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Book Scene: What DID happen to Agatha Christie in 1926?

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mrs christie

On a cold December night in 1926, Agatha Christie went out in her beloved roadster — and didn’t return home for 11 days.

Police investigators found her car at the edge of a nearby lake, a fur coat lying inside. Missing was the attache case she had taken with her on that cold Friday night, and Agatha Christie herself. After an 11-day nationwide search that involved hundreds of police officers, a call for public assistance and the use of dogs, including Mrs. Christie’s own beloved pet, Christie turns up at a spa in Harrogate, England, under an assumed name, Mrs. Neele.

Marie Benedict, in the historical fiction novel “The Mystery of Mrs. Christie,” weaves an intriguing scenario of events, beginning with the letter she left for her husband, Colonel Archibald Christie: “Read on and follow my instructions closely if you wish the safety of the first path and the security of its conclusion.” Benedict then takes us back to a fateful event in October 1912, the night Agatha Miller meets her future husband, Archibald.

Detective Chief Constable Kenward is dogged in his pursuit of the truth, and despite Mr. Christie’s claims of innocence, he remains a suspect in the disappearance of his wife; he is, after all, having an affair with Nancy Neele. The one thing that can redirect attention from himself as the perpetrator of a supposed crime, he cannot share, for it now lies in ashes in the fireplace. He was directed to destroy the one thing that could save him.

This is not so much a story of “whodunit” as it is an intriguing tale of why. This is a novel that weaves its way from 1912 to the events of December 1926. The twists and turns are befitting of an Agatha Christie mystery.

This is a great read with characters that are as fascinating as they are believable. Meticulously researched, it is sometimes difficult to separate fact from fiction. Benedict takes us on a fascinating journey into the private life of Agatha Christie, and her explanation for the mysterious disappearance of Christie will leave readers with perhaps more questions than answers.

It’s a mystery novel worthy of the queen of mystery herself.

• “The Mystery of Mrs. Christie” by Marie Benedict was published by Sourcebooks in December. It retails for $26.99.

• Irene M. Pearcey works for Inklings Bookshop. She and other Inklings staffers review books in Thursday’s SCENE every week.

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