Agatha Christie's most famous mystery solved at last

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The solution to the darkest of all Agatha Christie mysteries may be at hand. What lay behind her extraordinary 11-day disappearance in 1926? Several plausible theories have competed for favour over the years, but biographer Andrew Norman believes he is the first to find one that satisfies every element of the case.

In his study of the writer's life published this autumn, Norman uses medical case studies to show that Christie was in the grip of a rare but increasingly acknowledged mental condition known as a 'fugue state', or a period of out-of-body amnesia induced by stress. In effect, the writer was in a kind of trance for several days, he claims.

The mystery, which has puzzled both the police and Christie fans for 80 years, is a why-dunnit, rather than a who-dunnit. It began on the evening of Friday 3 December at Styles, the Berkshire home of the crime writer, by then already an established name, with a sixth novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, selling well. Around 9.45pm, without warning, she drove away from the house, having first gone upstairs to kiss her sleeping daughter, Rosalind. Her abandoned Morris Cowley was later found down a slope at Newlands Corner near Guildford. There was no sign of her.

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