The “disappearing act” by Agatha Christie over 11 days in 1926 has always been a subject of huge curiosity and mystery. Why did a famous and successful woman cut and run, leaving her car abandoned in a way that suggested self-injury, to fetch up in a genteel hotel in Harrogate – where she remained oblivious to newspaper headlines and a national hunt to find her while acting perfectly normally as a guest? There may well have been another ingredient in the mystery, namely envy. Agatha Christie was already famous, so it followed that what she did was simply for publicity. She must be seeking higher sales figures and pity.
I have to say that her driving off into the night seems to me the most natural thing in the world. She had recently lost a beloved mother, and all bereaved daughters know that this is worse than anything a blunt instrument can inflict. Then comes the stab wound, when her adored husband says he’s leaving her for someone else and never loved her anyway. Suddenly she’s on the edge of an abyss of loneliness and self-loathing; nothing she has done is worth a damn. It would be the action of a thoroughly ordered mind to shut down and hide, like a wounded animal seeking oblivion.