the decades, I’m sure we would be great friends). Archie is forced to pretend to be the caring, worried husband throughout his wife’s disappearance, while his vile thoughts show all he cares about is his precious mistress and his status. I feel like Archie got entirely too much page time. Ms. Benedict did too good of a job at making us hate him, and then made us spend so much time with him.
- The Pacing. The first 85% of The Mystery of Mrs. Christie is told in two narratives, between Agatha’s perspective from the time her and Archie met all the way up to her disappearance and Archie’s perspective as he is being investigated for Agatha’s disappearance. The last 40 or so pages is when Agatha Christie is found by police and Archie, and while I can honestly say the ending was worth it, getting to that point was pulling teeth. I was expecting the mystery to be told from Agatha’s point of view, and instead had to deal with odious Archie.
- Spoilers. Personally speaking, I have read around thirty Agatha Christie books, and I have thankfully read the ones mentioned in The Mystery of Mrs. Christie. However, not everyone has had the chance to do so, and I think it was in particularly bad taste to spoil the ending of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, one of Agatha Christie’s most surprising endings. Reader be warned.
I confess, my hopes for The Disappearance of Mrs. Christie were perhaps too high. I saw Marie Benedict on an episode of CBS Sunday Morning, and she seemed so earnest about honoring Agatha Christie’s life and her memory. To a certain extent, she succeeded. I learned a lot about Agatha Christie, and I absolutely loved Marie Benedict’s theory behind Christie’s disappearance. However, it is pretty hard to love a book that is 60% from the point of view of someone your readers are naturally inclined to despise. I encourage anyone who picks up The Mystery of Mrs. Christie to read it to the end, because the last section of the book is by far the best. However, I would not encourage this for someone who puts Agatha Christie on a pedestal like I do sometimes. Three waves! Please go check The Mystery of Mrs. Christie out for yourself and buy it here on Bookshop; I would love to compare notes with other Christie lovers!