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review 2017-03-06 13:08
The Secret Adversary
The Secret Adversary - Agatha Christie

IT was 2 p.m. on the afternoon of May 7, 1915. The Lusitania had been struck by two torpedoes in succession and was sinking rapidly, while the boats were being launched with all possible speed.

This is still one of the most intriguing Agatha Christie opening lines I have read (another can be found in Murder on the Orient Express, but I'll get to that in a different post). 

 

The Secret Adversary is the first adventure of Miss Prudence Cowley and Lieutenant Thomas Beresford, a.k.a. Tommy and Tuppence. 

 

Tommy and Tuppence have known each other since childhood but lost touch over the years with the exception that they met again in 1916, when Tommy was injured in the war and Tuppence worked as an auxiliary nurse. The story sets in as they meet again for the first time since 1916, now in London in 1920. Both are best described as Bright Young Things of their time, both are broke, and both are looking for way to make some money.

 

I absolutely love the start of this story, the setting and the dialogue between Tommy and Tuppence. It's fresh, it's witty, it's believable.

Christie shines through in every aspect of Tuppence, and, based on descriptions of her own circumstances in Christie's autobiography, I have a hunch that Tommy was somewhat inspired by Christie's then husband Archie.

 

When thinking about bright young things, I usually first think of Waugh's Vile Bodies. However, what is striking about The Secret Adversary is that it was published in 1922 - a whole 8 years before Vile Bodies!

 

This is only Christie's 2nd(!) published novel, and yet we get such fun dialogue as this:

"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!"

 

"Don't you want to?"

 

"Of course I don't want to! What's the good of being sentimental? Father's a dear--I'm awfully fond of him--but you've no idea how I worry him! He has that delightful early Victorian view that short skirts and smoking are immoral. You can imagine what a thorn in the flesh I am to him! He just heaved a sigh of relief when the war took me off. You see, there are seven of us at home. It's awful! All housework and mothers' meetings! I have always been the changeling. I don't want to go back, but--oh, Tommy, what else is there to do?"

 

Tommy shook his head sadly. There was a silence, and then Tuppence burst out: "Money, money, money! I think about money morning, noon and night! I dare say it's mercenary of me, but there it is!"

 

"Same here," agreed Tommy with feeling.  

While I love Tummy and Tuppence, the plot of the story doesn't quite work for me. It's Christie's first attempt at international espionage, and, if you ask me, she should have left it at that. After the two friends discuss an idea to go into business together, the plot snowballs out of control fuelled by the most unlikely of coincidences, and at some point I got confused again (and this was my third re-read!) about who is who and who is bluffing whom. 

 

Mystery-wise, this is not the greatest of stories. However, I'd recommend it just for the sheer fun of getting to know Christie in her early years, before the necessity to make money from writing leads her to develop that famous formula that runs through most of her best known creations.

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text 2017-03-03 20:14
Library Haul and Weekend Reading Plans

 

Thanks to you all, my very own Mt. TBR is not getting any smaller and after several book discussions last week, I found myself with a pre-order of library books that became available today.

 

This is what my (longish) weekend will look like:

 

 

 

After a bit of Coin-toss Opera, that is...

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review 2017-03-02 21:52
The Unexpected Guest
The Unexpected Guest - Charles Osborne,Agatha Christie

The Unexpected Guest is another play by Agatha Christie that was adapted as a novel Charles Osborne - so in short, it is not that great.

 

Of course I am peeved that I ended up with this book because it was advertised as an Agatha Christie novel, and it is not, but I am also astounded Osborne got to write several novelisations at all, and all of them on commission by Christie's estate!

 

He has no feel for Christie's characters.

 

While I can see that the setting in this novel is a typical Christie country house mystery, the main character of Laura Warwick does not strike me as a Christie woman at all.

 

But maybe I'm just peeved that Audible did not make it clear that this was an Osbone novel. 

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review 2017-02-26 16:09
Postern of Fate
Postern of Fate - Agatha Christie

Postern of Fate was Dame Agatha's last book. And knowing this, made reading the book rather sad. Not only because it is the last book she wrote but also because she seemed to have written it in a way to emphasize that this truly was Tommy and Tuppence Beresford's last hurrah.

 

So, we have Tommy and Tuppence in their seventies, moving into a new home in the country, and being reminded by their acquaintances of the great adventures they used to get into. As they start to get settled in their new house, Tuppence finds a book that contains a coded message to indicate that Mary Jordan did not die of natural causes.

 

But who was Mary Jordan?

 

The unravelling of the mystery ensues.

 

While the first half of the book was not horrible and seemed to merely meander through the nostalgia of the earlier adventures of T&T, the rest of the book seemed to pursue a similar line of conspiracy theory as the abominable Passenger to Frankfurt (yes, some of the characters in Passenger also appear in Postern of Fate) and the slightly less annoying Destination Unknown

 

Not that I don't enjoy a good conspiracy story, but not if it is told in such a rambling manner, without a logical train of thought, and, of course, not when it is anywhere near as ridiculous as or even reminding me of Passenger to Frankfurt.

 

So, with all these points against it, do I regret reading it? No. But then, I am a Christie fan/completist and appreciate that she is thought to have struggled with dementia in the late years of her life. A theory which the quality of her writing and plotting in her later books seems to support.

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text 2017-01-08 20:03
Dame Agatha - Reading List Update

Update - Jan. 2017: 28 of 66 books read. Looking forward to more.

 

Update - Jun. 2016: A few more of the reads and re-reads taken off the list.

 

Update - Dec. 2015: I'll repost this every now and then to keep track of titles and reviews.

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I have read most of Dame Agatha's books in my teens (though mostly in translation) but as am in the process of a re-read, I need a list to keep me right. 

 


Year
published
Title Detectives
1920 The Mysterious Affair at Styles Hercule Poirot
Arthur Hastings, Inspector Japp
1922 The Secret Adversary Tommy and Tuppence
1923 The Murder on the Links Hercule Poirot
Arthur Hastings, Monsieur Giraud
1924 The Man in the Brown Suit Colonel Race
Anne Beddingfeld
1925 The Secret of Chimneys Superintendent Battle
Anthony Cade
1926 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd Hercule Poirot
Inspector Raglan
1927 The Big Four Hercule Poirot
Arthur Hastings, Inspector Japp
1928 The Mystery of the Blue Train Hercule Poirot
1929 The Seven Dials Mystery Superintendent Battle
Eileen "Bundle" Brent
1930 The Murder at the Vicarage Miss Marple
Inspector Slack
1931 The Sittaford Mystery
also Murder at Hazelmoor
Emily Trefusis
Inspector Narracott
1932 Peril at End House Hercule Poirot
Arthur Hastings, Inspector Japp
1933 Lord Edgware Dies
also Thirteen at Dinner
Hercule Poirot
Arthur Hastings, Inspector Japp
1934 Murder on the Orient Express
also Murder in the Calais Coach
Hercule Poirot
1934 Why Didn't They Ask Evans?
also The Boomerang Clue
Bobby Jones
Frankie Derwent
1935 Three Act Tragedy
also Murder in Three Acts
Hercule Poirot
Mr. Satterthwaite
1935 Death in the Clouds
also Death in the Air
Hercule Poirot
Inspector Japp
1936 The A.B.C. Murders
also The Alphabet Murders
Hercule Poirot
Arthur Hastings, Chief Inspector Japp
1936 Murder in Mesopotamia Hercule Poirot
Captain Maitland, Dr. Reilly
1936 Cards on the Table Hercule Poirot
Colonel Race, Superintendent Battle, Ariadne Oliver
1937 Dumb Witness
also Poirot Loses a Client/Mystery at Littlegreen House
Hercule Poirot
Arthur Hastings
1937 Death on the Nile Hercule Poirot
Colonel Race
1938 Appointment with Death Hercule Poirot
1938 Hercule Poirot's Christmas
also Murder for Christmas/A Holiday for Murder
Hercule Poirot
1939 Murder is Easy
also Easy to Kill
Superintendent Battle
Luke Fitzwilliam
1939 And Then There Were None

Sir Thomas Legge
Inspector Maine
1940 Sad Cypress Hercule Poirot
1940 One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
also An Overdose of Death/The Patriotic Murders
Hercule Poirot
Chief Inspector Japp
1941 Evil Under the Sun Hercule Poirot
Colonel Weston, Inspector Colgate
1941 N or M? Tommy and Tuppence
1942 The Body in the Library Miss Marple
Inspector Slack
1942 Five Little Pigs
also Murder in Retrospect
Hercule Poirot
1942 The Moving Finger
also The Case of the Moving Finger
Miss Marple
1944 Towards Zero
also Come and Be Hanged
Superintendent Battle
Inspector James Leach
1944 Death Comes as the End Hori
1945 Sparkling Cyanide
also Remembered Death
Colonel Race
Chief Inspector Kemp
1946 The Hollow
also Murder After Hours
Hercule Poirot
Inspector Grange
1948 Taken at the Flood
also There is a Tide...
Hercule Poirot
Superintendent Spence
1949 Crooked House Charles Hayward
Chief Inspector Taverner
1950 A Murder is Announced Miss Marple
Chief Inspector Craddock
1951 They Came to Baghdad Victoria Jones
1952 Mrs McGinty's Dead
also Blood Will Tell
Hercule Poirot
Ariadne Oliver, Superintendent Spence
1952 They Do It with Mirrors
also Murder with Mirrors
Miss Marple
Inspector Curry
1953 After the Funeral
also Funerals are Fatal
Hercule Poirot
Inspector Morton, Mr. Goby
1953 A Pocket Full of Rye Miss Marple
1954 Destination Unknown
also So Many Steps to Death
Mr. Jessop, Captain Leblanc
1955 Hickory Dickory Dock
also Hickory Dickory Death
Hercule Poirot
Inspector Sharpe
1956 Dead Man's Folly Hercule Poirot
Ariadne Oliver
1957 4.50 from Paddington
also What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!/Murder She Said
Miss Marple
Chief Inspector Craddock, Lucy Eyelesbarrow
1958 Ordeal by Innocence Arthur Calgary
Superintendent Huish
1959 Cat Among the Pigeons Hercule Poirot
Inspector Kelsey, Adam Goodman
1961 The Pale Horse Inspector Lejeune
Ariadne Oliver, Mark Easterbrook
1962 The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side
also The Mirror Crack'd
Miss Marple
Chief Inspector Craddock
1963 The Clocks Hercule Poirot
Det. Inspector Hardcastle, Colin Lamb
1964 A Caribbean Mystery Miss Marple
1965 At Bertram's Hotel Miss Marple
Chief Inspector Fred "Father" Davy
1966 Third Girl Hercule Poirot
Ariadne Oliver, Chief Inspector Neele, Mr. Goby
1967 Endless Night Sergeant Keene
1968 By the Pricking of My Thumbs Tommy and Tuppence
1969 Hallowe'en Party Hercule Poirot
Ariadne Oliver, Superintendent Spence
1970 Passenger to Frankfurt Stafford Nye
1971 Nemesis Miss Marple
1972 Elephants Can Remember Hercule Poirot
Ariadne Oliver
1973 Postern of Fate
Last novel Christie wrote
Tommy and Tuppence
1975 Curtain
Poirot's last case, written 36 years earlier.
Hercule Poirot
Arthur Hastings
1976 Sleeping Murder
Miss Marple's last case, written 36 years earlier
Miss Marple

 

 

 

Stats:

Read: 32/66

 

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