The story of Gone Girl - where wife Amy Dunne's sudden disappearance becomes the focus of an intense media circus - is one of the most absorbing and ingenious crime novels in recent years, captivating readers and film-goers in a Hollywood adaptation starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. But in 1926, English crime novelist Agatha Christie had disappeared in a very similar manner, sparking a nationwide hunt and international notoriety.
*Warning, spoilers ahead*
Turns out, Christie, aged 36 at the time, staged her own disappearance much like Gone Girl's Amy. The two figures have uncanny similarities: Christie had just published her sixth novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, at the time of her disappearance, while Amy is the inspiration behind the (fictional) children's book series Amazing Amy, written by her parents. Both had husbands with younger mistresses and both left mysterious clues behind when they planned their escapes.
Though Flynn cites Agatha Christie as the crime novelist she most admires, it is unknown if Gone Girl was inspired by the story of her disappearance. But we can't help but wonder by looking at the parallels below. Take a look at decide for yourself.
Gone Girl: On the morning of Amy and Nick Dunne's anniversary, Amy stages a crime scene of her own death and drives off in a car she purchased on the internet. She abandons her wallet on the banks of Mississippi River as well as planting various clues around the small fictional Missouri town, North Carthage.
Agatha Christie's disappearance: Around 9.45pm on Friday 3 December 1926, Agatha Christie drove off from her house in Berkshire and eventually abandoned her car, lights on, containing a bag of clothes and an out-of-date driving licence by an eerie natural spring known as the Silent Pool near Guildford.
The unfaithful husband
Gone Girl: On the day of Amy's disappearance, Nick is about to ask her for a divorce having fallen for a his 23-year-old student Andie whom he spent the morning of their anniversary with.
Agatha Christie: The novelist's husband told her he wanted a divorce to marry his mistress, a younger woman named Nancy Neele. On the day of her disappearance, he told her he would be spending the weekend “with friends”, which she knew meant his mistress.
Gone Girl: Despite having a fondness for him, Amy Dunne wants to teach her husband a lesson and publicly shame him through her disappearance.
Agatha Christie: Jared Cade, author of Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days, says her primary motive was: "She wanted to disrupt his weekend with Nancy Neele and make him suffer, although she still adored him. What no one could have foreseen was the press reaction. She was propelled from being an author with a reputation into one of the most famous women in England."
Gone Girl: Amy cuts and dyes her hair, puts on weight and goes by the name of Nancy (the same name of Agatha's husband's mistress) whilst hiding out at a rural motel. She keeps her cash in a money belt and her blonde roots start to show, which causes suspicions among her fellow residents.
Agatha Christie: Agatha was recognised at a spa hotel in Harrogate by a member of the hotel band, where she was living under the surname of her husband’s mistress, Neele, and used cash from a money belt.
Gone Girl: Amy left behind clues - one of which was a burnt diary describing her husband Nick as violent and aggressive - in a carefully composed treasure hunt for the police to find. She also calls the 'Find Amy Dunne' tip line in an attempt to keep the investigation moving. Like the fictional Amy,
Agatha Christie's disappearance: Agatha, too, left mysterious letters in advance of her leaving. She sent one to her brother-in-law saying she was going on holiday. Another went to the local police constable, claiming she feared for her life. One she left for her husband, which he burned before the police could read it. She also contacted the London Times alerting "relatives of Mrs. Teresa Neele" that she could be reached at the hotel.
The press attention
Gone Girl: The TV networks played a huge part in the story and investigation causing Amy's disappearance to become a national obsession.
Agatha Christie's disappearance: Christie made the front page of The New York Times and other newspapers who published daily updates asking "What Happened To Mrs. Christie?" and the Home Secretary put pressure on the police to solve the crime. More than 15,000 volunteers searched the countrysde by foot, biplanes scanned from the sky, bloodhounds searched the ground and lakes and streams were dredged in efforts to find her. Her fellow crime writers even got involved. Arthur Conan Doyle gave one of her gloves to a spiritual medium in hopes of tracking her down and Dorothy L Sayers visited the scene of the disappearance.
The successful ending
Gone Girl: Amy chose to return to husband Nick Dunne 40 days after her disappearance, telling the police she had been kidnapped. Thereafter, Amy falls pregnant and the couple remain married. Dwindling sales of the Amazing Amy books suddenly shoot up, earning Amy's parents a new book deal.
Agatha Christie's disappearance: When a member of the hotel band recognised Teresa Neele as Agatha Christie, 11 days into her disappearance, they phoned the police. News broke, and members of press descended upon the site. When one of them addressed her as "Mrs. Christie," she responded, however when husband Archie arrived, she introduced herself as Teresa Neele, a stranger. Archie officially reported it as amnesia and the couple never spoke of the disappearance again. A year later the couple divorced and Archie married Nancy Neele, while Agatha went on to marry archaeologist Max Mallowan. The episode proved to be a turning point in Christie's career, propelling her to further fame.