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Agatha Christie: The Finished Portrait Hardcover – 15 Sep 2006
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When Agatha Christie, the so-called 'Queen of Crime', disappeared from her home in Sunningdale in Berkshire for eleven days on 3 December 1927, the whole nation held its breath. The following day, when her car was found abandoned fourteen miles away, a nationwide search was instigated. From a painstaking reconstruction of Agatha's movements and behaviour during those eleven days, Dr Andrew Norman is able to shed new light on what, in many ways, has remained a baffling mystery. Only now, fifty years after Agatha's death, is it possible to explain fully, in the light of scientific knowledge, her behaviour during that troubled time.
About the Author
Dr Andrew Norman graduated in animal physiology from St Edmund Hall, Oxford before qualifying in medicine from the Radcliffe Infirmary. He worked as a GP unitl 1983, and is now an established writer. He is the author of several biographies, including Adolf Hitler: The Final Analysis, published by Spellmount. He lives in Poole, Dorset.
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Norman also devotes time to describing the plots of Christie's books. Unfortunately, it seems he couldn't be bothered to read them first, so there are numerous inaccuracies. For example, in Mysterious Affair at Styles, he describes Mary Cavendish as the Lady of the Manor and Emily Inglethorpe as her companion/factotum. (Actually, Emily Inglethorpe is the lady of the manor and Mary is her daughter-in-law!) He also mixes up victims and criminals and methods of murder with a cheerful disregard.
I don't know enough about psychology/medicine to know if his theories on Christie's childhood nightmares and 1926 disappearance are reasonable, but the major flaws in this book had destroyed Norman's credibility long before I reached that point. The book is also let down by the irrelevant illustrations which are nearly all of the front covers of Agatha Christie novels!
This comes across as a poorly written, thinly researched and inaccuarate book, written by someone who wanted to jump on the 'Agatha Christie bandwagon'. If this is a 'Finished Portrait' then it's a Painting by Numbers one and by a pretty poor artist too! You'll be much better off reading the autobiography--at least that is well written.
Agatha Christie was believed to have suffered amnesia when she disappeared from her home in 1926, but Andrew Norman is not a psychiatrist - merely a retired general practitioner, who never knew her and who at no time treated her. There is no reference to her disappearance in her autobiography, so Norman is left with a lot of speculating as to what he thinks happened.
When it comes to the known facts of Christie's disappearance, Norman is like a card dealer who puts those cards that support his theories face up on the table, and simply throws away the rest of the pack. Doctor in Denial would have been a better title for this book.
Some of the chapters are only two or three pages long, with titles such as Early Life, Gardening and Flowers, and A Love of Story-Telling. Reading this book was rather like opening a drawer and taking out little cards with information on them - I was reminded of a cookery drawer of recipes! Biography is far too grandiose a title for this collection of cards - although there are some longer chapters.
Norman's proposed solution is based partly on an article she gave to the Daily Mail and her Mary Westmacott novel Unfinished Portrait. There is nothing new in this - he simply regurgitates the same dreary theories propounded over the decades.
A skimpy read at 177 pages long, there is no new information about Agatha in this book. The great mystery is why did he write it? Were his publishers naive enough to think that discerning Christie fans are happy to pay for trash like this?
The salient points could have been summed up in a couple of pages, so the author pads the rest of the book out with plot lines from many of Agatha Christie's works.
I would suggest avoiding this like the plague, especially if you plan on reading any of Agatha Christie's wonderful books.