Authors: Nina de Gramont
A mystery should end with a killer revealed, and so it has. A quest should end with a treasure restored. And so it has. A tragic love story must end with its lovers dead or parted. But a romance, that should end with lovers reunited.
Beyond the confines of these pages, life will go tumbling forward. But this is my story. I can make anything happen, not beholden to a future that has by now become the past. I can leave you with a single image, and we can pretend it lasts forever.
So, for this part of our story, at least, let’s stop here. With Chilton and Agatha, walking together on the beach at Torquay. Her little dog hopping from one rock to another. Agatha’s arm through Chilton’s. Both of them smiling under a bright blue sky. Dwelling in the realms of day. Only for a time, like everything. No need to question or go forward, past this moment.
Indulge yourself instead and close this book on a happy ending.
2015, my agent, Peter Steinberg, sent me an email whose subject line read, ‘What about writing a novel about this?’ Attached was an article from
by Matthew Thompson: ‘Lady Vanishes: The Mysterious Agatha Christie Disappearance.’ Five years and much gentle encouragement followed as I worked on this book. I’m grateful every day for Peter’s championship and his friendship.
Nan’s theories of lucid living couldn’t have conjured a more perfect editor for this project than Jennifer Enderlin, who knows how to ask all the right questions. I am immeasurably grateful for her brilliant insights, her unfailing catches, her warmth, her support and her kindness.
I’m thankful to everyone at St Martin’s, including but not limited to Lisa Senz (author of the best email I’ve ever read), Sallie Lotz and Steven Boldt.
Thanks also to Yona Levin, Maria Rejt, Alice Gray, Marian Reid, Samantha Fletcher and Sabine Schultz. And to everyone at The Gotham Group, especially Rich Green, who is such a bright light I wish I could bring him with me everywhere I go.
My dear old pal Scott Rittinger knows everything about antique cars and is quick to answer out-of-the-blue texts. Celia
Brooks shared her knowledge of London geography. Thanks to my friends, colleagues and students in the Creative Writing Department at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, especially Philip Gerard, who advocated for time I needed away from the classroom, and Rebecca Lee, who’s the most fun to share books with. My brother, Alex, helped with proofreading galleys. My parents have forever provided unfailing love and support. Melody Moezzi dreamed a crucial, prophetic dream; telling her and Matthew Lenard that it came true was one of my all-time favourite nights.
Danae Woodward is always my first and best reader.
This story is an imaginative history of sorts; I’m indebted to many books, documentaries, articles and papers for grounding it in actual events. Even if
The Christie Affair
had never come to fruition, I would be enormously glad to have read
The Adoption Machine
by Paul Jude Redmond. It’s a beautifully researched, gorgeously written, hauntingly personal book and I encourage anyone moved by Nan’s story to read it. Other books that were invaluable to me include:
The Light in the Window
by June Goulding;
Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries and the Nation’s Architecture of Containment
by James M. Smith (Dr Smith was generous with responses to my questions, recommended June Goulding’s memoir and put me in touch with his equally generous colleague Claire McGettrick);
The Great Influenza
by John M. Barry;
Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days
by Jared Cade;
by Dame Agatha Christie herself (if you’ve never read it, you have a great treat awaiting you); and, of course, my stack of Christie’s detective novels, in particular
Death on the Nile
Murder on the Orient Express
And Then There Were None,
The ABC Murders
Death in the Clouds
Peril at End House
as well as her short story ‘The
Edge’. For various period details and anecdotes I was helped by too many articles and academic papers to list, chief among them: ‘When the World’s Most Famous Mystery Writer Vanished’ by Tina Jordan (
New York Times
); ‘The Mysterious Disappearance of Agatha Christie’ by Giles Milton (
); ‘Unmarried Mothers in Ireland, 1880–1973’ by Maria Luddy; ‘Unmarried Mothers and Their Children: Gathering the Data’ by Dr Maeve O’Rourke, Claire McGettrick, Rod Baker and Raymond Hill; and the aforementioned ‘The Lady Vanishes’ by Matthew Thompson (
The stories from Peter Jackson’s documentary
They Shall Not Grow Old
helped me imagine Finbarr and Chilton. And I will forever stand in awe of the brave women in Steve Humphries’ arresting documentary
Sex in a Cold Climate
. My thanks, love and admiration to Brigid Young, Phyllis Valentine, Martha Cooney and especially Christina Mulcahy.
And thanks most of all to David and Hadley. I would spend a hundred years looking, and go everywhere in the world, to find you.
About the Author
Nina de Gramont lives with her husband and daughter in coastal North Carolina, where she teaches Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Her interest in writing about Agatha Christie began in 2015 when she first learned about the famous author’s eleven-day disappearance. Christie’s refusal to ever speak about this episode particularly intrigued Nina, who loves the fact that someone who unravelled mysteries for a living managed to keep her own intact.
The Christie Affair
is her third novel.
First published 2022 by Mantle
This electronic edition first published 2022 by Mantle
an imprint of Pan Macmillan
The Smithson, 6 Briset Street, London EC1M 5NR
Macmillan Publishers Ireland Ltd, 1st Floor,
The Liffey Trust Centre, 117–126 Sheriff Street Upper,
Dublin 1, D01 YC43
Associated companies throughout the world
Copyright © Nina de Gramont 2022
Jacket design © Neil Lang, Mantle Art Department
Glove image © Jeff Cottenden
Author photograph © Tasha Thomas
The right of Nina de Gramont to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
You may not copy, store, distribute, transmit, reproduce or otherwise make available this publication (or any part of it) in any form, or by any means (electronic, digital, optical, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damage.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
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