Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days
started to go wrong. The Imperial and Foreign Corporation had not kept Archie’s position open, and he found himself unemployed and unable to get a job. The couple had known before they started on the tour that it was highly likely that this might happen, but they had never believed in playing safe and had been determined to see the world and risk the consequences.
    May 1923 saw the publication of The Murder on the Links , a new Poirot tale about a millionaire found stabbed on a golf course in France. Before the book’s publication Agatha won a major row with her publisher, resulting in some ill feeling, over the proposed book jacket, which was to have featured a misleading illustration. Despite their continued financial hardship and Archie’s dark moods Agatha was convinced he would eventually find the right job since he was fiercely ambitious and had a drive she had always admired.
    A minor boost to their finances came in the second week of May when she won a small prize by correctly identifying the killer of Hugh Bowden in the seven-week-long newspaper serial The Mystery of Norman’s Court . Had hers been the first correct entry received by the Daily Sketch the first prize of £1,300 would have resolved their financial difficulties, but it was not, and the second prize of £800 was divided among twelve runners-up, of whom Agatha was just one.
    Shortly before the British Empire tour, after many years’ absence, her elder brother Monty had returned to England. In her autobiography Agatha does not reveal the secret shame concerning her brother and the reason her mother found it so difficult to cope with his erratic behaviour. In fact, Monty had become a drug addict. He had been expelled from Harrow because of his failure to apply himself to his studies and then served in the army in South Africa and India. He quickly squandered the legacy left to him by his paternal grandfather, Nathaniel Miller, and seems to have resigned his commission when his debts became too embarrassing. He moved to Kenya and took up farming and safari-hunting. His elder sister Madge – with money provided by her husband Jimmy – eventually financed Monty’s ill-fated plans to run small cargo boats on Lake Victoria in East Africa, but this venture had to be aborted on the outbreak of war in 1914. Monty served in the King’s African Rifles until he was discharged with a wound to his arm. The wound became infected and, although he resumed hunting, his health deteriorated. Finally, his doctors gave him six months to live because of the infected limb. Remarkably, however, he began to recover on his return to Ashfield. Like many charming people Monty was often economical with the truth, and it is not clear whether he became addicted to the morphine that would have been prescribed to relieve the pain of his injury or whether he became a habitual drug user for other reasons.
    The worst of Monty’s behaviour saw him firing pistol shots out of a window at visitors and tradesmen who called at Ashfield. His intention was not to hit or maim but to scare the wits out of his hapless victims. Madge was absolutely terrified when her brother turned his cruel game on her. Incredibly, Monty bluffed his way out of the situation to the police by insisting he was a crack shot and that there had been no real danger to his victims. The stress of dealing with her son’s irresponsible behaviour put further strain on Clarissa’s fragile health.
    Agatha swiftly united with Madge to avert further scandal and distress to their mother. Their rather drastic solution involved installing Monty temporarily in a bungalow at Throwleigh on Dartmoor, where he was looked after by a doctor’s widow. Nan’s daughter and son-in-law, Judith and Graham Gardner, recall that Madge’s much put-upon husband, Jimmy – who disliked Monty as much as Monty disliked him – paid his bills for the rest of his life.
    Meanwhile, the strain of living with an unemployed husband became so great

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