This thoroughly enjoyable, delightfully written biography of Agatha Christie is a joy.

To a certain extent, we all feel we “know” a little about Agatha Christie, don’t we?

We know that she is one of the world’s best known and most prolific authors.

We’ve heard that Ms Christie “disappeared” in the 1920s, precipitating a nationwide search for her.

We all know about “The Mousetrap”, the longest running play in London’s West End and, indeed, the world.

We’ve all read at least one of her murder mysteries. (Haven’t we?)

And as for some of the movies made from her books – I’m thinking of “Murder on the Orient Express” and “Death on the Nile” with their glittering all-star casts – well, they are gorgeous, stand-out movies.

The above paragraph pretty much describes the extent of my knowledge of Agatha Christie before reading this book.

But in Lucy Worsley’s engrossing book, there is a veritable wealth of information and context that fills in all the details about the “Queen of Crime”‘s life, about her family, her two marriages, her work, her writing, which are all set in the societal and historical context in which she lived. Never forget that Agatha Christie was born in 1890, lived through both World Wars, dying in 1976 so she witnessed society’s change on a dramatic scale. From a Victorian childhood to the Swinging Sixties…I don’t think the 1970s had a cool moniker, so we’ll stick with the ’60s, shall we?

What is fascinating is how Ms Worsley connects real life events, both those directly concerning Agatha Christie and those in the world at large, and links them to her writing. The chapters in the book describing her years in Iraq with her second husband, the archeologist Max Mallowan, are great fun.

Agatha Christie was a surprising cocktail of contrasts: a tireless almost compulsive writer which made her a rather distant, hands-off mother, a passionate second wife to her much younger husband, a borderline greedy shopaholic, and quite incompetent financially.

One of the nice things about this book is the way Ms Worsley occasionally shares her personal opinion of a book or a theory with us, drawing the reader even further in to what is an absolutely first rate biography.

Totally recommended

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