The Mystery of Mrs. Christie
In December 1926, famed author Agatha Christie went missing. For eleven days, police, the public, and two of the UK’s most famous mystery writers—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dorothy L. Sayers—searched all of England for the writer. When she was found in a hotel eleven days later, Mrs. Christie claimed amnesia and no knowledge of the events.
Benedict has taken on this mystery in her latest novel. Set in two alternating timelines, one in the “present”—during the eleven days—focused on Christie’s philandering husband, Archie, and the other as a memoir manuscript which sets the stage for her disappearance and casts Archie as “the perfect man.” In Archie’s chapters, arguably the more satisfying of the set, we watch as Archie struggles to follow the deliberate instructions set by Mrs. Christie in a letter left the day she disappeared. Archie is forced to protect his mistress, deal with the scrutiny of the police, and side-step a media clamoring for a sensational story. The manuscript chapters detail how young Agatha falls in love with Archie, how she is determined to follow her mother’s instructions to create the perfect home for Archie—even at the expense of a relationship with her daughter—and how she slowly learns that it is all for naught.
While readers will revel in the portrayal of Archie the philanderer and watching him slowly unravel as Agatha’s breadcrumbs lead the police to his affair, fans of Agatha Christie’s books may not find the manuscript chapters true to Christie’s writing style. Nonetheless, Benedict has imagined a witty and delightful mystery built on Christie’s unreliable narrator style à la Dr. Sheppard.