Entertainment / Travel

On the Trail of Agatha Christie

agatha-christieBooks take readers on exciting journeys.  With each turn of the page, we may discover other cultures, time periods, characters, and are dropped into contemplative or action packed scenes. Agatha Christie, the world’s most popular English crime writer, was an amazing author who used the world around her to capture captivating settings, intriguing circumstances, and fascinating human nature… perfect for a mystery.

Birth name:  Agatha May Clarissa Miller

Birthplace:  Torquay, England

Born:  September 15, 1890

Died:  January 12, 1976 (Age 85)

Author’s Best Known Works:  And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express

Claim to fame: She penned over 70 books, plays and short stories.  Her novels sold about 2 billion copies worldwide and her works have been translated into over 100 languages.  The Guinness Book of World Records lists her as the best-selling novelist of all time.

Her life:  Agatha was born in England to an upper-middle-class family.  She spent much of her early childhood alone and with her pets.  After her father’s death, the voracious reader received a formal education and attended a finishing school in Paris.  Agatha embarked in writing and performing in amateur theatre. Her first novel, Snow Upon the Desert, was declined by publishers.  At a dance, Agatha met army officer Archibald Christie.  They married on Christmas Eve in 1914.  Agatha worked in a hospital during the First World War.  Later, the family settled in London.   Agatha gave birth to one child.  Her first marriage ended in divorce. Agatha remarried archaeologist Max Mallowan, who was more than 10 years her junior.

Visiting New Places:  The couple spent time traveling in the Middle East.  Their shared interest in archeology and exploration strengthened their bond and widened her writing capabilities.

Agatha’s Mystery:  Did you know that…Agatha Christie once mysteriously disappeared from her home?  Agatha’s first husband, who was unfaithful, asked for a divorce to be with his mistress.  Agatha, already well-known, left a note to her staff stating she was headed to Yorkshire.  Her car was later discovered perilously hanging above a chalk quarry.  It contained personal documents and her clothes.  Christie’s disappearance lead to a massive man-hunt.  About 10 days later, she was recognized at the Swan Hydropathic Hotel, currently called as the Old Swan Hotel, in Yorkshire.  Christie registered at the hotel oddly enough under the surname of her husband’s mistress.  Public reaction to her disappearance was harmful to her image.  Many believed Agatha desired to frame her cheating husband for murder.  This sent shockwaves through media and social channels.

Agatha’s Breakdown:  Modern day analyses demonstrates she suffered from depression due to work pressures and being deeply saddened over her mother’s recent death.  The demise of her marriage was the last straw which likely caused her to have a nervous breakdown.

Travel Connections:  Agatha Christie would observe and study strangers and later use their physical appearance and mannerisms to develop characters.  She frequently used familiar settings in her stories.  Her novel, And Then There Were None, was set in and around Torquay, the stunning seaside town in Devon, England where she was raised.  Her 1934 novel, Murder on the Orient Express, was written in the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul, Turkey.  The hotel maintains Christie’s room as a memorial to the author.  Additionally, the places in England where she lived, Chelsea and later Sheffield Terrace, honor her heritage with blue plaques.

Hometown Pride: The Torquay Museum proudly shares the eventful life of the town’s most famous authors.  Visitors may explore her personal effects and notes, and witness her first editions novels.  See documents related to her books and plays, and learn how her writing applies to film and television.  Step inside Poirot’s reconstructed study and lounge inside the Agatha Christie Gallery.

Historic Visit:  The Grand Hotel, Torquay, was where Agatha and her first husband spent their honeymoon.  Indulge in afternoon tea in the elegant historic Victorian hotel which offers 132 individually styled bedrooms, a Grand Spa, elegant restaurants and more.  The hotel nestled near the dramatic Devon coastline.  From this location, embark on the Agatha Christie Literary Trail through the English Riviera and South Devon.  Visit a collection of sites which were meaningful to her life.  Stop at Torres Abbey, the Princess Pier & Gardens, and more.  Explore Agatha Christie’s engagement site to her first husband, statues in her honor, and Beacon Cove where she nearly drowned.  The tour ends at the Imperial Hotel, situated on a cliff with stunning views of Tor Bay.  This is where Agatha regularly attended teas, dances, parties and dinners.  The hotel provided inspiration for three of Christie’s works; Peril at the End House, The Body in the Library, and Sleeping Murder. See places which inspired the settings of the Miss Marple and Poirot mysteries.  Take a trip on the train to Churston Station, and walk down to Elderberry Cove.  Witness historic homes and landmarks in the original splendor.  Enjoy coastal towns and the rugged moors as viewed by Christie.

Home Retreat:  Greenway, the private holiday retreat of Agatha Christie and her second husband Max, is a must-see destination. The grand Devonshire home was purchased in 1938.  It was a place she preferred to relax with her family and pets, and read instead of write.  Experience lush green grass, magnificent magnolia filled gardens, and dreamy views overlooking the River Dart.  A boat house, perfectly positioned on the bank, provides opportunities to watch paddle boats and sail boats move up and down the river.  Greenway was gifted to the National Trust by Christie’s family.  The gardens were first opened to the public.  The house underwent restoration and was later officially opened in 2009.  It is complete with collections acquired during the couple’s travels.  A Steinway grand piano is the highlight of trip for music enthusiasts. Agatha’s favorite room was the library, containing her first editions.  One may surmise it was her love of reading which attracted her to the room.  See the mural in the library, the works of an American soldier painted during the home’s requisition as an Army headquarters during WWII.  This magical place was by described by Christie as “the loveliest place in the world.”  Fittingly, Agatha Christie set three of her novels here; Five Little Pigs, Dead Man’s Folly and Ordeal by Innocence.

Hotel Get-away:  Embrace the legacy of Agatha Christie at the Burgh Island Hotel, and iconic Devon landmark that is moored on its own tidal island.  The hotel was built in 1929, and was expanded in 1932.  The art-deco gem has been restored to its 30s glamour.  Christie frequented the inspiring destination and incorporated the setting into some of her novels.  The room names boasts the list of infamous guests who stayed at the hotel. The “Christie” provides beautiful views and tranquility, a place to stir an author’s imagination.  Fresh tea and coffee are delivered to the room each morning.   A sea-water pool, rowing boats, and table tennis are favorite daytime activities.  In the evening, dress to the nines in black tie and evening gowns for dinner and dancing.

Christie had a unique way of drawing on her life experiences.  Her works are a compilation of the places she traveled and of the characters she met along the way.  Perhaps a trip to any of these great places she visited will stir our creativity and inspire us to write the next best mystery.

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Vince Clews
6 years ago

What a thoroughly delighted retrospective on one of my favorite authors. Mr. Wilson didn’t shy away from revisiting more commonly known information which gave readers a comfortable place to soak in reverie and then turning on the jets to shake things up a little with less obvious tidbits. Thanks for sharing this article.

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