Lucy Worsley brings together Christie’s books and her life to show us how life has informed her writing quite successfully although there are a couple of places where I didn’t think the book was quite so successful.
What Worsley does do well is describe Christie’s home life, her love of houses – at one point she had eight – and running a household, her dismissing of her writing as something she did second to being a wife and having a life and her absolute commitment to her second husband, Max. I also enjoyed her identification of ‘Christie’s tricks’ of writing in what is an impressive range of books and plays. Some of these are about hiding important objects in plain sight, having a hidden couple who are usually having an affair, playing with appearances and involving real life crimes and other newsworthy items in the plot. These are all linked to particular books and to events or ideas in her life.
Of course, Christie’s missing 11 days are written about with Worsley unpicking the evidence and identifying the lies, suggesting that mental illness, a dissasociative fugue state, brought about by stress, in particular the breakdown of her first marriage, as an explanation. She also identifies other moments of depression in a life that was not without its difficulties.
What there was less of was how Christie created her stories, the process she went through. It is clear that she wrote often, sometimes in bursts, when she was travelling with her husband and she must have done this regularly because she was prolific but as to how she dreamed up her stories we are left none the wiser. At the end it is explained that her notebooks are almost impossible to follow, having been written out of sequence and sometimes only being a series of jottings but I was left quite frustrated by this. The whole point of this book is to say that Christie is the Queen of mystery writing but we are not let into the hallowed halls to find out more about her processes.
It is a very readable book for fans of Christie written by a fan of Christie.