Ms. Thompson’s is not, of course, the first excavation. There have been many previous portraits and studies of Christie, the most satisfying perhaps being Janet Morgan’s measured, conscientious biography, published in 1984. Where Ms. Morgan is restrained, however, Ms. Thompson is ardent and opinionated ... Stepping back more often to view Christie in this historical context would have been worthwhile. But Ms. Thompson’s is an avowedly intimate analysis. And of a subject who expertly deflected investigation.
Almost since the beginning of her career, there have been two passionate camps on the subject of her oeuvre. There are the devotees ... And then there are the skeptics ... Neither group will find much to like in Laura Thompson’s Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life, a book that makes mysteries where none are to be found ... Part of the problem is that she draws heavily on Christie’s published writing, seemingly determined to illustrate nearly every episode of Christie’s actual life with an episode from her fiction. The general effect is that of a high school student trying to meet a word limit on an English paper ... Thompson has little regard for chronology ... It’s too bad that Thompson is so intent on larding her book with her subject’s own writing, because when she stops for a moment she’s capable of sparkle and insight.