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The best "Tommy and Tuppence"
on 31 October 2010
One of 5 books featuring Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, an amateur but quasi official detective duo, this is, in my opinion, by far the best. All 5 are interesting in terms of the characters themselves, who worm their way into the reader's affections, but they vary greatly in terms of quality as mystery novels. This one is well plotted with many twists and turns and is a real page turner.
I finished it today, and it's the last of the 5 in terms of the order I read them in (I read them in a random order). My ranking as far as quality is as follows: N or M?, The Secret Adversary, By The Pricking of My Thumbs, Postern of Fate, and Partners in Crime. Chronological order is as follows: The Secret Adversary, Partners in Crime, N or M?, By The Pricking of My Thumbs, Postern of Fate.
All 5 books are very different, and by no means formulaic. The differences in style may be because they were each written many years apart, spanning several decades, long enough for the author's writing style to have gone through many changes; or it may be deliberate, reflecting the main characters' own journey through life and marriage. Either way, it keeps things fresh. They are all worth reading. Perhaps the most different is the second one, Partners in Crime, which is largely episodic and reads almost like a collection of short stories, linked by a fine strand.
Returning to N or M?, I can't say too much about it without revealing the plot, but there is an added layer of interest to modern readers since it was both written and set during World War II. This is no period piece, but the genuine article, written perhaps to provide light relief during a time of great trouble but very much entrenched in the horrors of the time. It's easy at times to slip into observing "ironic" turns of phrase of the kind that have been written by authors writing today but setting their works in that time. Then we are almost immediately brought to attention almost with a sharp prod by the realisation that Agatha Christie did NOT know what was going to happen with the war, and that a successful outcome for our country was by no means assured.
Casting all of that aside, it is, quite simply, an on the edge of your seat good read. Tommy and Tuppence are in jeopardy, and although we know that all will be well because they survive to be in later books, it doesn't seem to matter, or to lessen the tension in any way.
The book begins with a bored couple whose children are doing their bit for the war effort, but who themselves are deemed past their sell by date. Needless to say, they both have other ideas and before long are both in the thick of things as spies. Buy this book and enjoy.