Australian literature, Australian women writers, Books, Crime/Mystery, history, Reading, Reviews

On The Blue Train by Kristel Thornell

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Title: On The Blue Train

Author: Kristel Thornell

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: October 2016

Format: paperback

Pages: 348

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: What really did happen to Agatha Christie during her mysterious eleven-day disappearance just as she was on the cusp of fame? An entrancing novel of creativity and grief.

Yes, she said, finally. Breaks are important. There are times when it’s wiser to get away. From it all.

It was the work of a moment, on 4 December 1926, Agatha Christie of London became Teresa Neele, resident of the spa hotel, the Harrogate Hydro. With her wedding ring left behind her, and her minimal belongings unpacked, Agatha’s lost days begin.

Lying to her fellow guests about the death of a husband and child, Teresa settles in to the anonymity she so fiercely desires. Until, Harry McKenna, bruised from the end of his own marriage, asks her to dance.

In this entrancing novel of creativity and grief, Kristel Thornell writes of Agatha Christie’s retreat from a life that had become too difficult. With verve and sensitivity, Thornell writes when Christie could not.


During a writer’s block in 1926, renowned crime writer, Agatha Christie disappears for just under two weeks, and assumes the name Theresa Neele during her stay at the Harrogate Hydro in Kristel Thornell’s fictionalisation of these events. The story is told from the point of view of Agatha Christie’s alternative persona, Theresa Neele, possibly brought on by trauma of the car accident she had had en route. In the eleven days she spends as Theresa Neele, she is another person, not a famous author, not a wife, and not a mother. Thornell’s story speaks for someone through the character she created for herself where perhaps Agatha Christie could not. This mix of fact and fantasy, a case where the true details may never really be known, or the full story not told, the mystery of the disappearance of the Queen of Crime is as intriguing as her characters Poirot and Miss Marple, and the genre of cozy crime that they contributed to that has brought about detectives such as Mma Precious Ramotswe, Inspector Ashwin Chopra and Thursday Next, in a variety of stories and cases that are still enjoyed today.

After reading it, questions still remain. What really made Christie disappear? Was she confused and disoriented? Or was she fed up with her husband and his philandering? Or was she just at her wits end with the novel she was working on at the time and needed a break? Thornell tries to answer these questions through the creative fantasy world that the facts and history have informed. It is a great read for fans of mystery, fans of Agatha Christie or a great introduction to the world that informed Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple. It is well written, and has a feeling of being written ninety years ago, as opposed to 2016. It is a sensitive treatment of a great mystery that was brought on by the very disappearance of one of the best known mystery writers in the world.


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