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The Strange Case of Miss Agatha Christie's Dissapearance

A Publicity Shot ?

Agatha Christie

At the age of 36, everything seems to succeed to the one nicknamed the Queen of Mystery, the successful novelist and creator of indomitable sleuth Miss Marples and Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, Lady Agatha Christie. Although she is not yet famous, her books are sold by thousands of copies and she lives in a pretty country house with her husband whom she married at the age of 24, the colonel of the Royal Flying Corps and hero of the Great War Archibald Christie.

Lady Agatha Christie

In appearance, nothing suggests that something is amiss at the Christie's, that a drama is unfolding. In reality, the relationship between the two lovebirds has been on the downside for quite a while; Colonel Archibald is in love with a girl ten years younger than Agatha, Nancy Neele, which Miss Christie is absolutely unable to bear. The crisis is about to burst. Agatha Christie will deliver to all her mystery fans the biggest of her career, one that will make her a world-renowned writer.

Disappearance

It was then that during the night of September 3, 1926, Agatha Christie left the Berkshire mansion and disappeared mysteriously without saying a word to anyone, leaving no trace. Miss Christie's little Morris Cowley is found abandoned in a ditch the next morning at around 11 a.m, the hood sunk into the bushes. The scene seems straight out of a movie. There is no trace of the driver but her fur coat is still in the car. Media seizes the case which generates a wave of interest for her story across the country. Journalists flock to the writer's home and police begin the investigation. It is first believed to be a suicide.

Morris Cowley Agatha Christie

People scour the countryside around Newlands Corner and divers search the nearby Silent Pool Lake. No corpse, no trace of Mrs. Christie. What could have happened at the Christies? Why would someone wanting to take her own life drive her car into a ditch in the middle of the night rather than commit the irreversible act at the family home? The story is nebulous and people are totally unaware that Archibald had just announced to Agatha his intention to divorce and that she, already aggravated by the loss of her mother, was literally on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Research continues and the mystery thickens

Several days pass and no new evidence arise to clarify the case. People are about to give up and theories on miss Christie's misfortune abound. Some newspaper insinuate that Archibald Christie murdered his wife, but he defends himself with a strong alibi: at the time of the tragedy, he participated in a campaign in Surrey. Others advance a publicity shot to further a career that was at a standstill. But relatives of Agatha Christie say that she wanted to expose the relationship between the colonel and young Nancy Neel. The Daily Mirror even offers a reward to anyone with information allowing to find Miss Agatha, but no luck. Rumors spread that women's clothes and a vial of opium were found in an isolated cabin not far from the crime scene.

Publication Daily Mirror Agatha Christie

People begin to lose interest in the affair and it is then that Agatha's brother-in-law receives a letter from her posted the day after her disappearance, judging by the postmark. She is still alive. In an interview with the Daily Mirror the following Sunday, Colonel Archibald Christie admits that his wife had already threatened to simply disappear and that she had also told her sister about her intentions. The investigation seems to have reached a dead-end and that's when ...

Lady Agatha Christie is found!

Old Swan Hotel

Eleven days after the start of the affair, a Butler from North Yorkshire who thought he recognized among his clients the one whose picture was published in all the newspapers of the country contacted the police. Arrived at the Swan Hydropathic Hotel in Harrogate, Archibald Christie was informed that his wife had been staying there for ten days and that she seemed to enjoy herself. She frequently read newspapers, played pool games and chatted with the hotel's guests. She had registered under the name of Teresa Neele and claimed to come from South Africa.

When the colonel approached Agatha, reading the columns about herself, she seemed totally confused as struck by amnesia, which the doctors confirmed some time later. But according to Ritchie-Calder, close to Agatha, it is rather a smoking gun, a completely fabricated story, carefully planned as the intrigues of her crime novels. Her biographer Janet Morgan argues that Agatha Christie suffered a nervous breakdown followed by temporary amnesia. The bottom line of the story will never be known with certainty since Miss Christie categorically refused to talk about the case until her death.

Curtain

Skyrocketing sales

If it was a publicity shot, it succeeded because the sales of her novels have only continued to increase in the years that followed her disappearance to the point where Agatha Christie became the most popular English author in the world after William Shakespeare. Her new novel published shortly after, The Big Four, sold more than 9,000 copies, twice as much as the previous installment, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. And since that time, Agatha Christie has continued to grow in popularity. The climax of her career was reached in the 1950s when her books are sold at more than 50,000 copies. Curtain, her ultimate opus with Miss Marples published the year of her death, is immediately printed at 60,000 copies.