on 1 April 2001
This is the best Christie I have ever read! It is different to her usual whodunnits and yet is just as thrilling. Tommy and Tuppence, the two main characters, have been friends since childhood. In a tea room they sit and discuss the difficulties of finding work after the war and decide to start up their own adventure company, a kind of detective agency. This opens up a spiralling story of mystery and suspense. The opening prologue works really well in setting the scene. A sinking ship and a man handing over important documents to be delivered, to the appropriate people in London. This reminded me of films such as the "The Thirty Nine steps" and "The Lady Vanishes". Indeed the book has a very similar style to these films, which I enjoyed as it had a certain charm. The characters are very likeable and again owe something to the earlier mentioned films. Margaret Lockwood would make a good Tuppence and Robert Donat a perfect Tommy. Mr Brown is the illusive villain of the book, which adds another important element to the style of the story. This story was I believe, the second one Mrs Christie published, after a Poirot yarn. It seems a shame Tommy and Tuppence did not become as popular as Poirot or Marple. Tommy and Tuppence have to track down Jane Finn, a name they overheard in a tea room, that later surfaces again in a very different light. Agatha Christie once overheard a person talking in a tea room about someone called Jane Fish and she thought it would be good to use the idea of a strange name being overheard and later being used again in a different context - changing it to Finn as Fish sounded silly! The details of London in this book make it a particular delight to read. From the Lyons Tea shop to the now closed Dover street tube station, make the reader feel part of that time. I would recommend this book to all Christie fans and those more familiar with her sleuths, as these characters will be a welcome surprise.
Although I read a great number of Agatha Christie books as a child, I never came across any from her "Tommy & Tuppence" series on my mother's bookshelves. So I thought that it might be fun to try the first of them to see what Christie's "other" series was like. And this first in the T&T series is like is a strange mix of John Buchan and P.G. Wodehouse -- it's an espionage story, but often reads like a parody of one. The title's play on the Joseph Conrad novel hints at a certain tongue in cheekiness, as does the use of every possible spy adventure cliché.
The story opens with a prologue aboard the sinking Lusitania in 1915, as a mysterious man entrusts a secret diplomatic packet to an American teenage girl. We then leap forward to 1919, where we meet Tommy and Tuppence, a pair of lovely young adults who are somewhat adrift and broke following their wartime experiences. Running into each other in London, the childhood friends cook up a scheme to advertise themselves as "Young Adventurers" for hire. Thanks to a wildly improbable coincidence (a snatch of overheard conversation), they find themselves in the midst of a plot to destroy England.
It seems that some secret mastermind has managed to unite all of England's enemies (Bolshevik Russians, defeated Germany, Irish Republicans, and the English working class) in common cause. All they need to do is provoke a general strike that will topple the government and unleash anarchy (exactly how or why this is the case is left murky) -- and the packet entrusted to the girl on the Lusitania is the key. Apparently it contains some kind of draft treaty whose contents are so explosive that public revelation would throw England into just the desired state of unrest (again, just how this old treaty would do that, or who the signatories are are left to the reader's imagination).
In any event, Tommy and Tuppence take on these plotters on behalf of the British government (who presumably would have more qualified people for the job), and there's much tailing, eavesdropping, impersonation, and general thrills and chills as first Tommy, and then Tuppence are captured. Naturally, neither hero nor heroine are simply killed by their captors, as that would make too much sense. Amidst all this toing and froing, they come into contact with a cast of colorful characters including an energetic young American millionaire, a crafty lawyer, a sinister society lady, a spunky kid helper, and Inspector Japp from the Poirot series. Since the reader knows full well that the plot will be foiled, the real mystery is the identity of the unknown mastermind, Mr. Brown. Alas, careful readers will realize less than halfway through, that barring some kind of "locked room" shenanigans, the identity of Mr. Brown must be one of two people.
So it's rather an odd book, perhaps best read as parody, but enjoyable as an old-fashioned ripping yarn with two engaging leads -- who naturally fall in love. Definitely left me curious to read further adventures of Tommy and Tuppence.
It was a real treat to come across this Kindle edition of the first Tommy & Tuppence adventure. They're so young in this story -- "Their united ages certainly would not have totaled forty-five." But their experiences in World War I had made them more mature than average twenty-two year olds.
I've read a lot of Agatha Christie's works, most of it back when I was about twelve or thirteen. For a summer when Nancy Drew suddenly seemed too childish, but I wasn't ready for adult books yet, Agatha Christie came to the rescue. At a rate of nearly a book a day, I went through all the Agatha Christie the public library and used bookstores had to offer. I liked the Miss Marple stories, maybe because Marple stayed in the background for the most part. Hercule Poirot seemed silly and cartoonish to me even then. I loved Tommy and Tuppence, but there weren't many stories that featured them.
The Secret Adversary is a spy story rather than a murder mystery. It's not bad, twisting back and forth, but I particularly enjoyed the glimpse at the young Tommy and Tuppence, before they were a couple, and for the authentic descriptions of post World War I London. I thought I knew Central London fairly well, but I was stumped when Tuppence left the Dover Street Tube Station and walked toward Piccadilly. I found out that used to be the name of what is now the Green Park Station.
One thing that stands out is how independent Tuppence is. She seems to have little trouble finding work (even as Tommy is having a hard time finding a job even a year after the War) and even turns down a proposal from a rich American, much to her own surprise.
on 31 August 2002
Having startd their "Young Adventurers" agency, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford soon find themselves thrust into the world of international espionage. With only the name of a girl as possible a clue, the young adventurers meet with more danger than they bargained for, especially when it becomes clear that someone in their confidence may be working against them.... This is certainly one of the best Christie books, with plenty of twists and turns along the way. A very ingenious plot!
Tommy and Tuppence are two delightful characters but I found this book didn't hold my attention at all. It is basically a spy story rather than a crime novel in which Tommy and Tuppence are employed to try and track down some important papers which were handed over to a girl called Jane Finn just before the Lusitania sank.
I found the first few chapters amusing but felt the rest of the book was not nearly as good. There are all the standard ingredients - people who seem to know more than they are telling and secret agents following people around and despatching them when necessary not to speak of the sinister looking foreign characters with strange scars and short hair cuts.
I'm sure the book is very much of its time but if it hadn't been for the resourcefulness and unfailing cheerfulness of the two main characters I probably wouldn't have persevered to the end. Others may like it but I'm afraid it wasn't my sort of book.
The Secret Adversary was published in 1922. The book introduces the characters of Tommy and Tuppence who feature in three other Christie novels and one collection of short stories; the five Tommy and Tuppence books span the whole of Agatha Christie's writing career.
The book begins aboard the sinking Lusitania in 1915 with a mysterious man who gives important papers to a young American woman, thinking that she is more likely to be saved from death. Then the plot moves to 1919, when Tommy Beresford meets Prudence "Tuppence" Cowley. He is a demobbed soldier and both of them are out of work and broke. They decide to advertise themselves as "The Young Adventurers, Ltd" and say "no unreasonable offer refused." Mr Whittington, a stranger, overhears this and offers Tuppence some work. He gives her money and then disappears without a trace. They advertise for information regarding Jane Finn, since that's the alias Tuppence chose and Mr Whittingham reacted strangely to it. There are two replies. They meet Mr Carter, an ex-intelligence officer, who tells them that Jane Finn was the American to whom papers relating to a secret treaty were entrusted. She did survive, but has disappeared. Tommy and Tuppence agree to work for Carter and he warns them that their most dangerous enemy will be the mysterious Mr Brown. American Julius Hersheimmer also contacts them. He is looking for Jane Finn, who is his cousin. The three join forces to find her...
This is an early Christie. Her strengths are already much in evidence - her immense ingenuity in constructing a plot with many twists and turns, her clever observation of human nature, her creating of memorable characters, the good pace of her stories that does not allow interest to flag. She isn't a great writer, in terms of language and style; her prose is adequate and she tells a very good story. She was at her best writing country house murders among her own (upper) class, when she shows a shrewd understanding of people and their motives.
Tommy and Tuppence are two appealing, charming characters and it is beguiling to follow the progress of their love-affair. However, though I really do enjoy the Tommy and Tuppence stories, I think her plots involving espionage are more than a bit unlikely and seem somewhat naïve by today's standards. That's why I haven't given this book 5 stars. Nevertheless, this book is fast moving, lively and youthful and we have a lot of fun as we follow the amateur sleuths and their adventures.
on 8 October 2012
I'd never heard of the Tommy and Tuppence by Agatha Christie and was eager to read it, especially as this is available for free via Project Gutenberg for those who own a Kindle.
The story follows two excitable and eager friends who set up an "adventurers agency" and are subsequently recruited for a secret government mission regarding a signed treaty that certain revolutionaries (also known as Communists) are seeking in order to instigate a mass revolt against the powers that be.
It's a typically intricate yarn from Christie that you cannot fail to be enveloped in. There is something irresistably charming about reading thrillers not only set in decades gone by, but also written in that period as they have accuracy and believability that you cannot fake. From the language to the behaviours to the setting and even the theme of the story itself, Christie manages to impart the atmosphere of the time.
Tommy and Tuppence took me a while to warm towards however towards the middle of the novel, they really came alive and their personalities began to flourish. At the start, perhaps intentionally, they come across as rather spoilt and dare I say...annoying. However, they soon begin to become three dimensional protagonists that you can relate to; certainly their endeavours (and their words!) raised a smile.
The other characters are engaging, warm and very real despite the situation and I was genuinely interested in the finale.
The plot line itself is political which is different to the other works of Christie that I have read which are more concerned with small town life and upper class privilege and the inevitable secrets that lie below it. It made a nice contrast to the type of novel I expected and it shows Christie's talent for writing interesting and believable plots, whatever the subject is. At times, it did get slightly flat but it soon perked up after a few pages.
The writing is fantastic as always from Ms Christie and it shows why she continues to be held in such high esteem in the world of crime fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed this detective caper and would certainly recommend to anyone interested in the history of crime fiction and the roots of where modern crime novels began.
on 15 January 2011
I came to Agatha Christie's second novel, "The Secret Adversary," as a huge fan of her Poirot and Miss Marple series but without any knowledge at all of Tommy and Tuppence. I had heard of the 1980s TV series, "Partners in Crime," but had never seen it, and came to this novel with no expectations.
As such, I found myself utterly engrossed by the story. It shares similarities with Poirot and Marple in the sense that the pace is quick, the plotting of the crimes are sophisticated, and many of the London settings are lavish. But rather than a murder mystery/detective story, "The Secret Adversary" leans closer to the spy thriller genre but with an unmistakable Agatha Christie twist. I didn't read it as a parody, highlighting how well it works on its own merit. One might argue that a lot of the plot twists are based purely on coincidence, but I was pleasingly kept guessing until the end.
Tommy and Tuppence as characters are thoroughly likeable, and I found the dialogue in this novel sparkier than in some other Christies. It's alternately funny, silly, sinister, and exciting, and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. For Poirot and Marple fans who have not delved into the world of Tommy and Tuppence, I'd definitely recommend it - reading it after a Poirot, for instance, it feels enticingly fresh and entertaining. After its publication in 1922, Christie was encouraged to return to her Poirot detective stories, but she revisited Tommy and Tuppence sporadically and I look forward to reading those subsequent instalments.
In this first outing for Tommy and Tuppence, both bored and broke after the excitement of the first world war, they form an association for adventure and are soon on a secret trail...
This is very of its time, with a master criminal to be unmasked, Bolsheviks called Boris trying to spark a revolution in Britain, and various other anarchists determined to undermine life as we know it.
Tommy and Tuppence are young and charming in this book, if rather innocent. Don't read this if you're expecting a hard-hitting, gritty thriller as this book is far gentler than that. In typical Christie style, however, she does manage one of her wonderful sleight of hand tricks.
I loved this book for its sunny outlook and feel-good atmosphere - it might not be quite as clever as Christie's detective mysteries but it's still entertaining, witty and fun.
on 3 October 2011
The "The Secret Adversary" by Agatha Christie has some shortcomings:
(1) The story is very naive, in real live Tommy would have been dead after the first half and Tuppence at the end of the book.
(2) The dialogues between the two protagonists are very old fashioned.
But, once you have consented to these shortcommings it is worth while reading on:
(A) The story is very exciting. I could not sleep at night because I wanted to know how the story went on. I read wherever I could, in the cantine, in the bus, in the waiting queue of a shop, on the loo, etc.
(B) The dramatic fluency of the plot is perfect. Every chapter has its own meaning and all clues fit at the end of the book.
(C) Finally, I was deeply fascinated by the solution. And, moreover, I learned how the name Tuppence was pronounced :-)