Let me start by saying that I am a fan of Marie Benedict’s historical fiction. I enjoyed both Carnegie’s Maid and Lady Clementine, and I have The Only Woman in the Room and The Other Einstein on my TBR list. Benedict has a way of making historical women come alive, whether you knew who they were before you read the book or not.
The Mystery of Mrs. Christie focuses on an 11-day period in 1926 when Agatha Christie mysteriously disappeared. She reappeared just as mysteriously, claiming amnesia. That’s an intriguing bit of history. To make it into a novel, however, Benedict had to develop Agatha Christie’s character, showcasing her developing brilliance as a writer as well as her rather quick marriage to man who becomes unfaithful. Blending history and fiction, this book is satisfying to a fan of Christie’s books and life.
The novel is told in a dual timeline, first as the author’s disappearance is investigated and her husband tries to maintain his innocence then in 1912 as she meets Archie Christie and marries him. The investigation’s tension heightens as their marriage falls apart. Eventually the two timelines converge. The chapters from Archie’s point of view are masterfully done, since it is difficult to write such a flawed character. His main emotion over his wife’s disappearance is that it interrupts his weekend with the mistress he’s already proposed to, assuming a divorce will happen. He is clearly the primary suspect in his wife’s disappearance, yet as a reader I did find him interesting beyond just being a jerk.
As a writer myself, I enjoyed the chapters that traced the beginning of Agatha Christie’s career, and how she succeeds despite her husband lack of emotional support. Agatha tries very hard to mold herself into the kind of wife Archie wants, and is angry when he asks for a divorce. She refuses to let him blame the divorce on her. Then she disappears.
If you love historical fiction about famous women of the past, you will enjoy this one.