# Books # Mysteries

Duchess of Death- A Review

Duchess of Death: The Unauthorized Biography of Agatha Christie by Richard Hack is a moving, highly readable portrait of one of my favorite authors. I have grown up reading Agatha Christie's books- I am proud to say I have read every single one of her mysteries and almost all of her short stories. For being such an avid fan it is surprising that I knew so little about the author's personal life.

Hack's Duchess of Death draws from over 5,000 unpublished letters, notes and documents. Hack weaves each of these resources into an enthralling biography. The prologue starts with the greatest mystery of Agatha Christie's own life- the period of time she mysteriously disappeared for 11 days in 1926. That incident has never been fully explained and was a topic left out of Christie's own autobiography. The incident was largely explained here, providing answers that I have yet to find anywhere else.

Christie's life had its share of hardships- from her first husband leaving her for another woman to living through the trying and life altering period of two world wars- but on the whole she lead a fruitful and abundant life with her closely knit family and her second husband, Sir Max Mallowan.

As a writer the part that fascinated me the most in the Duchess of Death was the beginning of Christie's writing career. She wrote The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot’s first mystery) for fun- to see if she would be able to fool her sister with the ‘whodunit’. She sent it off to publishers and received several rejection letters. Over a year after submitting Styles, she received a letter that changed her life. Someone was interested in publishing The Mysterious Affair at Styles- and thus, her writing career was born. The rest, as they say, is history. Agatha Christie is still credited as being the best selling author of all time.

I found myself strangely emotional as I finished this biography. Hack’s affection for Agatha Christie is abundant throughout the book. I found myself rooting for her from page one. And as I continue to reread her books and watch her specials on television I will remember and cherish the special life she led and her contribution to the world as a true artist.

Duchess of Death can be purchased from www.amazon.com

Image courtesy of: www.amazon.com


La Belette Rouge said...

It is so funny how some days a bloggy theme emerges. Both you and Josephine are talking about Agatha Christie today.

Lovely review and one that has solved the mystery of whether I will read this book or not. Case closed;book sold!

vicki archer said...

Sounds like a great read, xv.

Rebecca said...

I'm always looking for a great read and this sounds like a great one. Thank you for the review!

The Daily Connoisseur said...

La Belette Rouge- It is so funny that Josephine and I were on parallel Christie wave lengths today :)

I do hope you enjoy the book!

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Thanks Vicki and Rebecca- I hope you both find it enjoyable!

Helen said...

You know - each of Agatha's books I have read, I have challenged myself to work out who the murderer could be. Just when I thought I had him/her - no! I have never been able to do it. What a legacy she has left - keeping us all guessing!

Josephine Tale Peddler said...

Jennifer, thank you for this review. We must be bloggy soulmates. That is the thing I love about Blogging that you find such kindred spirits around the globe who share the same interests! I have several Agatha books and here is another one to add to my collection. It is so fascinating to read of the woman behind those wonderful mysteries. It is lovely to see Belette and Helen here as well posting. xx

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Hi Helen- lately I have been listening to the books on tape while I drive and even though I've already read every single book I still can't remember whodunit! (There were over 80 of them after all). That does show what a skilled author she was. She is the inspiration for the mystery I'm writing now :)

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Josephine- I do believe we are blogging soul mates :) And thank you for introducing me to Belette and Helen's blogs- they are fabulous! xo

Lauren Vanessa Olsen said...

Hi Jennifer!

I have recently gotten into Agatha Christie in the past year or so and am anxious to know which of her books are your favorites.

I have some long flights coming up and I'd love some recommendations as to what to read next!!

Thank you,


Unknown said...

Hello Jennifer, this is Richard Hack, the author of "Duchess of Death." Of all the reviews I have received over the years--and there have been many since this book has subsequently been translated into 21 languages including Russian and Chinese--I found yours the most revealing. The sentence that struck me most was "I found myself strangely emotional as I finish this biography." Ahh, Jennifer, to create emotion in the reader of a biography is the greatest achievement one could hope. To draw you into the long-ago world of this mystery writer (whose greatest mystery was herself) is to capture a slice of history and romance woven through facts that alone would be rather like chalk. Serving a purpose but lacking passion. Like you, when I started the research for this book, I knew nothing of the author. Yet, when I was finished, we were the best of friend--she and I. I'm so happy you felt the same. rickywriter@hotmail.com