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Search tags: Tommy-and-Tuppence
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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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review 2018-03-12 23:00
Fun Beginning to Tommy & Tuppence
The Secret Adversary (Tommy and Tuppence #1) - Agatha Christie

I haven't really focused on Christie's non-Poirot/Marple books. Last year I said j would read all of Christie's other books and I just got busy and lost interest. Now I'm ready to take a look at her other works. There's also a rereleased of a biography coming out soon about Christie that I can't wait to read. 

 

"Secret Adversary" is flawed, but I enjoyed it. The plot gets down right ridiculous after a while and there's way too many coincidences to make the story work, but Tommy and Tuppence are great partners and it makes me think that this is what I wanted "The Thin Man" to be more like. 

 

The characters of Tommy and Tuppence were fun. They were weirdly apart for most of the book, but still were totally in each other's corners. I did laugh at Christie saying how Tommy isn't attractive and Tuppence was just okay. And it's even said many times that Tommy is not that smart. She does love disparaging her creations, it's kind of funny to read a book where the main characters are not beautiful and the smartest things ever. 

 

The secondary characters were sketched with broad strokes. We get a millionaire American that I felt was just a walking talking stereotype of an American. We get mysterious women and a mysterious man hell bent on wrecking England. I had a hard time swallowing this storyline in The Big Four and didn't buy it here either. 

 

The writing takes a bit to get used to, but I didn't find it hard to understand the dialogue between characters. The flow didn't work though. Some scenes felt endless. 

 

The setting of post war England shows that not everything is coming up roses. Tommy and Tuppence are both struggling to make ends meet and there frank conversation about marrying for money was funny, but also realistic.

 

The ending was rather sweet I thought. You have Tommy and Tuppence setting off together in more ways than one. Going to read book number two soon. 

 

This book is available via public domain. I would say that the formatting drove me up the wall. I'm glad I got it for free, but now I'm wishing I just paid for a version. 

 

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text 2018-03-12 17:19
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
The Secret Adversary (Tommy and Tuppence #1) - Agatha Christie

I liked it! Not the best Christie book, but I enjoyed Tommy and Tuppence a lot. Some of the plot made absolutely no sense, but I enjoyed the ride all the same.

 

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text 2018-03-12 09:17
Reading progress update: I've read 17%.
The Secret Adversary (Tommy and Tuppence #1) - Agatha Christie

Cool there's a reference to Japp in this one!

 

The dialogue is cracking me up too. I'm surprised Christie wrote this since her later books seemed to turn a dim view to young people (at least it read that way in the Poirot books).

 

I can read this for Horror Aficionados challenge too so that's two things I can knock off. 

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review 2016-04-02 22:48
Partners in Crime (Tommy and Tuppence #2) - Agatha Christie

More of a series of short stories than a novel, so it was a bit uneven.  Some of the mysteries were quite clever, however.  I find Tommy and Tuppence really fun as partners and characters, although they're not quite as adorable here as they were in the first book.

 

There's an awful lot of detective name-dropping in this book (reminds me a little of Connie Willis actually) and I don't even think I knew half of them, so some of the references went over my head.

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