Book Review for “The Mystery of Mrs. Christie” by Marie Benedict.
Summary: “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.”
Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Women, Fiction; Settings: Historical; Great Britain – London, Ashford, and Styles; Other Categories: Novel, Biographical.
I knew it… I knew this was going to be good when I tried to get the ARC of this novel, and was turned down. So, I pre-ordered the paperback immediately, and the minute it arrived, I put it at the top of my TBR pile! Well, now I’ve read it and I wasn’t even the tiniest bit disappointed (silly publishers, if you had let me read this before publication, it might have gotten onto my Top Ten for 2020. Mind you, the competition last year for the top spot was pretty tough, and I already had far too many 5/5 books, so maybe it’s a good thing that I only read it this year. It couldn’t have beaten out Hamnet… so… on with the review.
The first thing I noticed was how cleverly this book was constructed with two timelines that weren’t really of the normal dual-timeline construct. One timeline is called “The Manuscript” and in those chapters, we get a first-person accounting of Agatha’s young adult life, her introduction to the man who she married – Archie Christie – and how she started writing mystery novels. These sections move swiftly through the Great War, their marriage, in order to get closer and closer to the other timeline; that being, the days after Agatha goes missing. This second set of chapters are noted as X# of days since the disappearance, and are written from Archie’s point of view. When these two timelines come together is when Agatha is finally found. That’s when the second part of the book takes over, and when we discover something very interesting about “The Manuscript” parts of the book (sorry, no spoilers).
By the way, Benedict gives us a little spoiler very early on in the book, and that clue is something that essentially haunts us – and Archie – until we get to the last parts of this novel. It occurred to me that using this tiny bit of information was a stroke of genius on Benedict’s part, and that if she decided to change genres to cozy mystery novels, she could be very good at it indeed! (So, while where I live, we don’t celebrate Halloween, I think that my posting this review today is very appropriate.) Moreover, Benedict makes Agatha into a pretty enigmatic person in this novel, but the more she tells us about herself, the more we sympathize with her. Interestingly enough, Benedict uses this to explain Agatha’s disappearance, which technically has never been fully revealed.
Now, I’ve read many really good reviews of this book, and I have to say that there’s little I can add to them. It isn’t just a fun read; it is an engrossing one. I’d even go so far as to say that this is one of those “just one more chapter” types of books, and it did eat into some of my sleep time because of it. I think that Benedict’s ideas regarding why Agatha disappeared and how the events of those missing eleven days unfolded on the part of her husband and the other people in Agatha’s life are very plausible. Mind you, I’ve always thought that maybe the whole thing was cooked up by her publishers as a publicity stunt to get her name more embedded into the minds of the reading public, but that’s just me, and I have nothing to back up my theory. All this is to say that this is one of those books that I’m glad I bought as a print copy, and to be honest, I might have bought a print copy even if I’d been given the ARC last year. Obviously, there’s no reason why I wouldn’t recommend this novel to anyone – even people who don’t read mystery novels, or those who’ve never read even one of Agatha Christie’s books (are there people out there like that, even?). Therefore, there is nothing keeping me from giving this novel a full five out of five, enthusiastically bright and shining stars!
“The Mystery of Mrs. Christie” by Marie Benedict (released on December 29, 2020) is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, The Book Depository UK and The Book Depository US (free worldwide delivery), Foyles, Waterstones, WHSmith, Wordery UK and Wordery US, Walmart (Kobo) US (eBooks and audiobooks), the website eBooks.com, Booksamillion.com, iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org and UK.Bookshop (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you.
This novel qualifies for the following reading challenges: Historical Fiction Reading Challenge (#34).