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Duchess of Death: The Unauthorized Biography of Agatha Christie

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  851 ratings  ·  86 reviews
Although she is the most popular novelist in history, with over two billion books sold worldwide, Agatha Christie lived a life shrouded in secrecy and fueled by curiosity. Nearly as notorious for her aversion to the press as she was for her 80 books and collections of short stories, Christie made no secret of her need for privacy. Utilizing over 5,000 previously unpublishe ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 25th 2010 by JR Books Ltd (first published July 1st 2009)
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4.11  · 
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 ·  851 ratings  ·  86 reviews

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Joy H.
Oct 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Added 10/24/12.
I listened to the audio version of this book.
It's an interesting account of Agatha Christie's life.

2/5/13 - ADDENDUM
I posted the following at my GR group:
Werner wrote: "My Fans of British Writers group is doing a common read this month, offering a choice of two alternate selections. The one I'm reading is Agatha Christie's genre classic Murder on the Orient Express..."

Werner, I haven't read the book but, of course, I've seen the movie. "Mur
The book begins with a few chapters on Agatha Christie's mysterious disappearance, which I found quite intriguing and which helps draw the reader in.

It is marketed as "immensely readable" and it is. It reads like a novel, again a nice touch for a biography.
There are a few spots where I found myself thinking "is this known or speculation?" but when you really think about it, that only happens for superficial facts...and if I want my biographies to read like a novel I will need to accept some in
Dec 20, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: listening-to
I've never read an Agatha Christie but I am glad I listened to this. I have decided that it is certainly time I check out and read at least one of her 90? books. Her excitement for life and adventure probably added to her imagination. The writer had nothing but high praise over Christie's skill, modesty and lack of interest in critical acclaim. Most interesting was with all she wrote she never was financially flush. Also it's amazing to me how far reaching her writing was in terms of languages t ...more
Adds some valuable information to the subject of Agatha Christie, but not written in a compelling manner. It appears Richard Hack spent much of his efforts on the first half of the book. The latter part tends to be little more than a recital of Agatha's new book titles/plays as they came out.

One sentence towards the end of the work gives an example of the less than stellar writing on the part of the biographer:

"...they arrived in America, where they would remain for the remainder of the year."

I'm not sure I appreciate the author's intent in writing this story as he did. At time it was hard to figure out if this was a biography or a fictional story. For me it smacked of sensationalism and something I could read in the National Enquirer.

I may give it a disc or two more, only because I don't have any other back up audio to listen to, but I can say without doubt that I will not be finishing it.
Joan Colby
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fairly insightful biography of mystery diva Agatha Christie, written after the death of both Christie and her daughter, who zealously guarded her mother’s literary estate. Christie’s output was nothing short of astonishing, 87 books including collections, over 157 individual short stories, 25 plays, numerous films made from her stories, as well as TV series. The longest running play (The Mousetrap) ever. One wonders how in the world she did it as well as accompany her second husband, an archeo ...more
Heard it with a bit of parallel reading of her autobiography. I like the bit explaining about her mysterious dissapearance, I can understand why she did her dissapearing act and I enjoyed listening how it gave her a new confidence and new sense of self. I don't like how her love life with her 1st husband was portrayed though. It has too much sense of foreboding of the future doom. Of course there's a saying how an outsider can see things clearer and of course there's nothing more powerful than h ...more
Betsy Brainerd
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the story of Agatha Christie's life as read by Nicolas Coster. (Coster's British accent took some getting used to - Raatherrr...but I ultimately found his voice to be pleasant car company.) The book hooks you with the mystery and disappearance of Agatha herself during a time of marital strife. Although this incident casts her as a bit unstable, it turns out to be an anomaly in her long, productive life. In addition to her incredible ability to churn out novel af ...more
It was interesting to read about Agatha Christie's childhood, young adulthood, and first marriage, but after that it wasn't so interesting. I'd give four stars to the first half of the book, and two stars to the last half, so that averages out to be three stars. The best part is that reading this book has inspired me to reread some Christie mysteries, which I always enjoyed very much but haven't read in a long time.
Sep 07, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book reads like a text book, at least in the beginning, but as I got used to the style I did enjoy it. It is current with details about her country home, Greenway in Devon, being opened to the public earlier this year. For a more enjoyable read of Agatha Christie's life I recommend An Autobiography Agatha Christie by the Queen of Mystery herself.
This book is okay, I suppose, but inferior in to the biography by Laura Thompson, both in writing quality, in the careful analysis of Christie's character and motives, and the degree to which Thompson linked aspects of Christie's character to its expressions in her work. If I were going to be reading only one book about Christie, it would be the Thompson one, not this one.
Dec 16, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christie fans
Shelves: biography
Thoroughly enjoyable biography. Made me want to start over again with her first book and read through them all again. Balanced view of Christie: some aspects of her likable, others not so much. Easy reading style - almost reads like a novel.
Oct 28, 2016 added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
DNF... This book was putting me to sleep. So I gave up on it.
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Agatha Christie, world-renowned mystery novelist, shunned publicity and fame, and so Hack uses her letters, her autobiography, and her few public appearances to piece together her "unauthorized biography" and present readers with the real woman who preferred to hide behind her books. Beginning with the compelling story of her disappearance early in her writing career, Hack captures readers' interest before diving into her childhood, her "coming out," her marriage to Archie Christie, the rise of ...more
Tracy Backer
Dec 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title made me think this was going to be some kind of scandalous, dirt-digging biography. I am happy to say that is not the case at all. It starts out with an introduction recapping the infamous time when Agatha Christie inexplicably disappeared; an episode of her life she refused to address. I learned a lot of about Christie's early life, how she started writing, and continued writing to the end of her life. If you're even a casual Christie fan, you'll enjoy this book.
Avril Vandermerwe
A well researched and entertaining biography of a fascinating author and a life well lived. Reading this on the heels of having read Dickens' Favourite Daughter, it was interesting to note some overlap in the people their families knew - like Henry James. As a writer, I have learned so much from reading about the life and work of Agatha Christie.
✿ Deni
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
I really enjoyed this book, mainly because it's written as a novel so it flows easily. This, however, means that sometimes I wasn't sure if what I was reading was a fact or just the author's imagination: I've learned many new thing about Christie, very interesting facts and a bit of straw to make the book a bit longer ;)
Mar 29, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was curious about the woman who could create Hercule Poirot & Miss Jane Marple. Until I read this book, I had no idea she'd actually created about 5 different detectives! The writing can be a bit florid in places. but I did learn more about her.
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought the book was excellent!
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent and well-researched book on one of the best female mystery writers!
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stout-christie
Interesting read about a favorite writer.
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting telling of the life of one of literature's greats. Not much of where her inspiration came from though, which I would have liked.
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Duchess of Death: The Unauthorized Biography of Agatha Christie by Richard Hack

"Defeated, Agatha returned home and sat alone that night at the dinner table. The scene of that morning's confrontation replayed itself in an endless loop, always ending with the same bitter threat. Desperate, yet hardly without resources or the determination to save her marriage, she began to craft a plan worthy of any Agatha Christie mystery. The plot was subtle, yet
Jul 14, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Could someone please write a definitive biography of Agatha Christie? Because I still haven't found one. I have her very good 1977 autobiography, but of course people rarely write the whole truth about themselves, and I thirst for a chunky, scholarly biog with scads of footnotes. And photos. I love lots of photos in a biography. Hey, just because she was a scrivener of popular fiction doesn't mean she can't have a scholarly tome written about her!

I bought Richard Hack's Duchess of Death in the h
Jan 04, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

My observations along the way as I listen to the audiobook:

* I am enjoying listening to it but it felt like the first cd ended abruptly. The book opens with Agatha's disappearance which occurred as her first marriage was ending due to her husband's infidelity. Just when we think she has been found, cd one ends. The second cd actually begins with chapter one and her birth.
* Now at CD 5 the book has returned to her disappearance and has begun describing her life after her divorce. Some parts of t
Jun 13, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Agatha Christie fans
This is an unauthorized biography of Agatha Christie based on 5,000 unpublished notes, letters, and documents. The book covers her life, the people in her life, her two marriages, relationship with her daughter, and the story of her development into writing the Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple series of mysteries.
Her references to Exeter, the Exeter Cathedral and Devon all had personal meaning due to my friendship with a British couple who lived in Devon, as well as an historic link of a teacher's
Sep 08, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall, this is a decent book, although the audiobook reader is somewhat stuffy. I haven't read other biographies of Christie, so I can't compare, but this at least gave me a bulk of facts.

The book opens with a long chapter all about Christie's disappearance in 1926, before commencing the next chapter with the details of her parents prior to her birth. This was a tactic designed to pull the reader in, but for me, it didn't work. Instead, it started the book off with a bang of intrigue, making t
May 31, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this for two reasons: one is, quite simply, I enjoyed reading Agatha Christie's mysteries when I was younger; the other is that our 6th grade students do research on mystery writers and this might be a good resource for them. It satisfies on both accounts.

This isn't so scholarly that younger readers won't be able to understand it, nor is it so simple that adults will give up. For many of us, the world into which she was born is so foreign (a minimum of two servants?!) that it's difficult
Apr 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
This was a great read because I honestly knew very little of Christie herself, and have only read a handful of her books. What an amazing life, not to mention being an all time champ at passive aggressive behavior.

So you have gained a certain amount of fame for your mysteries but you find that your husband is screwing around? What better than to disappear off the face of the earth, causing an immense flurry of publicity, only to be found eleven days later hiding in plain sight pretending to be s
Oct 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having loved the movies, I have finally begun reading her books and couldn’t believe how prodigious a writer she was. I was sure there was a ghost writer somewhere. Happy to report I was wrong.

Her life was as intriguing as her books. She was certainly correct in referring to herself as a sausage machine. She churned out books so quickly.

I listened to the audio. At first I felt the narrator took away from the book. He was obviously theater trained and had that wonderful British accent. He made
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Born in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, Hack attended the Lynnewood School, and Haverford High School, on the Main Line in suburban Philadelphia. He later attended Pennsylvania State University and holds a Master’s Degree in Environmental Design.

Hack moved to Los Angeles where he was hired by TV Guide magazine as its West Coast national programming editor. By the early 80s, Hack began writing the TeleV