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Instead of investigating “Who did it,” the new docuseries Agatha Christie: Lucy Worsley on the Mystery Queen delves into the question of, “Who was she?”

Agatha Christie: Lucy Worsley on the Mystery Queen
Agatha Christie: Lucy Worsley on the Mystery Queen — Photo credit: Lorian Reed-Drake

Popular British historian Lucy Worsley, the Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces in the UK, the author of numerous historical publications (Jane Austen at Home: A Biography, Queen Victoria: Twenty-Four Days That Changed Her Life), and the host of several popular PBS specials and series (12 Days of Tudor Christmas, Lucy Worsley’s Royal Myths and Secrets), returns to stateside telly with her latest program: Agatha Christie: Lucy Worsley on the Mystery Queen.

Agatha Christie, a seemingly conventional British matron who wrote ever so convincingly about the dark art of murder, remains the most successful novelist of all time, outsold only by Shakespeare and the Bible. In 75 novels, plays, and countless short stories, she defined the detective genre. But the real woman behind the literary persona has long remained an enigma.

In this new three-part docuseries, Lucy Worsley, who recently published the acclaimed biography, Agatha Christie: An Elusive Woman, turns her powers of investigation to the mysterious figure of Agatha Christie, uncovering the story of one of the most famous, complex, and misunderstood women of the 20th century. As in the best of Christie’s novels, clues are hiding in plain sight, and Lucy uncovers surprising new evidence and some carefully concealed secrets that illuminate the life of a writer whose work continues to delight readers worldwide.

Lucy explores how the arc of Christie’s life follows the dynamic history of the 20th century, during which Christie witnessed the extraordinary upheaval of two World Wars as well as revolutions in scientific understanding and enormous social change — where attitudes toward everything from class and gender, to race, science, technology, psychology, and politics were challenged. Touched by these changes in very personal ways, Christie plowed all of it into her books.

In each episode, Lucy gets to the heart of Christie’s personal experiences — her family, marriages, influences, and inspirations, as well as her sorrows and struggles. She traces the novelist’s footsteps, from the beautiful countryside of the Devon coast, to the landscapes of Istanbul and Egypt, and analyzes the many hints of her life that the novelist planted in her works.

Agatha Christie: Lucy Worsley on the Mystery Queen premieres in the US on Sunday, December 3, at 8 PM ET, on PBS (check your local listings), PBS.org, and the PBS app. New episodes drop on Sundays through December 17.

Episode 1: “Cat Among the Pigeons” (Sunday, December 3)

In the series opener, Lucy Worsley investigates the complex factors that shaped the dark imagination of refined Devonshire lady Agatha Christie, discovering family secrets and a childhood haunted by a sinister figure. Focusing on the first third of Christie’s life, Worsley unearths the surprising roots of the author’s most compelling themes, the inspiration for some of her greatest creations, and the secrets that the enigmatic Christie kept carefully hidden from public view. Worsley’s investigation follows the trail of pivotal moments in Christie’s life, as well as the nation’s, to weave a picture of a woman who was both of her time and thoroughly ahead of it. The episode also explores how, far from being cozy whodunits, Christie’s early books tap into and capture the social upheavals of one of the most tumultuous periods of the 20th century.

Episode 2: “Destination Unknown” (Sunday, December 10)

On the evening of December 3, 1926, Agatha Christie left her home. The next morning, her car was found abandoned, balanced precariously on the edge of a quarry. Christie’s coat, suitcase, and driver’s license were all inside, but the author herself was gone. What followed was the most extensive manhunt yet seen in Britain. Was this a publicity stunt? A hoax? Or was she the victim of foul play? Ten days later, Christie was discovered in a hotel in Harrogate, claiming to have lost her memory. In this episode, Lucy digs into the mystery, visiting the site where the author crashed her car and Abney Hall, the grand house where she took refuge. Lucy reveals connections between Christie’s real-life experience and her novels and uncovers new evidence on her mental health and the cutting-edge psychiatric treatment she went on to receive.

In the late 1920s, Christie experienced betrayal, bereavement, divorce, and writer’s block, but she also journeyed to Iraq, an experience that would boost her confidence and begin her reinvention and recovery. In this period, the author created perhaps her most famous character: the tenacious elderly sleuth, Miss Marple. Lucy uncovers the factors that shaped this beloved protagonist and discusses the mystery writer’s subversive brilliance with modern authors, including Jean Kwok, Kate Mosse, and Ruth Ware.

Episode 3: “Unfinished Portrait” (Sunday, December 17)

In the final episode, Lucy examines Christie’s later life and discovers how, amid the turbulent social and political change of the 1930s and 1940s, newfound personal happiness ushered in a golden age for her writing. In 1930, recovering from a personal crisis, Christie traveled to the Middle East. On an archaeological dig in Iraq, she met Max Mallowan, and, despite an age difference of 14 years, they fell in love and married. Soon, Christie entered into the most prolific and successful chapter of her career. Lucy follows in the novelist’s footsteps to discover the roots of some of her classics, from the luxurious Egyptian steamship that inspired Death on the Nile, to Burgh Island, the inspiration for her most successful but most controversial mystery, And Then There Were None.

Lucy observes how Christie achieved global celebrity in her later life but remained the anonymous observer hiding in plain sight. She uncovers the surprising true-crime story that inspired the author to write The Mousetrap, the longest-running play in history. And she discovers how the novelist finally embraced the lure of Hollywood in old age, securing a legacy for her stories for future generations.

A production of BBC Studios’ The Documentary Unit for BBC Two and PBS, Agatha Christie: Lucy Worsley on the Mystery Queen is executive produced by Alexander Leith and Kirsty Cunningham. Bill Gardner is Executive in Charge for PBS. The Commissioning Editor for the BBC is Mark Bell.


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