Let's turn to non-fiction today, written by one of the greatest storytellers of all time.
In 1922, Agatha Christie and her then-husband, Archie, were approached by an influential friend and offered a trip around the world, lasting nearly a year, on behalf of a British trade mission. Agatha Christie and her husband had always wanted to travel, but in 1922 that required a great deal of money and time. Travel over land mostly meant by rail; travel over sea meant weeks on board a ship.
But recognizing the opportunity, the Christies accepted the offer. Leaving their very young daughter with family members, Archie and Agatha Christie set out on their voyage. And - because Agatha Christie was a writer - she did what she knew best: she wrote. She wrote long letters home, to her mother and her family, and she also mailed home a great many black-and-white photographs, taken with her new camera.
All of that material, together with relevant parts of Christie's Autobiography, have now been assembled and published for the first time as "The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery," edited by Christie's grandson Mathew Prichard. It is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the full review by clicking here.
It's an enormous and absolutely fascinating work. Agatha Christie recorded everything - her seasickness, the long journeys by ship and by train, the meetings with various Commonwealth government officials as part of the official duties, staying in hotel rooms "reeking of commercial travelers," all of this combined with handwritten letters, postcards, clippings and scores of photographs.
No, there's no mystery here - but there are marvelous stories, and it's fun to read Christie's description of the many people she meets - people who, at least as character types, will show up later in her fiction. In fact, the leader of the trade mission, Major Belcher, turns up as a major character named Sir Eustace Pedlar in Christie's 1924 thriller, The Man in the Brown Suit. Some of the real life incidents from the trip turn up in that book as well, particularly a general strike in South Africa that turned into what Christie called "a young revolution."
The Grand Tour is a wonderful real-life adventure, from the days when travel really was an adventure, a time when most people could never imagine seeing such places as Australia and Hawaii, both stops on the Christies' tour. If you enjoy travel, and you enjoy Agatha Christie, you will enjoy this book.
This post is based on a longer review which I wrote for the I Love a Mystery Newsletter, edited by Sally Powers, and I'm grateful to her for letting me share it with you.