This is much more like what I wanted from 2021’s The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, a book which also speculates on what happened to Agatha Christie when she went missing for eleven days in 1926. At the same time, I could not have predicted what avenues this story would take. So really, it’s more like this gave me the feelings I was looking for, even if not in the way I expected. The other book gave me a plot more like I expected but was lacking in intrigue and emotion. But enough of comparisons.
This book was severely undersold by its cover (at least, the US one; I’m marking this under the British cover, which is MUCH better). This book is clever, humane, a little twisty, and just a good story. The surprises start pretty much immediately when on the first page you realize it’s being narrated in the first person by Nan O’Dea, Archie Christie’s mistress, whose relationship with Archie and his request for a divorce from Agatha precipitate her disappearance (Nan is a fictional stand-in for the real woman, whose name was Nancy Neele).
Nan is almost an omniscient narrator, both because she’s in control of the story, and because as is hinted from the start, most of her information came after the fact from the people she’s narrating POV from, which is especially intriguing when the POV character is Agatha: Why would Agatha be talking with such intimacy to her ex-husband’s mistress?
This is also a stealth piece of historical fiction. In addition to Agatha Christie’s disappearance and talk of WWI, it also covers pretty extensively the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland. Nan’s backstory was so compelling and sad. And the way it intersects with the author’s fictionalized Agatha Christie just ended up being really satisfying.
Definitely recommend this one.