My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In December, 1926, Agatha Christie, England’s most popular novelist of the era, disappeared for eleven days. When she was finally located in a Harrogate hotel, she could not remember who she was, and was unable to identify her husband. She did finally recover her memory, but was never able to recall what she did during that mysterious interval, or indeed, why she even left home. In a novel reminiscent of Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, American psychotherapist Carole Owens imagines changing that outcome by placing Christie in an intensive, day long therapy session with a fictional Oxford psychiatrist. This plot device serves admirably as a way for the reader to learn about Christie’s childhood, writing career, and first marriage, while the psychiatrist helps his patient explore some of the possible psychological ramifications of the memories that she describes. It also serves as a vehicle for gaining insight into some of the ways in which therapy can work. In addition to providing a very credible explanation of what might have caused Christie’s strange experience, the book also paints a picture of early twentieth century life, its attitudes and expectations, among the minor English gentry. It’s difficult to write a story containing only two main characters, but Owens did so with authority, style and elegance, making both doctor and patient very real and likable. Though the book is heavy on dialogue, she builds in enough suspense to make her book a page turner. It’s a sleeper that deserves much wider readership, and it’s interesting to discover how some of the features of Agatha’s life might have influenced her creativity as an author.