Every story has its secrets.
Every mystery has its motives.
“A long time ago, in another country, I nearly killed a woman. It’s a particular feeling, the urge to murder. It takes over your body so completely, it’s like a divine force, grabbing hold of your will, your limbs, your psyche. There’s a joy to it. In retrospect, it’s frightening, but I daresay in the moment it feels sweet. The way justice feels sweet.”
The greatest mystery wasn’t Agatha Christie’s disappearance in those eleven infamous days, it’s what she discovered.
London, 1925: In a world of townhomes and tennis matches, socialites and shooting parties, Miss Nan O’Dea became Archie Christie’s mistress, luring him away from his devoted and well-known wife, Agatha Christie.
The question is, why? Why destroy another woman’s marriage, why hatch a plot years in the making, and why murder? How was Nan O’Dea so intricately tied to those eleven mysterious days that Agatha Christie went missing?
I think I’ve read more fiction and non-fiction about Agatha Christie’s 11-day disappearance in 1926 than I have actually read or listened to her works. It’s a fascinating chapter in the life of the master of mystery. How many stories can be created to show how the story unfolded? The Christie Affair (Amazon) is another one of those “what really happened?” books.
What I wasn’t expecting when I picked up the book was for it to be centered on the mistress, Nan O’Dea, and not Agatha. So I was a little disappointed but tried to retain an open mind. Because the book isn’t really about Christie, there’s a blank slate. I loved the premise once I got into it, but the execution of the story left something to be desired. Nan’s story is at once interesting and at the same time alarming. Reconciling that with the known facts of the Agatha Christie disappearance makes this a hard pill to swallow.
Rationalizing her affair with Agatha’s husband, Archie, didn’t work for me, either. That she could specifically target him and succeed, and then expect the reader to be okay with her actions is just not okay on any level. But that’s the risk you take when you tell the story of the mistress and not the one who is cheated on.
And that brings me to the portrayal of Agatha herself, through Nan’s eyes. She comes off as a caricature of the stereotypical wronged woman, clownish and clueless. She also seems to care little about her own daughter. Which makes her “the bad guy” in the whole story, when really it should be Archie, the loser husband who can’t stay faithful.
Overall, the beginning part of the story was more compelling than the ending. If this weren’t supposed to be about Agatha Christie’s disappearance, I might have enjoyed it more. This is the first Reese’s Book Club Selection that I haven’t liked. Normally I have the same taste as her.
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