Jared Cade was born in 1962 and lives in London. A life-long fan of Agatha Christie, in 1993 he appeared on The 64,000 Dollar Question, correctly answering all questions on his specialist subject of Agatha Christie’s novels and winning what was then British television’s biggest cash prize of £6,400.
While researching his biography about Agatha Christie’s life he located several short stories she had written in the 1920s: ‘While the Light Lasts’, ‘Within a Wall’, ‘The House of Dreams’, ‘The Lonely God’ and ‘The Edge’. These stories had escaped detection by scholars for decades. In 1997 they were published for the first time in the collection While the Light Lasts. During this period Jared Cade traced copies of two missing and unpublished Agatha Christie plays: Chimneys and A Daughter’s a Daughter. Both plays have since been performed in Great Britain. He also acted as a research consultant in 1997 for the BBC documentary series Mysteries with Carol Vorderman which featured a segment on the writer’s disappearance.
Jared Cade was drawn to the subject of Agatha Christie’s disappearance because initially it appeared to be the one time in her cosy, genteel life when she faced considerable adversity. What lessons had she learned about herself? Eleven days after she went missing from her home in southern England she was identified in a luxurious hotel in a northern spa town reading newspaper accounts of the search for herself. Her husband, Colonel Archibald Christie, asked the police at the time to believe his wife was suffering from amnesia when she registered under the surname of his mistress, Nancy Neele.
It was a bizarre episode made more curious by the fact that Agatha Christie had not mentioned it in her autobiography. Just what exactly did she do in the first twenty-four hours after she disappeared and how did she reach the Harrogate Hydro after abandoning her car over two hundred miles away?
Jared Cade soon found that claims by all previous biographers and commentators that Agatha Christie never spoke of her disappearance during her lifetime were in error. He located her explanation of the episode in the obituary box on her life in the archives of the British library. In it was her extraordinary account of her eleven-day ordeal that had gone undisturbed for over seventy years.
Next Jared Cade obtained a driver and a vintage Morris Cowley car and restaged her journey from her home in Berkshire to Newlands Corner in Surrey, where her car was found abandoned, only to find that her journey could not possibly have occurred under the circumstances described by herself and latter-day theorists.
He diligently traced witnesses who were alive at the time of the disappearance, including family, police and civilians who had searched for her; he also spoke to her friends and other people who had come into contact with her, both professionally and personally, during her long and eventful life.
Jared Cade’s big break-through came when Air Commodore Dame Felicity Peake, founding director of the United Kingdom’s Women’s Royal Air Force, put him in touch with Judith and Graham Gardner, the daughter and son-in-law of Nan Watts. Nan’s brother Jimmy was married to Agatha Christie’s sister Madge, and following the couple’s wedding in 1902 Agatha and Nan became life-long friends. Judith was raised along-side Agatha’s daughter Rosalind and has known the crime writer’s family intimately all her life. Moreover, Judith’s uncle Humphrey Watts (Nan’s brother) was the father of Dame Felicity Peake.
There was no attempt at subterfuge when Jared Cade met Judith and Graham Gardner. They readily welcomed him into their home and gave him access to their memories, private family papers, and photograph albums, revealing the hitherto undisclosed secrets of Agatha Christie’s extraordinary life.
Agatha was devoted to Nan’s side of the family all her life; indeed, Nan’s ancestral home, Abney Hall, in Cheshire featured many times in Agatha’s murder mysteries, lightly disguised with a name change. The Secret of Chimneys (1925) was dedicated to Agatha’s and Nan’s nephew Jack Watts; Agatha’s sister Madge, who was married to Nan’s brother Jimmy, was the dedicatee of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926); The ABC Murders (1936), Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (1938) and After the Funeral (1953) were all dedicated to Nan’s brother Jimmy (Agatha’s brother-in-law); The Body in the Library (1942) was dedicated to Nan; and in her foreword to The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding (1960) Agatha paid tribute to Nan’s mother and Judith’s grandmother, Anne Watts, who had always made Christmas such a special day for her and the rest of the family.
According to Judith Gardner, ‘When Jared Cade came to see us he was so well briefed on all of our family history we were astonished. He had been to Abney Hall and knew so much detail of our family. It was then that I decided with my husband Graham that I would break my silence about the disappearance and put the matter into perspective once and for all so that the mystery would be cleared up for her fans.’
Before the publication of Jared Cade’s biography, Judith and Graham Gardner read and liked it so much that they offered to publicly endorse it. ‘He gained our trust completely,’ says Judith Gardner. ‘He was so professional we told him everything about Agatha’s life and the disappearance. There was never a time when we wondered if we should because our mutual respect for him was so strong.’ Other members of Judith’s family have also been wonderfully helpful in contributing to Jared Cade’s research and supplying family photographs for inclusion in his book.
Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days was first published in 1998 by Peter Owen Ltd and still holds the distinction of being the only biography to be officially endorsed by relatives from her brother-in-law’s side of the family. Jared Cade’s biography became the basis of a documentary for the BBC in 2002 featuring interviews with some of Agatha Christie’s surviving relatives. The revised edition was released in 2011.