The Case of the Missing Lady is a short story written by Agatha Christie which was first published in The Sketch in October 1924. It was the 4th of a series of stories for the Sketch under the banner "Tommy and Tuppence" which formed a loosely contiguous story arc. This story was subsequently compiled as part of the collection Partners in Crime which came out in both the U.K. and the U.S. in 1929. The stories in the story arc are resequenced in the collection. In U.K. editions, this story is chapter 7 (the 5th story). In U.S. editions, this story is chapter 9.
In Partners in Crime, the story is preceded by the chapters which make up the story Finessing the King/The Gentleman Dressed in Newspaper and followed by Blindman's Buff.
A famous explorer asks Tommy and Tuppence to find his fiancee who has gone missing.
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
The International Detective Agency receives a visit from Gabriel Stavansson, the famous explorer, who has just returned from a two year expedition to the North Pole. Tommy and Tuppence impress him with their initial display of observational and deductive powers (whilst in reality using their common sense and a judicious read of the Daily Mirror earlier that day) and he entrusts his case to them.
Stavansson explains that before he went on the expedition, he became engaged to the Honourable Mrs. Hermione Leigh Gordon, whose previous husband was killed in World War I. Upon his return to England, a fortnight sooner than expected, his first thought was to rush to London and see his fiancé who had been staying with her Aunt, Lady Susan Clonray, in Pont Street. However, Lady Susan was surprised to see him and proved evasive about her niece's whereabouts, saying that she was moving between friends in the north of the country. Stavansson and Lady Susan had never really got on well, partially due to his dislike of fat women (of which Lady Susan is one example) and partially due to his perception that she disapproved of the engagement. Nevertheless he insisted on the names and address of the various people that Hermione was supposed to be staying with and traveled north to see them – finding not one of them had had recent contact with his fiancée.
Lady Susan seemed genuinely upset when told this news but a telegram arrived as she and Stavansson were talking, purportedly from Hermione and addressed from Maldon saying she was going to Monte Carlo. Stavansson travelled to Maldon but was, once again, unable to find any trace of Hermione, prompting his visit to Blunt's International Detective Agency.
Taking up the case, Tommy and Tuppence travel to Maldon themselves and draw a similar blank on the whereabouts of the missing woman. It is then that Tuppence realizes that there are two Maldons – one in Surrey which they have been investigating and another small place of the same name in Sussex. They travel there and find out that there is an isolated private nursing home near the village. Investigating this lead, Tuppence inquires at the nursing home and is told they do not have a patient named Mrs. Leigh Gordan. Next Tommy poses as a journalist seeking an interview with Dr. Horriston, but he too is unable to gain access to the house. Next the sleuths overhear a conversation which fuels their suspicions further, so Tommy leaves Tuppence to keep watch while he goes to make some phone calls in the village. Upon his return he informs Tuppence that he'd found out that Dr. Horriston has a reputation as "a most unscrupulous quack..."
After dark, the two return to the house to further their investigation. Tuppence ascends a ladder to a second floor window, where she sees a woman strapped to the bed and writhing in pain. She recognizes the woman as Mrs. Leigh Gordan from the photograph provided by Stavansson. While Tuppence is watching, a nurse enters the room and injects the woman with an unknown substance. Tuppence informs Tommy of what she has seen and then ascends the ladder again, leaving him to keep a look out while she tries to free the woman. A few moments pass and Tommy is startled by a hand upon his shoulder, but it is Tuppence, having left by the front door of the house. She informs Tommy that the case is solved. Hermione Leigh Gordan is at the nursing home of her own free-will. Having put on weight during the 2 years Stavansson was at the North Pole, she had gone to Dr. Horriston for a high-priced (and strictly confidential) weight loss treatment. The only problem was that Stavansson had returned early, just at the time she had started the treatments.
Feeling somewhat foolish, the young detectives leave quickly, with Tommy commenting that there is no need to place the case in their records as, "It has absolutely no distinctive features."
- Tommy Beresford
- Tuppence Beresford
- Gabriel Stavansson
- The Honourable Mrs. Hermione Leigh Gordon
- Lady Susan Clonray
- Dr Horriston
- Dr Brady
- Albert Batt
Parody of a fictional detective
References or Allusions
References to actual history, geography and current science
Tommy refers to a concert at the Queen's Hall that he and Tuppence should attend. This hall, built in 1893 was destroyed in an air raid in World War II. It is most famous for being the first home of the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts.
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
1950 Nash Airflyte Theater adaptation
An TV adaptation was made by CBS as part of the Nash Airflyte anthology series and broadcast on 7 December 1950.
Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime
- 1924: The Sketch, Issue 1655, Illustrated London News Company (London), 15 October 1924.
- 1928: Hutchinson's Adventure & Mystery Story Magazine, vol. 2 no. 8, Hutchison (London), May 1928.
- 1929: Partners in Crime, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1929, Hardcover, 277 pp
- 1929: Partners in Crime, William Collins and Sons (London), September 16, 1929, Hardcover, 256 pp
- 1943: Triple Threat, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1943, omnibus comprising Poirot Investigates, The Mysterious Mr. Quin and Partners in Crime), Hardcover.
- 1973: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, vol. 62 no. 3, whole no. 358, September 1973.