On December 4, 1926, Mrs Christie vanished for ten days. She was already a well-known author and her disappearance was extremely controversial, captivating worldwide public attention.
Mrs Christie's mother had recently died, causing her great grief. Not long after, her husband demanded that she file for divorce from him so he could marry his friend Nancy Neele. Divorce was terribly scandalous and shocking in those days; it was also complicated. Her husband couldn't file for divorce without compromising Nancy's social standing. Also, Mrs Christie had been doing her best to reconcile with him and find a way for him to feel like they could stay together, especially since the couple had a daughter whom they both cherished.
An enormous amount of publicity and police energy were devoted to finding her. The circumstances of her disappearance were so much like something out of one of her books that some suspected she'd set it up for promotional purposes (two of her new books were being serialized in newspapers). Her husband was investigated, more with the idea that he might have driven her to suicide than that he killed her himself. Arthur Conan Doyle became involvednote as did Dorothy L. Sayersnote . However, she turned up alive and well at a popular health spa / hotel in Yorkshire, having registered as Teresa Neele.note
Speculations have run rampant for generations as to Mrs Christie's state of mind and reasoning at the time. She had initially pretended to be confused and having trouble with her memory, but had been relaxing and having fun in a normal way at the hotel. After she was found, her husband played up the amnesia angle to the press to cover his own conduct.
The media portrayed her as having set up a cynical publicity stunt. Recent research has uncovered proof that while she certainly was distraught and stressed, she consciously staged the disappearance to get back at her husband by making it look as if he'd murdered her or driven her mad; her beloved sister-in-law helped her with the scheme and coverup. She had never meant for it to become a worldwide phenomenon. She never mentioned it and left it out of her autobiography, but it forever haunted both her writing and her daily life.