The Secret Adversary

“Two young adventurers for hire. Willing to do anything,  go anywhere. Pay must be good. No unreasonable offer refused.”

When Tommy Beresford and Tuppence Cowley draft a newspaper ad in Agatha Christie’s The Secret Adversary, they have little idea of the challenges that await them. Five years ago during WWI an American girl named Jane Finn disappeared carrying government papers that are now of vital importance to the British government. In addition, it is believed that she has fallen into the hands of an enemy group seeking the papers and led by the mysterious Mr. Brown. He is so nondescript that almost no one knows his identity, including his own associates. In this complex affair of bluffs Tommy and Tuppence must try to succeed by wits and sheer determination where so many others have failed.

I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery, and though it’s another of the few I read years ago I remembered only the premise. So much for my earlier argument of needing to “save” the classics for old age! She had me switching my suspicions back and forth, and each time the solution seemed plausible until she pointed out another detail that made me gasp in admiration.

I think one of my favorite things is that Tommy and Tuppence are two equal sleuths, as opposed to the standard Holmes/Watson setup. In addition, they do their detecting separately, which has two effects. First, the reader at any given moment knows more overall than each of them individually, which creates suspense and gives more of a fighting chance at puzzling it out. Second, they bring different sets of skills to the table so that one of them is generally more suiting to specific situations than the other. Tuppence gets by mainly on a combination of impetuosity and instinct while Tommy is more deliberate and sorts through facts in his head until they work out satisfactorily.

I think my only complaint agaist this plot is that an early coincidence hinges on the “unusual” nature of the name Jane Finn, which causes those involved to remember it. I find it a perfectly ordinary name, but I suppose it was selected to be distinctly Midwestern American. Perhaps it is only unusual if your own name happens to be Prudence Cowley!

This book is on the Guardian list of 1000 novels, which suprised me because only three are included and this is not one of her best known, I think. Next up in my monthy Agatha Christie quest is Murder on the Links, the second Hercule Poirot mystery.

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Published in: on July 20, 2009 at 11:55 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] The Secret Adversary, by Agatha Christie: Hard to pick just one, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Tommy and Tuppence. […]

  2. […] The Secret Adversary, by Agatha Christie […]


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