An ingenious new psychological suspense novel that concocts an elaborate backstory behind Christie’s disappearance ... Here’s the neatest narrative trick of all: As Christie characteristically did, de Gramont hides the solution to the mystery of The Christie Affair in plain sight ... The Christie Affair is richly imagined; inventive and, occasionally, poignant; and about as true-to-life as Christie’s own tales of quaint villages with their staggering murder rates. But when fabrications are this marvelous, why demand realism?
The Christie Affair reads at first much like the absorbing works of Paula McLain and Gaynor Arnold: solidly researched historical fiction that sensitively explores the emotions of the women involved in turbulent events. It did, however, show itself surprisingly willing to lean into a less than decorous – but very much appreciated by this reader – rage against the horrors committed against women in the early 20th century ... At about the 72% mark, I realized that this novel...was something much more than even the best of its contemporaries in the historical fiction genre. The further I read, the more I was dazzled by what I discovered was also an extremely clever sleight of hand, as Nina de Gramont spins several different and seemingly unrelated mystery threads before snapping them all together into a breathtaking tapestry of crime and heartbreak and, most importantly, communion and grace ... While the details of the story as written are different enough from the historical facts to make it clear that this is a work of fiction, oh, how I wanted this to be a true chronicle. Ms de Gramont does amazing work here, balancing a fair play murder mystery plot worthy of Dame Christie herself with the kind of characterization that, she dryly notes, the more famous author often skipped over in favor of stereotypes ... This is an extraordinary murder mystery novel that dares to invoke the spirit of Dame Christie and succeeds. I could not stop reading that last quarter of the book, so invested was I in the happiness of all the characters I’d come to care for in the course of reading it. I highly recommend this to any reader, but especially to those willing to explore with empathy the many mysteries of the human condition.
Gripping ... We are met with a series of unexpected twists and turns that Christie herself would be proud of, and a string of extraordinary cameos from some of the most prolific figures of the day ... The real triumph of the novel is that it not only satisfies readers with a plausible and engaging theory of what might have happened during those 11 days, but also offers up a fascinating study of two complex women and their unlikely kinship ... Film rights have already been sold to Miramax—an indication of Nina de Gramont’s masterful plotting, which is sure to translate beautifully to the screen ... As the January nights continue to close in early, and the grey skies show no sign of clearing just yet, there’s no better time to hunker down with this cosy murder mystery which packs a surprising emotional punch.
Nina de Gramont revisits the story with arguably more artistry and ingenuity than any previous novel ... It’s a necessity in such a two-pronged story that both plots are of equal interest. Ms. de Gramont proves up to the task, even as she weaves elements and devices from some of Christie’s best-known puzzles into her own elaborate conundrum. It’s a particular treat in this work, which sizzles from its first sentence, to be presented with an Agatha Christie who breaks free from societal restraints and runs into unpredictable adventure.
It boasts many lyrical sentences, particularly in the final chapter, but The Christie Affair feels like it was abandoned in the middle of the editing process ... De Gramont has concocted an intriguing if implausible theory, but it's a struggle getting there because Christie, the lone sympathetic person in the story, is only a minor character and because O'Dea is such a confusing narrator ... De Gramont spends far too much time on O'Dea's repetitive back story, invents a murder mystery but gives us no clues to solve it, muddles the timeline and, worst of all, has O'Dea describing events for which she could not have been present and diving into the thought processes of people she doesn't even know.
Although The Christie Affair features a double murder it is not a crime novel. It is a swooning historical romance ... The way de Gramont reveals the psychological fallout of trench warfare is a highlight; her habit of ending paragraphs with a portentous platitude...is irksome ... Her occasionally humorous take on Christie’s disappearance is ingenious but, for an epic tale of love and loss, strangely unmoving. It drags when it should drive forward, circles when it should soar.
De Gramont’s novel...begins with verve. A vivid Agatha Christie, dropping in at her husband’s London office, discovers another woman there, and instead of causing a scene, takes her to lunch at Simpson’s. A delicate powerplay ensues, which for the novel’s first quarter drives a taut, atmospheric story ... Then, the tension slackens. Agatha, the most charismatic character, disappears; Nan and a histrionic backstory involving sadistic Irish Catholics are foregrounded. De Gramont plays fast and loose with the facts to bolster a pappy Oirish marriage-wrecker motive story. Hercule Poirot might have surmised this backstory in seconds; here, it becomes chapters of subplot, fatally unbalancing a promising premise. The reader will emerge more confused than enlightened about Christie’s disappearance.
De Gramont possesses an intuitive insight into the complexity of Christie’s talent and the fact that she was both a master of detective fiction and an astute portraitist of human fallibility, her twin talents honed during her marriage to Archie and the suffering caused by his lack of loyalty ... offers readers something far more captivating than a mere re-imagining of the author’s flight to Harrogate, providing instead a character study of two very different women—Agatha Christie and Nancy Neele (Nan O’Dea in the book)—in their opposing positions as celebrated writer and obscure lover, privileged wife and ostracized mistress. Into this clash of roles and personalities, De Gramont weaves a genius twist, an absorbing murder mystery with a lot of moving parts and a fabulous cast of protagonists. The great achievement of The Christie Affair consists in elevating Nan O’Dea above the stereotypical conniving gold digger readers might expect her to be, allowing her instead to come across as to a deeply thinking and feeling—if also misguided—woman, who has a very surprising, and far more compelling reason for destroying the Christies’ marriage than might be assumed. Intriguingly, it is motherhood, rather than romance, which holds the key to unlocking the mystery ... a wonderful study of the terrible antagonisms, as well as the intimate ties, that exist between wives and mistresses, and how each group might turn the tables upon the other. Prepare to be surprised.
Few of the characters are particularly likable in The Christie Affair, but all are fascinating ... Despite...liberties and embellishments, de Gramont doesn’t let her story stray too far from the basic facts, so the ending’s a bit of a letdown for Nan. Still, The Christie Affair is an enjoyable entrant to the canon of 'Agatha Christie’s mysterious disappearance' novels.
[A] fanciful reimagining ... The author weaves a clever, highly original, mesmerizing tale filled with strange and unexpected turns and concludes it in an unexpected but wholly satisfying manner. With its superb writing, strong characterizations, and wonderfully imaginative plot, this is a must-read for fans of romance, history, or mystery.
An ingeniously plotted historical mystery in the style of an engrossing Agatha Christie thriller ... Bringing to glorious life the more intimate roles Christie played, including as a mother, wife, loyal friend and passionate lover, de Gramont's graceful novel will enthrall Agatha fans of all persuasions ... De Gramont offers a skillful reimagining of what transpired when Agatha vanished in the dead of night with her typewriter, setting off a media-driven scandal and a massive country-wide police manhunt. The result is a particularly gripping story, brilliantly embellished by the enigmatic narrator, Nan O'Dea, who also happens to be Archie's mistress ... An accomplished author, de Gramont takes a page from the great mystery writer herself and makes swift work of tying up loose ends as the story reaches its boiling point, leaving readers marvelously entertained and breathlessly connecting the dots ... This gorgeously written mystery reimagines Agatha Christie's real-life disappearance after the collapse of her marriage and the intriguing story of the woman responsible for the breakup.
De Gramont weaves brilliantly imagined storylines ... De Gramont has a gift for creating dreamy male characters ... The story unfolds in a series of carefully placed vignettes you may find yourself reading and rereading, partly to get the details straight, partly to fully savor the well-turned phrases and the dry humor, partly so the book won't have to end, damn it ... Devilishly clever, elegantly composed and structured—simply splendid.
Intriguing ... A gripping opening sentence ... De Gramont treats O’Dea’s story with sympathy and care, highlighting the bleak circumstances for both women in the historical period and teasing out the motivations for breaking up the Christies’ marriage. This is an enjoyable reimagining of a scandal whose exact nature remains a puzzle a century later.
... disappoints in spite of its strong narrative voice ... The problem with The Christie Affair is that De Gramont thinks her audience will be compelled enough by Nan to enjoy her as an omniscient narrator making presumptive statements about Christie’s actions during the disappearance, having Nan explain that she knows what happened because the people concerned later informed her of it, which is already a wobbly narrative conceit. But because of this choice we never get Christie’s point of view on her own life, and that is irritating ... There is also a problem with the way De Gramont fictionalizes Nan and inserts her into the place where Neele stood, and she adds a story choice which is really almost obscene, to the point where I was glad to learn Christie’s real-life daughter (for whom an equivalent character exists) was not alive to read it. And if you’re going to go to the trouble of inserting your character into a real triangle, why provide the same end result for her and your other protagonists as the one that happened in real life? Was De Gramont afraid that Neele’s estate would sue? ... isn’t worth any sort of jurisprudential intervention, but it’s nothing to write home about. And yet Nan’s narrative voice is strong, and the research is, too. If this had just been a story about an Irish girl marrying into British aristocracy to get money and power enough to get her daughter back in the mid-1920s I would give the book a much higher grade, but the Christie connection hinders instead of helps the narrative.