Magazine article The Spectator

The Great Disappearing Act

Magazine article The Spectator

The Great Disappearing Act

Article excerpt

The great disappearing act

Charles Osborne


by Jared Cade

Peter Owen, L18.95, pp. 258

The 11 missing days occurred in December 1926 when the already famous 36-yearold murder mystery novelist disappeared from her home in Berkshire, leaving her car abandoned. Eventually found in a Harrogate hotel where she had been staying as Mrs Neele (the surname of her husband's mistress), she told a newspaper reporter that she was suffering from amnesia. Her husband supported her version of what had happened, and even found two doctors willing to confirm that Mrs Christie had lost her memory.

The dustjacket of this new biography claims that none of her previous biographers came up with definitive evidence as to how Agatha Christie spent those 11 days or whether her memory loss was genuine. However, this is not true. The Life and Crimes of Agatha Christie (by the present writer), first published in 1982, devoted five pages to the celebrated disappearance, describing how `Mrs Neele' spent her week in Harrogate, shopping, going on long walks, playing billiards at the Hydro Hotel, and even on one occasion being prevailed upon by other guests to sing `in her small but sweet soprano, accompanying herself at the piano'.

That 1982 volume also insisted that `she was certainly not the victim of amnesia', and revealed that the week before her disappearance she had lost a diamond ring at Harrods.

She wrote to the Kensington department store from Harrogate, describing the ring and asking that, if it were found, it be sent to Mrs Teresa Neele at the Hydro Hotel. …

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