What better way to celebrate fall than with the stunning biography Laura Thompson wrote on the queen or mystery. Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life is a complete, fully researched examination of the woman whose crime novels are only outsold by the Bible and Shakespeare.

From the Edwardian idyll that was her childhood, Agatha was closest to her mother, although she loved her father. After his death, mother and daughter became even closer, although there was an older brother and sister in the family. Clara’s influence would be clearly felt by Agatha for the rest of her life, in ways large and small, and in her attitude towards money.

The tall, slim girl with the lovely golden hair soon grew into an athletic and graceful young woman, one who wrote poetry and had a leaning to writing. She was a listener, one who absorbed what people said and how they behaved. When she falls for Archie Christie, handsome but without means, her mother is less than impressed with her new son-in-law.

As her writing takes off and a child appears, daughter Rosalind, Agatha’s maternal attitude became diffident, and while she loved her daughter, they never had the same connection Agatha had with Clara. Too long the beloved daughter to be an effective mother, Agatha allows nannies and boarding schools largely to care for her daughter after a few years.

And then the unthinkable happens: Archie has fallen for another woman and wants a divorce. Agatha’s subsequent breakdown, manifested in her disappearance for eleven days that caused an international sensation, is cleverly explained by Thompson, who spins what seems to be the most realistic story of what really happened.

Once Agatha is found at a Harrowgate spa, the divorce occurs and her life changes. She would refuse to discuss the incident ever again, and if anyone dared question her about the period, that person would be obliterated from her life.

Her second marriage several years later to archeologist Max Mallowan was more of a reassurance to Agatha, and her books took off as her writing flourished when she traveled with him. She helped him in his work; theirs was a comfortable relationship that brought Agatha emotional security.

There were multiple houses, too, including the lovely summer home Greenway in Devon that Auntie M visited in 2013. There were also multiple tax issues her ‘fortune’ created, with UK high taxes and the US suddenly deciding they were owed back taxes, a situation that literally dragged on for decades until settled, leaving her an employee of a trust created in her name to control the debt.

Thompson takes issue with those who have called Agatha’s stories simple. They were created out of her deep knowledge of human nature, with almost geometric plots. “But at the heart was her fascination with human nature. This is the great joke: Agatha Christie was not interested in murder.”

Thompson makes a grand case with supporting documentation for this, and also explores the dame’s writings as Mary Westmacott, where she allowed herself to explore the emotions she usually kept in check.

For anyone interested in understanding the evolution and influences of Dame Agatha Christie, look no further than this compelling and highly readable examination of her life that is Highly Recommended.