On December 3, 1926 the “Queen of Crime” disappeared. The only clue to her disappearance was a letter indicating that she was going to Yorkshire. But when her car was found over an embankment the next day with an expired license and a packed suitcase, a massive manhunt was launched. With thousands of police and volunteers searching for her, a dredged lake, and a reward of 100 pounds, one couldn’t help but speculate if the prolific mystery author had met a horrific end like one of her characters. Did she choke on poisoned whiskey? Take a blunt object to the head? Was she a victim of a serial killing, silk stocking travelling salesman? No one knew.
Rewind to September 15, 1890 when Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller, better known as Dame Agatha Christie, was born to a wealthy family in Torquay, England. After a sisterly challenge she published her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, in 1920. With over 2 billion copies of her books sold, she is the best-selling author of all time. Her novel And Then There Were None has sold over 100 million copies, making it the bestselling mystery ever. About five years before her death in 1976, Queen Elizabeth II made Christie a Dame. Although her health began to fail in 1971, she continued to write until she eventually died of natural causes; a very peaceful, uneventful death that was not bestowed on the characters of her 66 detective novels.
Now back to late 1926.
Set forth on a path towards a possible nervous breakdown earlier in the year, following the death of her mother and his husband’s admission of loving another woman and receiving a divorce declaration, Christie took off. Discovered 11 days later, she was found staying at a posh spa resort in Yorkshire under a fake name “Mrs. Teresa Neele of Cape Town” (using her husband’s lover’s surname). A couple doctors alleged she was suffering from a bout of amnesia, but without ever explaining her disappearance multiple theories emerged. Whether it was a publicity stunt, an act of revenge or a genuine lapse in memory, what really happened to Christie will forever remain a mystery. Luckily for us, she recovered, remarried and continued writing.
In honor of what would have been her 123rd birthday, check out the Agatha Christie display on the second floor of the Main Library.