“A long time ago, in another country, I nearly killed a woman.“
Nina de Gremont ~ The Christie Affair
In 1925, Nan O’Dea infiltrated the wealthy, rarefied world of author Agatha Christie and her husband, Archie. A world of London town homes, country houses, shooting parties, and tennis matches. Nan became Archie’s mistress, luring him away from his devoted wife. In every way, she became a part of their world – first, both Christies. Then, just Archie.
The question is, why?
And what did it have to do with the mysterious eleven days that Agatha Christie went missing?
Agatha Christie remains one of my favourite crime authors. Nobody can weave a story like she can, challenging us to guess ‘whodunnit’. Her own mysterious disappearance only adds to her prowess as a writer.
Nina de Gramont is the latest author to recreate what happened during the disappearance and her idea is – for the most part – believable.
Narrated by Nan O’Dea, Archie Christie’s mistress, we are shown a version of events quite unlike what we’ve seen so far. The single narration does leave gaps as Nan isn’t actually present for a lot of the story she is telling, so has ‘assumed’ what actually happened; I would’ve preferred to have Mr Christie – or indeed Mr Chilton – providing a second narrative to give us more insight.
Names of some of Agatha’s future characters (Armstrong, Marston, Carmichael etc.) are used as ‘real’ hotel guests, which is a nice touch, implying that she was inspired by these events later on. However, as Agatha wasn’t actually staying at the hotel, it’s less feasible, but admirable nonetheless.
I’ve stayed at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate where Agatha was ‘discovered’ and (knowing that Agatha was found under Archie’s mistress’s name) it confused me at first that Nan was staying at the Belmont, as I was unaware it had been renamed. More fool me for confusing the author’s fiction for fact!
What is interesting is seeing Nan’s history and her ‘real’ reason for having an affair with Archie. Her story alone (and its dramatic conclusion) about the homes for ‘wayward women’ would have worked really well without Christie’s disappearance and does detract a little to begin with. It is all wrapped up at the end, but does feel as though the author had that book in mind and then combined it with the concept of Agatha’s disappearance (there’s a lot going on in such a short book), as there are rather too many coincidences for my liking.
That said, it’s well done and enjoyable, giving us a different opinion of both Mrs Christies. The Christie Affair is well-written and engaging, with a good pace. Is it feasible? Maybe? Is it what happened? Of course not.
However, in my opinion de Gramont’s version is one of the best fictional accounts of what happened.
I was provided with an advanced copy from NetGalley. All opinions my own.
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