The death of Agatha Christie is a topic of major debate; one of the most famous writers to exist, the works of Christie have been one of a kind. Agatha Christie was the author of a lot of books and earned a name for herself.
Before getting to answering about Agatha’s death and her disappearance, let’s talk a little about one of the best authors in detective fiction.
1) Who was Agatha Christie?
If you are an avid reader of mystery, thriller, or detective fiction, Agatha Christie would have surely made an appearance in your reading list. By far one of the best authors in crime fiction, Agatha Christie left a revolutionary legacy for further authors to follow.
Before understanding the death of Agatha Christie, appreciating her life’s work is important.
Dame Agatha Marry Clarissa Christie, Lady Mallowan, was a writer that is famous for more than 50 detective novels and more than a decade full of short story collections.
She composed a play, The Mousetrap. She had her doubts about the success of the play, but she shouldn’t have worried because it continues to be the world’s longest-running play. It is shown in the West End and has been doing so for more than decades.
She was called ‘The Queen Of Crime’, and wrote a lot under the pen name Mary Westmacott. She makes an appearance in the Guinness World Record for being the best-selling fiction writer of all time.
1.1) Agatha Christie’s Personal Life
September 15th, 1890, marks the day one of the best crime writers was born. She was the last of her siblings and was born to Frederick Alvah Miller and Clarissa Miller. Clarissa and Fred married in 1878 and had their first child, Margaret Frary, in 1879. Their second child, a son, Louis Montant, was born in New Jersey.
They moved to Torquay and had their third child, Agatha Christie in 1890. Since Christie’s siblings were much older than her, she spent much of her time with her pets and imaginary friends. She did later make friends and find a social life.
1.1.1) Her Family
Christie wrote that her mother didn’t encourage her to read, but she started anyway at the early age of four. Her parents and sister taught her reading, writing, arithmetic, and music.
Being an avid and voracious reader, Christie’s earliest memories were about books by Edith Nesbit, Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, and Alexandre Dumas. Christie wrote her first poem when she was only 10 years old.
Her father died when she was 11 in 1901 because of pneumonia and kidney disease. By this time, Christie’s siblings had left for marriage and work, so it was just her and her mother.
In 1905, she was sent to Paris to learn piano playing and voice modulation. But she decided to drop out because of a lack of talent.
1.1.2) Her Married Life
In terms of marriage, Christie was married first to Archibald Christie, better known as Archie Christie. A bitter-sweet marriage of 14 years led to a rough divorce after Agatha’s miser nature, Archibald’s affair, and some more factors. his led to her much-debated disappearance in 1926. She remarried in 1930 to archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan. She often accompanied him to his archaeological digs to get knowledge for her work.
Agatha Christie’s health started worsening in 1971. However, she continued to write. The last novel composed by her was ‘Postern of Fate’.
It’s said that she had Alzheimer’s and dementia, which led to her death in 1976 at 85 years of age. She was buried in St. Mary’s Church. Her grave was lit with candles and wreaths. Max Mallowan died in 1978, one year after his second marriage, and is buried beside Christie.
1.2) Agatha Christie’s Professional Life
Before diving into the death of Agatha Christie, it’s important to get to know her fame in the literary world.
When her mother and Christie visited Egypt, she helped compost a play with her female friends called ‘The Blue Beard of Unhappiness’. At 18, she published the first of her various short stories.
It was titled ‘The House of Beauty’ and was 6,000 words long. She wrote about madness and dreams, and this came to be a very compelling work.
Many of her other short stories, like ‘The Call of Wings’ and ‘The Little Lonely God’ show her interest in the paranormal. She faced a lot of rejection from magazines where she wrote under pseudonyms, like Sydney West and Nathaniel Miller. Christie’s first novel, Snow Upon the Desert, was written under the pseudonym Monosyllaba.
1.2.1) Agatha in the World Wars
During the first world war and second world war, she involved herself as a member of the Red Cross. She worked as a nurse and then as an apothecary’s assistant.
1.2.2) Influence of Other Writers
Christie had always enjoyed the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Holmes’ stories. Inspired by them, she wrote her first detective novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which featured one of the most beloved characters in her life, Hercule Poirot.
This was published in 1920. Her second novel was published in 1922 and it featured a detective couple. Hercule was also featured in her Murder on the Links, one of the first novels penned by Christie.
1.2.3) Post Divorce
Following her divorce in 1928, Christie retained sole custody of her daughter, Rosalind, and also kept the surname for her writing. Her other works during her marriage with Sir Max Mallowan, like, Peril at End House and Murder on the Orient Express were very famous, too. Christie also served as the president of an amateur society of drama.
126.96.36.199) Christie at Abney Hall
She frequently visited and stayed at Abney Hall, Cheshire where she published a short study, ‘The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding’, a story about a crime on Christmas eve, and the novel, ‘After the Funeral’. Many of her titles were inspired by some works of William Shakespeare.
188.8.131.52) Christie during World War II
During World War II, she published ‘The Pale Horse’, which helped solve a thallium poisoning case. Agatha Christie got into trouble and was investigated by the British Intelligence MI5. They thought she was a spy. But of course, this controversy settled sooner than expected.
184.108.40.206) Christie’s Recognition
Here are some of the awards Christie had:
- Member of the Royal Literature Society
- Commander of the Order of the British Empire
- Co-president of Detection Club.
- Ph.D. in Literature
- Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire
- After her husband received a knighthood and was given the designation of ‘Sir Max Mallowan’, she was also termed ‘Lady Mallowan’
- The first person to ever receive the Grand Master Award
- Edgar Award for her play, Witness for the Prosecution.
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd made her the best crime writer.
2) Christie’s Most Famous Works
Here are some of its most famous works of Christie.
2.1) Detective Hercule Poirot
Hercule Poirot is a fictional character, who Christie wrote about in more than 33 novels. Hercule Poirot was brought to life in The Mysterious Affair at Styles and died in Curtain. The New York Times remembered his story and life by having its front page dedicated to him.
The Poirot story revolves around England and involves him solving multiple cases, with the most famous one being Murder on the Orient Express. He became famous in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Today, it still has the fame of being a famous detective novel. He also features in other works like The ABC Murders, Cards on the Table, and Death on the Nile (1937).
The last mentioned book here was designated by John Dickson Carr to be one of the ten mystery novels ever. Robert Barnard has said that Five Little Pigs, commonly termed Murder in Retrospect, is the ‘best Christie mystery of all‘.
The detective Hercule Poirot’s story was canonized by Sophie Hannah. She was the first author to write an original story about Poirot after Christie. Her novel was titled ‘The Monogram Murders. Two other books about Poirot by Hannah are Closed Casket, and, The Mystery of Three Quarters.
2.2) Miss Marple
Another famous character by the famous writer, Agatha Christie, is Miss Marple. Miss Marple is a detective fictional character residing in St. Mary Mead. She is an amateur detective and is characterized as a spinster. She is one of the most admired crime characters in Agatha’s works.
She appeared first in The Tuesday Night Club. The story was among one of Christie’s short story collections, ‘The Royal Magazine’. The story later becomes the first chapter in a novel called The Thirteen Problems. She appeared for the last time in ‘Sleeping Murder‘.
Agatha Christie named the character after a friend of her step-grandmother. She said that Miss Marple was old, kind, and like a grandmother. Agatha Christie referred to another fictional, spinster character of hers, Caroline Sheppard, who featured in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Michael Morton made a play of the novel and replaced Caroline, which saddened Christie, so she gave life to Miss Marple.
She is a female version of detective and demonstrates a really good knowledge of art and human anatomy. It was hinted that Miss Marple spent most of her childhood in a cathedral. Her age is never mentioned in this Christie mystery, but it is often implied that she is 75 years old. Miss Marple has a large family but prefers to stay on her own. She is a very frequent character in Agatha Christie’s work.
Agatha Christie’s final work, Sleeping Murder: Miss Marple’s Last Case, was published posthumously and featured Miss Marple’s last case.
2.3) Death on The Nile
Death on The Nile is a murder mystery by Agatha Christie featuring Hercule Poirot. It was published in 1937. The book takes place in Egypt and is not related to Christie’s earlier book featuring Parker Pyne.
Being Agatha Christie’s work, the book was received positively and was appreciated for its plot, circumstances, and presentation to the public.
3) Agatha Christie’s Disappearance
It comes as no surprise that the disappearance of an author as flawless and reclaimed as Dame Agatha Christie hit the headlines very soon. It happened to post the time Colonel Archibald Christie was adamant about a divorce, in 1926. On 3rd December, Christie disappeared from their Sunningdale home. The chilling story of her first disappearance is one that received a lot of suspicions.
3.1) What Happened?
Christie was 36 years old when this happened, and she had published a variety of detective novels, like ‘The Secret Adversary‘ and ‘The Murder on the Links‘.
The morning after her exit Christie left their house, her car was found at Newlands Corner with an expired driving license and clothes. A worry was that she had killed herself by drowning.
Within minutes, the newspaper was offering a reward for any news about her. More than 15,000 volunteers were on the lookout. Her disappearance made it to the front page of The New York Times.
3.2) Archie’s Brother-In-Law
They found her car near Guildford, with the wheels overhanging the edge. It looked like it would fall off the cliff at any moment. The most bizarre thing about her disappearance is it looked as if borrowed from detective fiction.
A while before she was found, her brother-in-law told the police he received a letter from Christie saying that she was going to be in Yorkshire for ‘rest and treatment’; why would a woman who had just found out her husband was cheating on her send a letter to her brother-in-law?
3.3) Was it Suicide?
The police were not satisfied with their findings; they thought this was a suicide case. This Christie mystery was getting more complicated by the hour! The police said that Christie feared her house, and told her friend that there had been various murders and suicides in the lane, and she believed she was next.
Rumors leaked about a ‘hidden and sealed envelope‘ that was to be opened when they found Christie’s body.
3.4) The Other Letters
The police weren’t finding much to do with it, but then an important clue revealed itself; she had sent two other letters to her secretary and her husband. Now, her secretary showed the cops the letter she received, and it was just related to some scheduling details. Her husband, naturally, refused to intervene in this.
3.4) The Efforts Applied
Of course, Agatha’s disappearance put her husband and his mistress under a microscope. The Silent Pool had been dredged to search for her body, hoping the crime writer didn’t meet the same fate as one of her unfortunate characters. People like William Joynson-Hicks, the Home Secretary, pressured the police to do everything they could and then some more, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle asked a clairvoyant to use Christie’s gloves to get some clues about her whereabouts.
3.5) Finding Agatha
Despite this chaos and extensive search, she wasn’t found until 10 days later. On December 14, 1926, the Swan Hydropathic Hotel, in Yorkshire, was located. She had registered herself under the name ‘Mrs. Tressa Neele’, probably as a taunt to her husband’s lover. The next day, Agatha reverted to her sister’s residence and cut off all touch with everyone.
3.6) What Agatha Said?
Agatha Christie had a weird conception of what happened the night of her disappearance. The one time she discussed this incident was in an interview in 1928. She said that she had driven past a quarry on December 3, and she encountered the thought of driving into it. But, her daughter was with her, so she dismissed this thought.
That night she said, ‘she felt miserable as if I could no longer go on.’ She left her place that night in a state of nervousness and intending to do something desperate.
She said, she had reached a road near the quarry, turned the car downhill, and let the car run. The car struck something, and pulled up; this made her fling against the steering and hit her head. She says that that was the last moment she remembers being ‘Mrs. Christie’. She never spoke about this again, and dismissed any queries related to the topic.
Whenever someone would bring up the issue, she would dismiss it ‘There’s no need to discuss this any further than it needs to be.’
3.7) The Case Today
While general stories about famous people disappearing aren’t looked much into, Agatha’s case wasn’t ‘common’. She didn’t mention anything about her whereabouts in her autobiography, leading to her receiving a diagnosis of ‘genuine memory loss’.
However, this is still a debated topic; her biographer also believed that she disappeared in a fugue state, while the famous writer Jared Cade stated that she planned this event to humiliate her husband. Laura Thompson said that Christie disappeared because she wasn’t in control of herself; all of these justifications.
However, weren’t noticed positively. People took her disappearance as a way to gain some more media attention.
This episode seemed like a murder mystery out of a Christie novel. It continues to fascinate people. Kathleen Tynan composed a novel called ‘Agatha’ about the episode, and this was turned into a film. An episode was shown in Dr. Who that displayed its interest in the theory of the novelist’s disappearance. Another theory offered was that Agatha was solving her murder mystery by being part of a homicide investigation.
4) Agatha Christie’s Death
On the surface, Agatha Christie and her works seem like interesting, harmless works of literature enjoyed thoroughly by a lot of people. But the death of Agatha Christie brings out some worrisome works of this world’s best-selling mystery writer. The Agatha Christie Trust for Children, Agatha’s work in the world wars, and the multiple awards to her name give Christie the picture of a great author… But did she ever hurt anyone?
4.1) Agatha’s Family Crisis
Christie was very successful in her work and had a lot of money to spend on the short stories and novels she authored. However, she preferred to live a modest lifestyle, withholding any extreme expenses. This was one of the reasons her family was stuck in poverty after her father’s death.
4.2) Agatha’s Marriage Crisis
Agatha and Archie Christie had money in their name. They were an affluent couple stuck to a mundane and modest lifestyle because of Agatha’s wishes. It is argued that her miser nature of Christie led to a lot of arguments with her husband; this made him get into an affair with his secretary, which led to their divorce.
4.3) Controversy Around Christie’s Disappearance
As mentioned earlier, Christie was said to have genuine memory loss. This statement was also supported after her disappearance.
When Christie was found, her husband traveled to Yorkshire and sat in front of his wife while she read out the front page news of her disappearance. After this, when Archie approached her, she was puzzled and didn’t recognize him for a few minutes.
While this event led to her diagnosis of memory loss, it’s still controversial and linked to her disappearance. Many suggestions have been made about Agatha’s disappearance, and the majority are connected to Archibald Christie. His disloyalty, affair, and fights about money – are said to have caused her nervous breakdown.
The divorce also put Agatha in a bad light when suggestions were made that her disappearance was a publicity stunt.
After this was sorted, Agatha and Archibald went their way marrying other people and restricting conversation. No one ever mentioned the disappearance again; Christie didn’t talk about it in her autobiography either. But, one thing stays undiscovered – what was in the letter Christie sent her husband?
It is recorded that Agatha Christie died on 12th January 1976, at home, peacefully. And that is the truth we all believe because the case of the death of Agatha Christie, much like her disappearance, remains unsolved.
Agatha Christie, The Queen of Crime, Mary Westmacott; whatever name you use to describe this extraordinary author doesn’t change the fact that she is one of the best things to happen to detective fiction.
The death of Agatha Christie continues to bring up confusion and suspicion in the minds of many readers, but so does her life; she didn’t live a simple life, and even though we may never be able to unravel the reason and story behind her death, at least we can celebrate her life.