Friday, October 12, 2012

Forgotten Books: The Secret Adversary - Agatha Christie

When I was in junior high and high school, I read a lot of Agatha Christie's novels, mostly the Poirots and the Miss Marples. In fact, the first Christie novel I ever read was a Miss Marple, THE BODY IN THE LIBRARY, which I checked out of our junior high library when I was in the sixth grade. (This was also the year I started reading Mickey Spillane, but his books weren't in the school library.)

For Agatha Christie Week on Forgotten Books, I wanted to sample a series of hers that I'd never tried, so I read THE SECRET ADVERSARY, the first novel to feature Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, although they're not yet married in this book and Tuppence is still Prudence Cowley.

They are friends, however, when this book opens. Tommy is a young veteran who was wounded in World War I. Tuppence was a volunteer in a military hospital during the war, and that's where she met Tommy. By 1920, when this book takes place, they're both at loose ends, so they decide to join forces and become adventurers. This is sort of a hare-brained idea, of course, but by coincidence (and the manipulations of the author), they quickly become involved in an international conspiracy aimed at toppling the British government. Christie sets this up neatly with a nice prologue set on the sinking Lusitania after it's been torpedoed by the Germans in 1915.

The plot gallops along with Tommy and Tuppence being plunged into the shadowy world of international espionage and battling a Moriarty-like criminal mastermind who hides his identity behind the alias Mr. Brown. This novel is more of a thriller than a mystery, although there are certainly some mystery elements, including a murder and the true identity of Mr. Brown. Mostly, though, we've got skulking, chasing, getting hit on the head and taken prisoner, escaping, double-crosses, stunning revelations, and a lot of clever banter between Tommy and Tuppence.

Tuppence has a few moments of ditziness reminiscent of, say, Pam North from the books by Richard and Frances Lockridge, but for the most part she proves to a smart, capable investigator, as does the more stolid Tommy. Christie's writing isn't as slick and smooth here as it would be in her later books, but THE SECRET ADVERSARY is still very entertaining and well worth reading. I'm glad Agatha Christie Week prompted me to give it a try.


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

I chose this too for FFB among other things and though Tommy and Tuppence are quite the entertaining pair, together with an assortment of characters like Mr. Carter, Mr. Brown, Sir James, Mrs. Vandemeyer, Julius Hersheimmer and Jane Finn, I found the plot revolving around the international conspiracy against Britain rather weak. It read more like a YA adventure than a mystery or thriller. Christie wrote the story well, though. I haven't read a Miss Marple tale in a long time.

George said...

Even in this early Tommy and Tuppence mystery, you could tell that Agatha Christie was Something Special. As I grow older, I'm appreciating Miss Marple more and more.