In late 1926, Archie asked Agatha for a divorce. He was in love with Nancy Neele, who had been a friend of Major Belcher, director of the British Empire Mission, on the promotional tour a few years earlier. On 3 December 1926, the Christies quarrelled, and Archie left their house, Styles, in Sunningdale, Berkshire, to spend the weekend with his mistress at Godalming, Surrey. That same evening, around 9:45 pm, Christie disappeared from her home, leaving behind a letter for her secretary saying that she was going toYorkshire. Her car, a Morris Cowley, was later found at Newlands Corner, by a lake near Guildford, with an expired driving licence and clothes.
Her disappearance caused an outcry from the public. The Home Secretary, William Joynson-Hicks, pressured police, and a newspaper offered £100 reward. Over a thousand police officers, 15,000 volunteers and several aeroplanes scoured the rural landscape. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle even gave a spirit medium one of Christie’s gloves to find the missing woman. Dorothy L Sayers visited the house in Surrey, later using the scenario in her book Unnatural Death.
Christie’s disappearance featured on the front page of The New York Times. Despite the extensive manhunt, she was not found for 10 days. On 14 December 1926, she was found at the Swan Hydropathic Hotel (now the Old Swan Hotel[a]) in Harrogate, Yorkshire, registered as Mrs Teresa Neele from Cape Town.
Christie’s autobiography makes no reference to her disappearance. Although two doctors diagnosed her as suffering from amnesia, opinion remains divided as to why she disappeared. She was known to be in a depressed state from literary overwork, her mother’s death earlier that year and her husband’s infidelity. Public reaction at the time was largely negative, supposing a publicity stunt or attempt to frame her husband for murder.[b]
The 1979 Michael Apted film Agatha features a disclaimer in the opening credits stating that what follows is an imaginary solution to an authentic mystery. The film starredVanessa Redgrave and Timothy Dalton as Agatha and Archie, and depicts Christie planning suicide in such a way as to frame her husband’s mistress for her “murder”. An American reporter, played by Dustin Hoffman, follows her closely and stops the plan. The film outraged Christie’s heirs who fought two unsuccessful lawsuits in the United States to try to prevent the film from being distributed.
Author Jared Cade interviewed numerous witnesses and relatives for his sympathetic biography, Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days, revised 2011. He provided substantial evidence to suggest she planned the event to embarrass her husband, never supposing the resulting escalated melodrama.
The Christies divorced in 1928, and Archie married Nancy Neele. Agatha retained custody of daughter Rosalind, and the Christie name for her writing. During their marriage, she published six novels, a collection of short stories, and a number of short stories in magazines.
Inspired by this story, a few years later Roy Dimond decided to make his own investigation-fictional account of a real event, so ”Silence and Circumstance” is ready for your bookshelf.
Agatha Christie, pawn or puppet-master?
For eleven days in December 1926, that was the question all of England was asking. Was she kidnapped, or possibly a pawn trapped in an international mystery? Or could she actually be the puppet-master, secretly manipulating an entire nation from behind her typewriter?
Did one of the most disciplined writing minds the world has ever known really just “black out,” only to somehow reappear eleven days later, feeble and disorientated at a spa hotel? And what really was written in her missing diary regarding those eleven mysterious days?
Through a weaving of facts and fiction, the adventure unfolds through the perspective of her governess, Charlotte “Carlo” Fisher. Having accepted the role of confidante to the great writer, and ignited by the receipt of a mysterious letter, Charlotte embarks on a sinister and harrowing quest.
In her exploits, Charlotte is aided by many of the famous and elite of the twentieth century. While Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his protégé, Ian Fleming, speed towards Istanbul on the Orient Express in search of Agatha’s diary, Charlotte discovers clues that dispatch her to Berlin where she stumbles into a world gone mad.
Mysterious societies emerge from the shadows, and it appears something dark is rising…
I watched Mr. Christie rush out of the house in such a state that he forgot to close the garden gate before disappearing towards the train station, Mrs. Christie strode outside and thrust the letter that had caused all the commotion into my hand. At first, I thought she might accuse me of reading their private correspondence, when suddenly she hesitated. She glared, apparently contemplating my offence and then her face softened, as if deciding my betrayal was impossible. Tears formed in her eyes, but with the practiced English version of Greek stoicism, refused to allow them to trickle down her cheek. Instead of an accusation I was startled to hear a half-sobbed request, “Please read this.”
I was actually rather shocked since until that very moment our relationship had been purely professional. Mrs. Christie was a very likeable person, and the thought that there was a certain intimacy between us made me feel valued. I was, for the first time and without fully realizing it, taking on the role of confidant. It is with great pride that I can say that over time, we became quite close and that this was the exact moment that I first became Mrs. Christie’s trusted friend.
The letter itself was definitely mysterious, but the only thing I could perceive that would cause such a row was that the words themselves were thick and sort of pawed onto the paper. Clearly a man’s writing and addressed to Mrs. Christie. I also deduced not only from the scrawl itself but also from the tone that there was no delicate female influence. It also ended oddly in that it was signed, “Urgent… Your Empire and I need you.” No name was attached to it.
It was a simple enough request for Agatha Christie to meet someone named Moe Berg who apparently represented our old colonies in America. Apparently, he was claiming to be involved in a diplomatic mission of the most sensitive nature. I read that he was on his way to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, a country that I vaguely remember hearing about, but could not have pointed to on a map, and that he would only be in London for two days. The letter went on to say he would be meeting someone with the rather astonishing name of, Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud in a country that was soon going to be known as Saudi Arabia!
I had no delusions of being a detective, despite Mrs. Christie’s persistent queries about different characters and plot twists that she mused upon. When asked, I always tried to give my honest opinion as I was raised to do, but never did I entertain even the remotest thought that I was as clever as the characters in my employer’s novels. I was nevertheless fascinated by this correspondence. Why did this man have a need to tell Mrs. Christie that he would be visiting strange and exotic countries?
After accepting my position as governess, I had made it my business to know my place within the household. I was low person on the totem pole and accepted my position gratefully. One winter evening as we sat in front of a roaring fire with me knitting and Mrs. Christie frantically scribbling notes for another book, she kindly pointed out, “Western Indians always put the most important figure of their totem on the bottom. Not at the top, as we so-called ‘civilized’ assume. So when we forget our British manners and replace them with our contemptible British snobbery by treating you as the least among us, please dear Charlotte, choose to see it as a sign of respect.” I had always remembered her generosity that night, as well as it being the first time she had addressed me by my Christian name. Mrs. Christie did not need to acknowledge my bustling about to please her family’s every whim, but she did, and for that I appreciated her sensitivity and graciousness.
Now, however, it seemed that my role was to be somewhat more intimate. Despite our growing familiarity, one could not imagine my dismay when Mrs. Christie asked if I would actually consider meeting this Moe Berg character on her behalf. She did me the kindness of explaining, despite a quivering lip that revealed either anger at her husband or disappointment with herself, “Apparently Mr. Christie absolutely forbids me.” She then added, “My dear Charlotte, I do not want to impose and I want it to be perfectly clear that I ask this intrusion as a friend, not as your employer. There may be some danger involved and you may, of course, without reservation, decline.”
“Some. I believe the man to be safe enough, but his business condemns him to the rather sordid side of life, and some of those elements may be near.”
I glanced again at the letter and realized that I was, rather Mrs. Christie was, requested to meet him in a park near the Thames River. It was clearly suggested that she come alone. I deduced that meeting in a crowded park would indeed be safe, and discovering some false bravado, pretentiously accepted my assignment.
“No need for such seriousness.” Mrs. Christie dabbed at her eyes with a lace handkerchief. “The pollen this year seems unusually bad.” I did her the dignity of agreeing and she continued, “He most likely wants to simply share some information.”
“So you have met him before?”
“A few times. Please understand, Mr. C. is well aware of my acquaintance with this man. They in fact have an understanding.” She hesitated before adding, “Nothing untoward dear Miss Fisher. We are old friends who have similar interests.”
Emboldened by my new role in my employer’s life I asked, “These interests might be?”
Her eye’s squinted at my indiscretion, but considering what she was asking of me, I thought it to be a fair question. She apparently agreed. “To be honest…words.”
“Words?” I blurted.
“Yes Charlotte, the written word, newspapers, books, all forms of words. We both have a…” for the first time I perceived the wit that would become so a part of my life, “shall we say a ‘fetish’ for words.”
I decided that to ask more would be impudent, so queried only when I should leave.
“Immediately,” she responded while blowing her nose.
This title is scheduled for release on March 23rd. All customers who purchase by March 30th will receive an autographed copy to ship out around the second week of April. Please indicate in the comments of your order how you would like the book dedicated, or else the author will simply sign his name.