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.