Friday Book Whimsy: The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

I’ve been a fan of Agatha Christie almost since I learned to read. Dame Christie helped define my taste in literature. I learned to love the mystery book genre by following the activities of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Tuppence and Tommy taught me how to work together as husband and wife to solve a murder, a skill that I shockingly haven’t had the opportunity to put to use.

And yet, it wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned about Agatha Christie’s personal mystery. In 1926, Mrs. Christie went missing for 10 days. She drove away from her house just after lunch, and her car was discovered not far from her home. Mrs. Christie was no where to be found, and her winter coat was in the back seat, despite the frigid weather. It became a worldwide news story. She was later found at a hotel not very far from her home, and claimed she had amnesia. Though many theories were put forth, the mystery was never satisfactorily solved.

Author Marie Benedict presents her own theory in the historical novel The Mystery of Mrs. Christie. Ms. Benedict’s theory is as good as — and perhaps better — than any I’ve heard. And it made for a clever story.

Agatha Christie was born into a upper class family in England. In 1914, she married handsome Archie Christie after dating only a few months. In 1916, she wrote her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, featuring Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. Her career was off and running.

At first the marriage was a good one. She gave birth to a daughter, and the two were very happy. And then Archie became bored with marriage, jealous of her success, and began a relationship with another woman. Mrs. Christie suspected his daliance, and shortly after, she disappeared.

Just like in an Agatha Christie’s novel, Benedict’s story is carefully laid out, doling out hints and secrets like Hercule Poirot. While we all know how the story ends, it was fun to read about one person’s solution to the mystery.

I loved this novel, and recommend it to mystery readers, particularly any Agatha Christie fans. As you well know, her writing career went on for many more years.

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: Lady Clementine

We all know about British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. He, along with FDR and other world leaders, played a pivotal role in ending World War II. We also know he drank a lot, smoked I don’t know how many cigars every day, and was a difficult man to work for. Marriage to him would not have been easy.

With this in mind, I dove into Lady Clementine, a novel by Marie Benedict, who has written a number of other historical novels, including The Only Woman in the Room (which I reviewed here.) I admit to enjoying learning history from reliable novels.

Clementine married the politically determined Winston Churchill in 1909, and became a force behind the man. She helped write his speeches, she advised him on strategy as he made his way towards being one of the most powerful men in the world. She was loyal and strong-willed and incredibly smart. And she wasn’t afraid of telling her moody and ambitious husband when she thought he was taking the wrong path.

While we learn a lot about Mr. Churchill from Benedict’s novel, we learn even more about Lady Clementine, the woman behind the great man. It is part history lesson, part romance story, part war story (she was with him through two world wars). What it really is, however, is a look at how difficult it was to be a woman in the early part of the 20th century. If the story is to be believed, Churchill considered his beloved wife to be a trusted advisory and companion.

According to the novel, Clementine Churchill and Eleanor Roosevelt were never very close friends, but had a grudging admiration and respect for one another. I bet that’s true.

I’m not sure I was overly fond of Clementine Churchill, at least as she was presented in this novel. But I admire her strength and tenacity during a difficult time in our history.

I enjoyed the book very much.

Here is a link to the book.

 

Friday Book Whimsy: The Only Woman in the Room

Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler was born in Austria with the advantage of being extremely beautiful. Her beauty, along with well-to-do parents, made life more comfortable — and safer — in the pre-World War II years when it was much better to keep her Jewish background a secret. Instead, she became a well-known actress with a Catholic background……

The Only Woman in the Room, an historical novel by Marie Benedict, tells the story of this woman who later became Hollywood leading lady Hedy Lamarr.

Her beauty and grace led her into the arms (and ultimately into marriage) of a high-level German arms seller with strong ties to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. She was convinced by her father that marrying such a man would keep the family safe. Though she originally loved him, it didn’t take long to see his jealous and controlling side. She began to quietly save money, and eventually escaped to Paris. The conversations she overheard as his wife, however, made her a valuable asset to the Allies.

She made her way to Hollywood where she became famous working for Louis B. Mayer. Her fame was responsible for her success in raising money for the war effort. Eventually, however, she became aware that the newest technology — radio-controlled torpedoes — could be easily jammed. Working with a friend, they came up with an invention that would prevent the jamming. Unfortunately, the U.S. Navy never took the invention seriously. She was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Lamarr’s story is interesting, and while I found the book somewhat dull in parts, I admit I enjoyed the history lesson. I recommend the book.

Here is a link to the book.