The Man in the Brown Suit

“Does nothing frighten you, Miss Beddingfield?”

“Oh yes,” I said, with an assumption of coolness I was far from feeling. “Wasps, sarcastic women, very young men, cockroaches, and superior shop assistants.”

Another back review. I was glad we picked up The Man in the Brown Suit at the AAUW sale because it turned out to be my October Agatha Christie.

When lovely Anne Beddingfield is orphaned she hopes for the first time in her life to have an adventure–and witnessing an accident seems to do the trick. Only Anne is convinced that the death is related to murder on the same day, so she follows a trail that includes a boat cruise to South Africa, stolen diamonds, and an unknown criminal mastermind. With no one to trust except herself, she must unravel the mystery and determine the identity of the man in the brown suit.

Anne is a bit of an odd character, and I’m still not sure whether or not I actually liked her. She has the youth and inexperience of a typical romantic suspense heroine but a startling determination and willfulness, not to mention some primitive ideas about love. The first-person narrative makes this seem more blatant. On the other hand, it also reveals a surprising wry sense of humor. Overall she seemed someone I could admire but not necessarily relate to, which probably says just as much about me as it does her.

Part of the plot centers around the Kimberly diamond mines in South Africa. Christie says outright through Anne that she makes no guarantees to capture local color; occasionally she mentions the atmosphere of the surroundings but the main focus is plot and character. Instead I relied on my memory of Phyllis Whitney’s Blue Fire, another romantic suspense built around the Kimberly mines. I did have to look up that Rhodesia as used at the time refers to the present-day countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Christie also shows off her scientific leaning at points, as Anne’s father was an anthropologist.

The unknown enemy and level of intrigue makes me suspect Christie was trying to copy her success with The Secret Adversary–youngsters falling into a grand adventure. The novel still shows her hallmark craft and plot. Just as Anne feels she can’t trust anyone, I began to analyze every interaction for hidden motives and meanings. I’m curious to try some of her other stand-alone mysteries later down the line. I think I much prefer her detectives, though, so luckily her next book, The Secret of Chimneys, is more traditional. (Actually, a book of poetry was published in between, but it seems relatively hard to find a copy so I’ll pass.)

Published in: on November 14, 2009 at 10:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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  1. […] she reminded me of until I finally recalled another Anne, the narrator of Agatha Christie’s The Man in the Brown Suit. Both have a strong sense of adventure and a lack of any overtly feminine qualities. That’s […]

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