Today’s tv crime series should learn from this incident!
Every one of us, have at least once in our lifetime, found ourselves in a situation where we feel stuck, unhappy and with no escape, even when we actually have nothing to complain about. Imagine, instead, if you had everything and you were living the life that you always dreamt about, and then out of the blue, thunder strikes and your entire existence is shaken.
“When half way through the journey of our life
I found that I was in a gloomy wood,
because the path which led aright was lost.”
Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy: Inferno
After publishing The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Murder on the Links and The Secret Adversary (in which she gives life to Tommy and Tuppence Beresford) Agatha pulled out the perfect page turner, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. All was dandy, but tragedy was waiting to play her hand. Agatha’s mother, Clarissa, died, leaving her daughter in a state of misery. While coping with that emotional burden, Agatha had to sort out her family collection at Ashfield (most of those things can now be seen at Greenway).
Agatha wanted Archie to help her, but she didn’t find in him the support that she wanted. Archie was living a dreadful existence himself; trapped in a boring job while his ego was taking a thrashing being the husband of a famous and talented author. Agatha knew that her husband was cheating on her with a younger woman, Nancy Neele, but pretended as if everything was fine for the sake of her little daughter, Rosalind. But this pantomime didn’t go on forever; on the morning of December 3rd, 1926 Archie asked Agatha for a divorce, packed his bags and left. Later on the same day, Agatha got on her bottle-nosed Morris Crowley and left her house. The following morning her car was found abandoned near Silent Pool at Newlands Corner.
In the vehicle was left behind her coat, expired driving licence and her hand bag. The mystery of her disappearance had begun.The hunt for her started as soon as her car was found and, just like in her books, the first suspect was her husband. The entire nation was intrigued by this real life mystery; newspapers were publishing mocks of her disguised in different ways, 15,000 volunteers participated in a research in Surrey and various ‘witnesses’ claimed to have seen her around the country, alone or in the company of people, dressed and sometimes half naked, walking in the dark. Things got serious when airplanes were involved in the search (the first time that it was done in England) but nothing was found. People started to think that all of it was just a publicity stunt.
The plot thickened when a rumour of a letter sent to the Surrey police by Agatha started circulating which claimed that her husband was dangerous and that she feared for her life, which put Archie in the spotlight. Apparently she also sent a letter to her best friend, Caro and one to Archie as well. He destroyed it after reading it and till today the contents of that letter are unknown.
Her disappearance lasted11 days and she was finally found when two band players and a housemaid at the Hydropathic Hotel (now Old Swan Hotel) in Harrogate informed the police that a woman called Teresa, from Cape Town, who was staying at the hotel, looked exactly like the missing author. The police organised a low profile visit to the hotel to make sure of her identity and soon notified Archie Christie.
The press, the police and Archie went to the hotel to confront Agatha, who at first recognised her husband as her brother. After an awkward dinner Agatha understood where she was and, escorted by her husband, headed back to London.
But how did Agatha get to Harrogate? Why did she check into the hotel using her husband’s mistress’ name? How did she fund herself if she left her hand bag in the car and she didn’t use any of the money deposited in the bank? What did she do in those 11 days? Did she try to put her husband on the spot and make him a suspect of for her murder? Did she wanted revenge? Many theories have been pondered regarding this matter, some more truthful than others; one theory actually suggested that Agatha got abducted by aliens! Books have been written on her disappearance, movies were made (and luckily almost forgotten) and even Doctor Who tried to explain (please read in a Dalek voice) this mystery. Personally, I would like to think of her as the original Gone Girl, who planned every detail of her disappearance but, at the end, understood that you can’t just avoid your problems and run away from them, because soon, they are bound to catch up with you.
My Leader then, and I,
in order to regain the world of light,
entered upon that dark and hidden path
and, without caring for repose, went up
he going on ahead, and I behind,
till through a rounded opening I beheld
some of the lovely things the sky contains;
thence we came out, and saw again the stars.
Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy: Inferno