Agatha Christie is a well-known writer with her detective novels, short story collections, plays, and famous detective characters Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Her books were sold over a billion copies in English and a billion in translation, and many of her works were adapted into films and TV series. Throughout her career, she had written detective novels, and one day she disappeared suddenly, just like the characters of her novel. No one knew where she was...
THE EARLY YEARS Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born in South West England into a middle-class family. Her American father homeschooled her. Since she was the only child, her loneliness led her to books’ magical world, and that’s why by the age of 5, she learned how to read by herself.
She read all the children’s stories of the time, she loved to read the books of Edith Nesbit and Louisa M. Alcott. Besides reading, she attended dance classes and played with her animals. Also, she had a vivid imagination therewith had imaginary friends. She began to write poems at early age. By the age of 15, she took piano and singing lessons. She succeeded in the realm of music, but her shyness prevented her from being a professional pianist. At the age of 18, she had fun writing short stories and their family friend Eden Philpotts who is an author noticed Agatha’s interest in writing and gave her the advice: “The artist is only the lass through which we see nature, and the clearer and more absolutely pure than glass, so much the more perfect picture we can see through it. Never intrude yourself.”
In 1910, Agatha and her mother Clara went to Cairo due to their economic problems and Clara’s health, and they stayed at the Gezirah Palace Hotel in Egypt.
Even though there were funny parties, young Agatha showed more interest in the local archaeological sites than the parties. Her friends she met in Egypt invited her to parties when she back home. Also, she received marriage proposals in those days, too. After two years, Agatha met her future husband, Archie Christie who was an aviator in the Royal Flying Corps. Even though both of them were eager to marry, their financial situation impeded their marriage. Eventually, they married in 1914 on Christmas Eve. Since there was World War I in those days, Archie was responsible in France, and Agatha was working as a nurse in a Red Cross Hospital in Torquay. The time of war passed yearnful for the young couple, and they met rarely. For this reason, until Archie was charged in the war office in London, Agatha could not feel like a married woman.
THE CREATOR OF POIROT
Agatha started to write detective fiction while she was working as a nurse during WWI. Actually, her main reason to start writing was the bet with Madge, her sister.
Madge thought that Agatha could not write a good detective story, that’s why Agatha started writing. The other reason was that she wanted to relieve herself of the dispensing work. She was working in the dispensary where she completed the exam of the Society of Apothecaries. Primarily, she worked on the plot, and suddenly she found her characters in a tram, that’s to say, Hercule Poirot was born in a tram in Torquay. Contrary to common belief, Poirot is not based on a particular person. Belgian refugees inspired Agatha during the First World War, refugees lived in the parts of the English countryside most. Moreover, her specialization in poisons helped her while she was writing. So, thanks to her knowledge about poisons, she described the use of poison in detail. She was writing during holidays at the Moorland Hotel at Haytor on Dartmoor. However, finding a publisher was easier than finishing the novel. It took time to finish her debut novel, but eventually, she finished.
Her debut novel ‘’The Mysterious Affair at Styles’’ (1920), introduced Hercule Poirot, an eccentric and a little bit egoistic Belgian detective. After that novel, Hercule Poirot reappeared in about 25 novels and many short stories as well. In the upcoming days, she continued to write and tried different types of thriller and murder mystery stories, thus, Tommy and Tuppence and Miss Marple were born. In 1922, Agatha and her husband Archie travelled across the British Empire promoting The Empire Exhibition of 1924.
WHERE IS MRS. CHRISTIE? 1926 was a challenging year for Agatha, her mother died from tuberculosis, and she learned her husband's infidelities. There are some claims that Agatha's eagerness to control her finances caused a breakdown in her relationship with Archie.
Therefore, Archie moved away from Agatha, and he met Nancy Neale, his 25 years old secretary. It was the straw that broke the donkey's back. When Agatha learned this affair, Archie offered her to divorce, but in the evening of 3 December 1926, they fought, and Archie left home in order to spend a weekend with his mistress and friends. Heart-wounded, Agatha departed the house in the same evening after leaving her daughter to the governess, and the mystery began.
Since she was already a famous detective novel writer, her disappearance was a grand incident for society. In the aftermath of Agatha’s disappearance, both Archie Christie and his mistress Nancy Neale were under suspicion. More than one thousand policemen were charged with the case. Also, for the first time, aeroplanes were involved in the search.
Researches were done based on her novels, for this reason, a local lake known as the Silent Pool was dredged. Moreover, William Joynson-Hicks, the home secretary at that time, but the police under the screw to quickly find her. Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dorothy L. Sayers were included in the search hoping that their knowledge could help them find Agatha. William Joynson-Hicks wanted Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to find a clue with the help of one of her gloves.
Eventually, the police found her car on a steep slope in Newlands Corner near Guildford, but there was no sign about Agatha or any evidence that she had an accident.
While the investigation was going on, speculations began as well. In those days, the press focused on Agatha only, even though her personal life was complicated, her professional life started to rise. Her sixth novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, was selling well, and she was already a household name. Besides that, some journalists claimed that her disappearance was related to her new book’s promotion campaign. On the other hand, a group of journalists believed that she had drowned, but her body was not found anywhere. Everyone had an idea about the disappearance of Agatha. Some even went too far, they said her husband had murdered her.
She was found safe after 11 days in a hotel in Harrogate. But, the mystery was not solved because Agatha did not remember anything about her disappearance, and she could not answer the question. That's why it was left to the police to piece together what might have happened. They thought Agatha Christie had left home and travelled to London, crashed her car en route, and then she had boarded a train to Harrogate. She checked into the Swan Hydro under the name of her husband's mistress with no luggage. In the 1920s, Harrogate was the height of sophistication and packed with chic young stuff. But, when she joined in with the balls, dances, and Palm Court entertainment, Agatha Christie did almost nothing to arouse suspicions. Eventually, she was recognized by one of the banjo players at the hotel, Bob Tappin, and he alerted the authorities. They tipped off her husband, and he immediately came to pick up Agatha. His wife, however, was no in a rush to depart. Indeed, while changing her evening wear, she made him wait in the hotel lounge. After she was found, her husband explained that she experienced a complete memory loss as a result of the car crash. But the novelist may have been in also known as a 'fugue state or, more technically, a psychogenic coma'. According to biographer Andrew Norman who wrote Agatha's biography, it's a rare disorder caused by stress or trauma. Norman explained that her introduction of Theresa Neele, a new character, and her struggle to recall herself looking at newspaper photographs were the signs that she fell into psychogenic amnesia.'I believe that she was suicidal.' says Norman.
Her state of mind was terrible, and she wrote about it later in the character of Celia in her autobiographical novel Unfinished Portrait. After that incident, she eventually made a full recovery and picked up her pen once again. Also, she divorced Archie Christie in 1928 due to his disloyalty and married archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan. She never spoke about her disappearance, even in her biography, she did not write it.
We will probably never know for sure what happened in those eleven days that were missed. Agatha Christie left a mystery that can not be answered even by Hercule Poirot...
SOURCES: - H. (2020, June 16). Agatha Christie’s Real-Life Mystery. Historical Honey. https://historicalhoney.com/agatha-christies-real-life-mystery/
- Lamothe, L. (2021, January 29). The Original Gone Girl - History of Yesterday. Medium. https://historyofyesterday.com/the-original-gone-girl-df389bc0b9b8
- Mason, E. (2021, June 9). The mysterious disappearance of Agatha Christie. HistoryExtra. https://www.historyextra.com/period/20th-century/agatha-christie-disappearance-mystery-facts-poirot-miss-marple-detective/#:%7E:text=On%20Friday%203%20December%201926,from%20her%20home%20in%20Berkshire.&text=At%20shortly%20after%209.30pm,stairs%20of%20her%20Berkshire%20home.
- The mysterious disappearance of Agatha Christie. (2020, October 26). History Extra. https://www.historyextra.com/period/20th-century/agatha-christie-disappearance-mystery-facts-poirot-miss-marple-detective/ - Jordan, T. (2019, June 11). When the World’s Most Famous Mystery Writer Vanished. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/11/books/agatha-christie-vanished-11-days-1926.html IMAGE SOURCES: 1) Young Agatha Christie. (n.d.). [Photograph]. https://www.vintag.es/2015/08/13-rare-photos-of-queen-of-crime-agatha.html 2) Agatha and Archie Christie. (n.d.). [Photograph]. https://www.vintag.es/2015/08/13-rare-photos-of-queen-of-crime-agatha.html 3) Agatha Christie in her nurse uniform. (n.d.). [Photograph]. Wikipedia. https://rammuseum.org.uk/devon-voices/agatha-christie/ 4) the first edition of The Mysterious Affair at Styles. (1920). [Illustration]. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mysterious_Affair_at_Styles#/media/File:Mysterious_affair_at_styles.jPg 5) Christie on newspaper. (n.d.). [Photograph]. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/was-agatha-christie-rsquo-s-mysterious-amnesia-real-or-revenge-on-her-cheating-spouse/ 6)Police found Agatha's car. (n.d.). [Photograph]. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/11/books/agatha-christie-vanished-11-days-1926.html7) 7) Daily Herald announcing Christie had been found. (n.d.). [Photograph]. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agatha_Christie#/media/File:Christie_at_Hydro.jpg 8) Mallowan and Agatha Christie in 1950. (n.d.). [Photograph]. WikiWand. https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Max_Mallowan