The Secret Adversary, by Agatha Christie
We had some severe weather in the DC area yesterday, and a thunderstorm just makes reading a mystery novel that much more fun. I was on the edge of my seat most of the evening as I finished The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie. This is the earliest novel to feature Tommy and Tuppence. For some reason, these recurring characters are less well-known than Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. I’m really not sure why. Personally, I think they should get some more recognition.
Tommy and Tuppence are two young friends having trouble finding work after the war (this would be WWI). They decide to form “The Young Adventurers, Ltd” and advertise in the newspaper for work. Tuppence is offered a job impersonating another young woman. Some background research reveals that this young woman disappeared under mysterious circumstances while carrying crucial intelligence documents, and soon Tuppence and Tommy are attempting to help the British Secret Service and an American millionaire find the missing girl and recover the lost documents.
Tuppence is confident, intuitive, and impulsive. Tommy is calm and thoughtful. The two of them together make an excellent detective team, and the dialogue Christie wrote for the two of them helps to give their books a lighter, faster pace. The juxtaposition of the two very different characters also seems to speed up the pace. Tuppence tends to jump right into situations, which by a series of coincidences and good luck provides the team with a lot of clues. Tommy doesn’t move as quickly, but he is good at combining those clues into a well-thought-out plan or conclusion. The character dynamic works very well.
This novel is characteristic of Agatha Christie’s other work in that it contains a lot of plot twists and a surprising ending. I will say (just to brag) that I did suspect the villain early in the novel. Of course, then I got thrown off by a red herring and suspected the wrong person for the rest of the book. The novel is told from the perspective of several characters, which leads to quick changes of scene because the characters travel to a number of locations, together and separately, during the novel. The premise is a good one, and although the first two chapters contain some fairly large coincidences, the rest of the plot unfolds very logically. If you’re the type of reader that is trying to figure out the ending ahead of the detectives, you do technically have all the clues you need. Let me know if you have better luck than I did!
I would recommend this book to any fan of Agatha Christie. If you’re not familiar with Tommy and Tuppence, this is the one to start with. I would also recommend it to anyone that enjoys The Thin Man movies; the witty dialogue will make Tommy and Tuppence remind you of a British Nick and Nora. Finally, if you are looking for a good mystery to read during these end-of-summer thunderstorms, this one is a great choice! I give it five stars, because it was just about impossible to put down.