Agatha Christie is tasked, by letter, to what was then called Persia, now Baghdad, to investigate the death of Gertrude Bell. Her death was determined to be suicide. Gertrude was an English writer, traveler, political officer, administrator, and archaeologist. She played a major role in establishing and helping administer the modern state of Iraq, a very well respected woman in the Middle East. Gertrude felt that she was being followed and her life in danger so whether she committed suicide or was murdered has never been determined.
She was also in competition with another archeologist, Mrs. Woolley. Katharine who had an official position as an illustrator for the excavation at Ur. Katherine's first husband committed suicide, many speculate it was because Katherine suffered from Complete androgen insensitivity syndrome, which meant that she could not have children.
In Death in a Desert has Agatha trying to figure out why Gertrude died finds herself in a totally separate murder mystery. Agatha befriends Mrs.Wooley and while Mrs.Wooley is brilliant and temperamental Agatha is still able to have empathy for her. A young girl gets into an argument with Mrs.Wooley and ends up dead. Mrs. Wooley is leaning over the body of the young women and of course, Mrs. Wooley becomes a suspect and is locked into her room. When the investigators are able to get there, they find that there is a young man who says he killed Sarah Archer.
Both suspects are kept locked in their rooms until the police can figure out who the true killer is. Agatha visits her in her room and begins to suspect Katherine's behavior to not be normal. Could she have been poisoned? There are substances that could be taken that would change a person's personality and that would explain a lot of things
There are a lot of well-fleshed characters that make this story very believable. I did not know until the end of the book, that this novel was based on the real lives of Gertrude Bell and Mrs.Wooley and her husband Leonard, and that the murder mystery was interwoven with the real events of these people. This is the first book I have read in this series and I think that I will go back and start from the beginning! A worthwhile read, a clean mystery but still a suspenseful who dun it. I really enjoyed the book and read it in a few sittings!