On the Blue Train


I've always been fascinated by the real life mystery of Agatha Christie's life -- her eleven day disappearance in 1926, just after her husband told her that he had fallen in love with another woman and wanted a divorce. Eventually Agatha was tracked down at a hotel in the spa town of Harrogate, having 'lost her memory,' though it seems pretty clear with hindsight that she'd fled to lick her wounds, hoping that her husband would pursue her. Instead, her vanishing set off a country-wide search, a pond near her abandoned car was dredged for her body, and the whole event spiralled embarrassingly out of control. Even Dr Who spun a very enjoyable story around Agatha's strange disappearance!

Kristell Thornell has taken this episode and spun a personal drama from it, centred on Agatha herself (using the name Teresa Neele) and a fellow guest at her hotel, Harry McKenna, who is nursing his own story of grief and guilt. On the Blue Train refers to the book Agatha was struggling to write at the time, but Thornell uses the image of the train as an effective metaphor, as Agatha muses on the idea of shifting from compartment to compartment, sitting with different companions,and playing with different identities.

On the Blue Train moves at a dreamy pace, chugging leisurely along and enjoying the scenery. There is a mystery of sorts about the fate of Harry's wife but this is not a mystery story or a thriller, so much as a psychological exploration of identity, betrayal, guilt and shame, lies and masks and degrees of trust. An interesting diversion.


  1. That event in Agatha’s life has certainly been material for a lot of fiction! And yes, that Dr Who episode was a lot of fun, what with the giant wasp and Agatha working on solving the mystery, and I think they had a go at referencing all her books?

  2. One of my favourite episodes :) 'You're ever so plucky...' Yes, they did work in a lot of Agatha's titles, and Fenella Woolgar was excellent as Agatha. Heaps of fun.