Sunday, October 15, 2006

News: Christie's Most Famous Mystery Solved at Last

The solution to the darkest of all Agatha Christie mysteries may be at hand, writes Vanessa Thorpe, arts correspondent for The Observer. What lay behind her extraordinary 11-day disappearance in 1926? Several plausible theories have been proposed over the years, but biographer Andrew Norman believes he is the first to find one that satisfies every element of the case.

Twelve The Finished Portrait by Andrew NormanIn his study of the writer's life published this autumn, Norman uses medical case studies to show that Christie was in the grip of a rare but increasingly acknowledged mental condition known as a "fugue state", or a period of out-of-body amnesia induced by stress. In effect, the writer was in a kind of trance for several days, he claims.

Thorpe adds that in his book, The Finished Portrait, Norman says that Christie's adoption of a new personality - she took the name Teresa Neele - and failure to recognize herself in newspaper photographs were signs that the novelist had fallen into a psychogenic amnesia after a period of depression. "I believe she was suicidal," said Norman. "Her state of mind was very low and she writes about it later through the character of Celia in her autobiographical novel, Unfinished Portrait."

Read the read of this fascinating article on The Observer UK here.

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