At quarter to ten on the evening of Friday, December 3, 1926, an up and coming crime writer left her home in Berkshire, England saying she was going out for a drive.

Agatha Christie, mystery, writing

photo: Malcolma

She first went upstairs to kiss her sleeping daughter, Rosalind, then got into her Morris Cowley and drove off. The next morning the car was found abandoned several miles away.

Where was she? She had left behind several confusing letters, one to her brother in law, saying she was going to take a holiday in Yorkshire; another to the local constable, saying she feared for her life.

The writer’s mother had died just a few months earlier and it was reported that she had been depressed over it. There was a lake called Silent Pool just a quarter of a mile from where her car was found. A character in one of her books had drowned there.

So – was it suicide then? The police started dredging the lake. 15,000 volunteers joined the search of the surrounding countryside. (This is before England’s urban planners had done away with the English countryside.)

But now the plot thickens.

Agatha Christie, mystery, writing

the butler always does it

The police discovered that the writer’s husband, Archie, a handsome fighter pilot war hero,was having an affair with a woman named Nancy Neele, and had told his wife he was going to spend that weekend with her at their love nest in Surrey. He wanted a divorce but she had refused.

Had he murdered his wife so he could marry his mistress? The police started following him, even tapped his phone.

Or did the butler do it?

The police investigated further. The family didn’t have a butler. Damn.

For eleven days in 1926 all England was abuzz with the story: what had become of Agatha Christie?

Agatha Christie, mystery, writing

photo: Violetriga


Agatha Christie, mystery, writing

photo: Siddharth Krish

The mystery made the front page of the New York Times. The British Home Secretary, William Joynson-Hicks, demanded answers. Even celebrated crime writers such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dorothy L. Sayers got involved.

Doyle took one of Agatha’s discarded gloves to a medium and tried to get in touch with the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe. Dorothy carefully inspected the scene of the crime and then … and then used all the material she gathered to help her write another book. Typical writer!

Where was Agatha’s body?


Agatha’s body was sitting in a cane chair reading magazines in Yorkshire.

In the end it wasn’t a who-dunnit after all. It was British Literature’s great why-dunnit.

In fact, Archie’s brother Campbell had told the police that Agatha wrote him saying she Agatha Christie, mystery, writingwas going to a spa in Yorkshire. But the police didn’t believe him – they thought it was a red herring.

But in the denouement it was revealed that he was right after all. She had checked in – disappointingly not under the name Miss Marple – but as Theresa Neele. (Neele was actually the name of her husband’s paramour.)

She even left clues; she placed an advertisement in the London Times saying Mrs Theresa Neele’s relatives could find her at the Hydro in Harrogate. But the Poirrots at Scotland Yard missed that.

Finally some of the spa’s other guests compared the photographs in the newspaper with their own Mrs Neele, gathered everyone in the dining room, and solved the case.

Agatha Christie, mystery, writingIt seemed that she had just dumped the car, walked into town and caught the train to London. She did a little retail therapy, posted the letter to Archie – a good crime writer always leaves clues – and took the train to Yorkshire. Elementary my dear Watson.

When the press got wind of the fact that Mrs. Agatha Christie was not dead in a ditch but had been relaxing for eleven days at a spa, they were outraged. They demanded answers; Agatha refused to give one.

And she kept silent about the whole episode until the day she died.

So it remains forever The Mysterious Affair When She Wasn’t at Styles.

The official line was that she had amnesia brought on by grief over her mother’s death. It sounds suspiciously like an alibi to me. No true crime buff would believe it.

A more popular view is that her devious writer’s mind contrived the whole affair to ruin Agatha Christie, mystery, writingher husband’s dirty weekend.

Another is that she was in a fugue state, a rare psychogenic condition brought on by trauma and depression. Was it then a form of emotional blackmail, a desperate attempt to save a failed marriage?

No! I believe the real culprit is right here in this room, he says pointing his finger accusingly at Agatha herself, and that she did it to boost sales of her new book, The Murder of Peter Ackroyd!

* The rest of the cast gasp, in horror at the deviousness of the plot and in admiration of my brilliant detective work. *

If I’m right, and it was all an elaborate publicity stunt, then it was a stroke of genius.

Ms Christie went on to sell around a billion copies of her eighty novels in English, and another billion in 103 other languages. (I didn’t know there were that many.)

Agatha Christie, mystery, writing

photo: Made by me

She and Archie were divorced in 1928 and Agatha later married archaeologist MaxMallowan, 15 years her junior. (A sure bet. The great thing about marrying an archaeologist – the older a woman gets, the more interested he is in her.)

She finally died in 1975, aged 86, from natural causes.

At least that’s what she wants us all to think …

WARBABY(new_14)This week I’m launching my novel WARBABY in the US for the very first time (If you were signed up for the newsletter you would have already received a free advance copy!)

TO CELEBRATE I am going to a spa in Harrogate Yorkshire.

Do not tell anyone where I am. If the police ask, tell them to suspect foul play.Those guys will believe anything.

Then tell the newspapers. I’ll see you in eleven days after my facial and massage.

Sign up for THE NEWSLETTER here!!!


About colinfalconer

author of bestselling historical novels like Anastasia, When We Were Gods, Aztec and Harem. My books have been published in the UK, US and ANZ and translated into seventeen languages.
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  1. Liza Perrat says:

    I did know about this story, Colin, but it’s still a fascinating one to read again! I’d love to do “An Agatha” and disappear to a spa for a day, let alone 10!

    • I first came across it when I saw a movie about it years ago. Not a very good movie, Liza – as Agatha knew, you had to have a denouement and a twist in the tail – but it certainly piqued my interest about the real Agatha Christie.

  2. LOL! (really, out loud). Colin, this was hilarious. I shall finally have to sign up for your newsletter.

  3. ritaroberts says:

    Love this Agatha Christie post Colin. Think I will have to sign up for your newsletter also.
    I am half way through your book ‘ Silk Road ‘ what a journey can’t wait to finish it.

    • I love SILK ROAD, Rita. It is an amazing journey, isn’t it? Josseran and Khutelun are favorite characters of mine.

      • ritaroberts says:

        Mine too Colin. I also love the banter between Josseran and William the priest. I am now waiting for Khutelun to come back into the story. No ! I won’t ask you whether Josseran and Khutelan become lovers. Im just hoping.

      • Please let me know what you think when you finish it. And I’d love an honest review on Amazon if you can … real ones are worth their weight in gold these days. And without fear or favor, of course. I’m hoping I’ll be able to bring it to the US soon. That Khutelun’s a feisty girl, isn’t she?

  4. You share the most interesting stories Colin. This one was no exception. I had never heard of Agatha’s disappearance.

  5. ritaroberts says:

    Hi Colin. I most certainly will put a review for Silk Road on Amazon for you. I did sign up for your newsletter by the way, but not sure whether it went through o.k.

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