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review 2018-07-04 22:13
The Secret Adversary / Agatha Christie
The Secret Adversary - Agatha Christie

After WW1, childhood pals Tommy Beresford and "Tuppence" Prudence Cowley, lack money and prospects, become adventurers for the British Government. Rich American Julius P. Hersheimmer, powerful Mr Whittington, and an evil mastermind's conspiracy all seek Jane Finn, given papers vital to peace by an agent at the sinking of the Luisitania. Kidnaps, escapes.

 

***2018 Summer of Spies***

I had great fun reading this, the second of Dame Agatha’s books to be published. It is refreshing for its lack of a plot formula, like those developed during her career and well established by books like Hallowe'en Party. It is also unusual in its featuring of a couple in the starring roles, Tommy & Tuppence. Plus it incorporates a relatively recent event, the sinking of the Luisitania (1915), The Secret Adversary being published in 1922. I was really struck, however, by the plight of the young people after WWI :

"Rot!" said Tommy hastily. "Well, that's my position. I'm just about desperate."

"So am I! I've hung out as long as I could. I've touted round. I've answered advertisements. I've tried every mortal blessed thing. I've screwed and saved and pinched! But it's no good. I shall have to go home!"

Maybe because I live in a town where the economy has been dominated by the (now slumping) petroleum trade for decades and I have also been perusing resumés for a new position in our department. It’s rather sad to see young people bravely putting their best foot forward and knowing that there are much more experienced candidates available.

Of course it’s very unrealistic for two young amateurs to fare so well against the Secret Adversary, but it’s more fun than realism would have been. Tuppence, especially, seems to embody the spirit & brains that so many of Christie’s female characters exhibit, giving a hint of what is to come. It was just what I was looking for in a summer read—a rather fluffy & fun adventure.

I also liked the author’s dedication: “To all those who lead monotonous lives in the hope that they may experience at second hand the delights and dangers of adventure.” I think she could have dedicated a great many of her books this way.

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text 2018-06-28 15:45
TBR Thursday
Casino Royale - Ian Fleming
The Desert Spear - Peter V. Brett
The Spy Who Came In from the Cold - John le Carré
The Name of the Star - Maureen Johnson
The Secret Adversary - Agatha Christie
Jade City - Fonda Lee

After a very fun buddy read, I must now settle down & finish both a book club selection (Looking for Alaska) and a non-fiction selection (The Good Gut).  Also for book club (because we are combining two months' meetings) I better start The Name of the Star.

 

Then I'm going to move on to Casino Royale while I still have They Came to Baghdad clear in my memory.  Also on the Summer of Spies list are The Spy Who Came In From the Cold and The Secret Adversary.

 

Looking towards my writers' conference in August, I'll be reading The Desert Spear (second book in the Demon Cycle by Peter Brett) and Jade City (by Fonda Lee, one of this year's panelists).

 

July 1st is Canada Day, so I get July 2nd off work as a statutory holiday.  I've booked this Friday as vacation too, to give myself a 4 day break.  Right now the weather predictions are not all that promising, so I may get more reading time than anticipated!

 

Have a great weekend, friends!

 

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review 2018-04-03 15:42
How To Succeed At Espionage Without Really Trying
The Secret Adversary - Agatha Christie

Cross Posted on my classic crime blog, Peril at Whitehaven Mansion

 

Published in 1922, The Secret Adversary was Christie’s second novel, coming directly on the heels of The Mysterious Affair At Styles, her first Poirot outing which was published in 1920. For the first decade or so of Christie’s career she dabbled heavily in the thriller/espionage genre, publishing The Man in the Brown SuitThe Secret of ChimneysThe Seven Dials Mystery and The Big Four, all of which deal with international crime gangs and conspiracies with varying levels of competence and success. After the 1929 publication of The Big Four (which is nominally a Poirot, the plot of which, however, deals less with garden variety murder than with a strange, Austin Powers-esque international crime conspiracy), her publisher must have convinced her to abandon her not wholly convincing thriller career in favor of writing whodunnits, because she doesn’t write another international spy thriller until the second Tommy and Tuppence novel was published in 1941.

 

I am of mixed emotions about this because I find her early thrillers (with the exception of The Big Four, which was absolutely terrible) to be weirdly charming in their innocence about the incompetence of the political criminal/international criminal mastermind. The Secret Adversary definitely falls into the category of charming and innocent. The basic plot is whisper thin (literally – it’s based on Tommy overhearing two people whispering about a woman named Jane Finn) and is generally about the possession of some government documents by a young woman (with amnesia. Yes, really) and an international crime syndicate who want to get a hold of those documents in order to foment revolution in England. If this doesn’t make any sense to you, that’s because it doesn’t actually make any sense. Tommy and Tuppence are two broke Bright Young Things who decide that the best way for them to come into possession of a few pounds is to place an ad in the newspaper, to try to hire themselves out as adventurers.

 

It’s preposterous and in the real world (or in modern fiction, which goes for verisimilitude) they’d have been dead within about 25 pages, and the rest of the book would’ve been spent with the professionals attempting to figure out why these two charming young people ended up murdered by terrorists. That’s not how this one goes, though. It feels like such an innocent world in The Secret Adversary (and in The Secret of Chimneys as well). I can only wonder if this was simply a reaction to the trauma that WWI inflicted on the British people, and surmise that, perhaps, what they really needed was to believe that a pair of children, with very little money, a great deal of sparkling wit and a fetching hat could, in fact, save the world. Because there is nothing even remotely convincing or realistic about this plot, but somehow, it’s impossible to care because it is all so delightful.

 

This was my first time reading The Secret Adversary, and I doubt that it will become one of my favorites although I thoroughly enjoyed it. I went into it convinced that Tommy and Tuppence were lifted wholesale from Dashiell Hammett’s Nick and Nora Charles – imagine my surprise when I actually looked it up and learned that T & T predated N & N by a dozen years. I should’ve known better, though – The Queen sets trends, she doesn’t follow them.

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text 2018-03-28 23:23
Reading progress update: I've read 50%.
The Secret Adversary - Agatha Christie

I'm sorry, but did Mr. Herscheimmer just seriously suggest re-enacting the sinking of  The Lusitania in an effort to cure someone of amnesia? 

 

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text 2018-03-28 22:06
Reading progress update: I've read 33%.
The Secret Adversary - Agatha Christie

So, first of all, the edition that is attached to this post is not the edition I am reading. Mine was a freebie that I picked up on amazon, which is published by some unknown random ebook publisher. The oddest thing about it is that it bills itself as "illustrated," but the illustrations have NO RELATIONSHIP WHATSOEVER to the text. One of them is a picture of a snowy river. There is no snowy river in this book. It's freaking bizarre. Moving on, though - this is basically The Seven Dials Mystery, with the Bill Eversleigh character represented by Tommy and Bundle Brent represented by Tuppence, right down to Tommy hiding out while the members of the international crime syndicate, who are only identified by numbers (instead of times), meet in secret. It is an entertaining romp, but it is thin indeed on substance and plot.

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