Tag Archives: Jared Cade

Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days – Jared Cade

A few days ago I reminisced about, and shared with you, a trip that I had back in March with some of my closest chums to Harrogate and York. I mentioned that we had headed to Harrogate because of its literary history and that, in what has become some kind of tradition, we had chosen to all read Jared Cade’s Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days as it has some of its setting in Harrogate as that is where Agatha reappeared after vanishing. Well I have to say it was a reading revelation as never before have I found a book so enthralling and fascinating and then been made so cross by it and the author themselves.

Peter Owen Publishing, paperback, 2011, non-fiction, 340 pages, borrowed from the library

In Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days Jared Cade, who is clearly a huge fan of Agatha Christie, tries to explain with the help of some testimonials and documents from some of her closest friends what really happened when she disappeared and, even more fascinating, why she disappeared. Something which has been a puzzle to many over the years, her own disappearance becoming as fascinating as some of the mysteries that she wrote. Theories have been rife, including one featured in an episode of Dr Who where she gets abducted by aliens.

I would have found all this fascinating enough as it was but what thrilled me all the more was that as I discovered as I read this was also really a biography of the author herself and the life she lived before and after the disappearance. I should here admit that when I first started the book I was thinking ‘oh blimey, we are getting her whole life her’ as all I wanted was the mystery but Jared Cade does quickly draw you in and as you learn more about her childhood, teens and first marriage you become more and more interested in her and also soon see why it is all relevant.

You also learn all about her books, which for someone who has read and enjoyed a fair few of them again I found really interesting to learn where life had inspired her work. I also came away with a list of books (not Poirot ones, I still don’t have any desire to read any he features in and find it hilarious how much she came to hate her own character) which I am going to have to get my mitts on.

So before Agatha (who I feel I am firm friends with now) even goes missing you have a really good read, and Cade does write it in a thrilling way, you find yourself getting to the end of each chapter and saying to yourself ‘just one more’. The book then takes it up a notch once Agatha disappears and you get completely carried away with it while Cade teases you for a while as to what might have happened as the police investigate and then soon the journalists and then the public become utterly fascinated, you doing so to.

Publicity seekers continued to contact the newspapers claiming to have seen Agatha in places as diverse as Torquay, Plymouth and Rhyl, and this had led to the police in these districts being drawn into the search. An omnibus driver and conductor were both adamant that Agatha had travelled on their vehicle between Haslemere and Hindhead, and the manager of the Royal Huts Hotel in Hindhead also insisted she had lunched at his establishment on the weekend. The confusion arising from the suspected sightings was made worse because none of the women involved came forward to correct the cases of mistaken identity.

I had no idea who much it has captured peoples attention. I also had no idea just how bonkers some of the theories that journalists, the public, amateur detectives and even the police came up with, nor how far and wide the search went to find her, which interestingly then looks at the cost of the search which then outraged everyone and which soon started to turn interest and intrigue into anger and resentment.

On Monday the 13th many of the tabloids now indulged in their most fanciful theory to date: that Agatha might be living in London disguised as a man. While it seems extraordinary that the press could have advanced such a ludicrous suggestion, the public was not inclined to dismiss it. After all, had not Ethel Le Neve been dressed as a man when Scotland Yard’s Chief Inspector Walter Dew has arrested Dr Crippen?

Even one of the greatest of crime writers got involved in his own way…

Meanwhile, having obtained a glove of Agatha’s, Sherlock Holmes’s creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gave it to a medium called Horace Leaf. ‘I gave him no clue at all as to what I wanted or to whom the article belonged,’ the famous writer later recalled. ‘He never saw it until I laid it out on the tableat the moment of consultation, and there was nothing to connect it or me to the Christie case… He at once got the name Agatha. “There is trouble connected with this article. The person who owns it is half dazed and half purposeful. She is not dead as many think. She is alive. You will hear of her, I think, next Wednesday.”’

It was the little facts like this which Cade weaves in and out of his biography, because that is what this is at its heart, that had me so enraptured throughout. That and the odd relationships Agatha had with her first husband and family, especially with her daughter. I was fascinated and didn’t want it to end, then things changed.

Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days was revised from its first edition from 2006 and updated in 2011. Well I wish I had picked up the unrevised issue, because I am assuming that left out the final few chapters where out of nowhere Cade suddenly twists the book to become a tale about the success of the book and himself and then how the Christie estate and other biographers (particularly Laura Thompson who wrote Agatha Christie: an English Mystery and who questioned his theory over a timetable and some other bits and bobs, and gets torn apart) turned against him. It suddenly becomes very personal and if I am honest really awkward to read. Yet, like all car crashes, I couldn’t help but look/read on as Cade goes into this huge defence of himself. Very, very odd. It seems a case of an author becoming too much a part of the work and airing their dirty laundry, but not in a good/intriguing/positive way. It very nearly ruined the book for me.

A shame really as overall I found Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days a thoroughly, and rather unexpectedly, fascinating biography which gives a wonderful insight into a truly fascinating woman, her life, her writing and her disappearance. I would suggest either find yourself a copy of the unrevised version of the book, or simply stop reading when you get past Agatha’s death. If I had this would have been one of my favourite non-fiction reads in some time.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Jared Cade, Peter Owen Publishing, Review

A Trip to Harrogate and York…

This is a post a long time overdue as way back at the end of March I went off on a little holiday with three of my very best of chums Polly, Michelle and Dom. These three buddies also share my love of all things bookish and while we don’t see each other as often as we like when we meet up for mini breaks there is always a literary link or we all have a book that we read together and then discuss, most likely in a pub. This year we decided to kill to bookish birds with one stone and stay somewhere with a literary link and even found a book about it (thanks to some of the books you recommended earlier in the year) as we headed to Harrogate, the town where none other than Dame Agatha Christie turned up after she went missing! So I thought I would take you on a mini trip with me.

It started after a lovely train ride, one where I said I would read loads and loads but ended up looking out the window at the scenery instead as usual. Then on the second leg of my trip I was joined by Polly, who I have known since we were 4 years old and who you might have known as Polly of Novel Insights – a blog I still sadly miss.

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Once at the station we carried on gossiping at the station, and possibly buying some sweets, as we waited  for our friend Dom who was only one train behind. We then headed to our digs (found through the brilliant new website www.airbnb.com which found us a bargain apartment with a Jacuzzi bath and everything) had a little tea break before heading out into Harrogate to discover its delights, locate Betty’s infamous tearooms, have a gander, have some more tea and head to the infamous hotel, which has now changed its name, where Agatha Christie was discovered after her mystery disappearance.

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This was in fact the setting for a lot of the book we were all collectively reading Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days by Jared Cade as it was, as I mentioned, the place where they found the author after she had gone missing mystifying and fascinating many. I will be discussing the book here on the blog tomorrow as I had interesting reactions to it. Anyways, after giving it much thought we decided not to go in and try and find the room, though we did go and nosey close up, or have any cocktails in the lounge as we had to meet Michelle at the station. (I am determined to stay in the room she had in the (now named) Old Swan Hotel at some point though.) After which we went for our other mutual love… food!

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If you are ever in Harrogate then you simply have to go to Damn Yankee. They do the most AMAZING burgers with pulled pork and all sorts of other utter joys in. We made it classy by having it all with Prosecco on the side. Classy.

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After a night of much late night gossip we decided that, after having a breakfast out (there is a food theme) in a venue I won’t as they threw our initial order down the stairs and then took a while to sort it all out and had the rudest staff, we would head for a day in York which is a mere 40 minute train ride which some of us used to gossip more and some to read. Guess who was gossiping and not reading? Once in York we all decided to head to the National Rail Museum for a brief look around as it was free and close by. This ended up being a three hour visit of joy.

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Who knew we all loved trains so much?

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No really, be they new, old, from Scotland or Japan, we were all smitten…

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I even saw a wonderful old poster that used to advertise my local seaside resort, which alas isn’t quite as glamourous as it used to be but is trying…

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Well after having seen all of these trains, watched some demonstrations of steam strains and then a turntable (seriously, if you think I am joking I swear I am not, I LOVED THIS PLACE, we all did – if you are ever in York you HAVE to go) we decided that really it was time for some tea and maybe some cake in the café, which is like waiting rooms from times past – amazing…

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Then there was some serious shopping before we walked outside to discover we could then get into York by guess what…

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A train!!!!! It was too much. After a swift and delightfully bumpy (I think people thought we were a bit odd as we were all beyond excitement, yes if you were there it was us that were giggling so much) ride into town we decided to hit York’s most famous of sights…

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The Cathedral. Now I am not religious personally but I do find chapels, churches and cathedrals wondrous places. I find them very calming. I also find graveyards really calming for the same reason, I think i’s the stillness. I miss my days guiding at Highgate Cemetery and the quite walks I would have between tours. Anyway, that said I object to paying to go into these places – sorry but I do – and so we popped in just to have a nosey at the grandeur and it was beautiful.

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After going to the most famous place in York we had a lovely long meander through the city to find the most haunted place in York. Regular readers of the blog will have at some point picked up my small obsession for a TV show called Most Haunted which sees a team headed by Yvette Fielding. One of my favourite episodes takes place in The Golden Fleece and we found it…

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And guess what we did when we were in there? Well, I spent about 20 minutes reading the menu which has all of the ghost stories and testimonials in, after which I joined in with the pints and more food. Highly recommend the chips, cheese and gravy. Lush. I have decided I also want to go back to the Golden Fleece at some point and stay the night, as it is also a hotel with haunted bedrooms. I will have to talk The Beard into it. After all that excitement we headed back, picking up some booze and snacks and then deciding to go out for dinner back in Harrogate. Now you may think we were food obsessed and that really the treats should have stopped there. Well, they didn’t and in reality we had been stretching our bellies for the joy that awaited us the next morning… breakfast at Betty’s Tearooms! Seriously we were so excited, can you tell?

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It is worth all the hype honestly! I ended up going for their Swedish breakfast which as you can see was a thing of wonder.

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All this while we were treated like Kings and Queens by the wonderful staff and serenaded by a piano player. It seriously felt like we had gone back in time to the 1920’s/1930’s. I couldn’t get enough of the atmosphere and along with Polly decided that this was a special occasion (and I would starve myself for the following week) would have a two course breakfast and followed up my gorgeous rosti with a gorgeous cake. With me and bakeries there is only one choice…

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The Vanilla Slice, the King of Cakes. It is my FAVOURITE dessert of all time, I will be your best friend for one, simple as that! It was the icing (see what I did there) on an utterly brilliant few days with my utterly brilliant bookish friends.

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Oh and as you are asking, did we talk about the book? No we didn’t, we were too busy giggling or eating – but I will be doing that with all of you tomorrow. In the meantime I was wondering if any of you have ‘literary based’ (even if loosely) holidays? Do you choose some where to go on a break based on its literary links? If you have where have you been and how was it? And do you do as I have to do and make sure you pack a book set where you are going to read in just the right place, literally, or is it just me? Also do you like the idea of ‘literary retreat’ posts in the future?

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Filed under Literary Retreats, Random Savidgeness