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29 January 2015

Agatha Christie's The Secret Adversary

When I was young I had daydreams of growing up to be just like those great fiesty spitfire women I got to watch on weekend tv or read about in the books on my grandmother's shelves.

Like Emma Peel.

Or Nora Charles. 

Or Tuppence Cowley Beresford.

First introduced to the world in Agatha Christie's second novel, The Secret Adversary, Tuppence (whose given name is Prudence) is an old childhood friend of Tommy Beresford's. They meet up by chance after both having been released from wartime duties. They soon realize that they're without much in the way of funds or of prospects. Marrying into wealth isn't as easy as it sounds and neither is finding employment. Tuppence has an idea, though.

They decide to put an advertisement in the newspaper: "Two young adventurers for hire. Willing to do anything, go anywhere. Pay must be good. No unreasonable offer refused." Their joint venture, The Young Adventures, Ltd -- and one of my favorite literary pairings -- begins.

Before the advertisement can even be taken to the paper Tuppence is approached by a man named Mr. Whittington who overheard their conversation and wishes to engage her services. When she goes to meet him she gives him a false name (so as to not have it get back to her clergyman father), Jane Finn. At the time she doesn't recall hearing the name from Tommy -- she believes that she just pulled it out of thin air. Mr Whittington's reaction is quite peculiar and he demands to know what she knows and who she's learned it from. Of course, Tuppence has no idea what he's talking about but plays along to a degree and he pays her off but tells her to return the next day. Later, Tommy reminds Tuppence that he's the one who first told her the name "Jane Finn" and they decide that they have to find out more by investigating Whittington.

"Sort of thing one reads about in books." Oh, Agatha ... you funny, funny author.

Sooooo the next day the two head for Whittington's office only to find that Whittington and the entire company has vanished! Mysterious, right? And all of this just in the first 11% of the book -- there's a lot more to come!

This is not a murder mystery. It's more political espionage and intrigue than cozy. Even though it's typically not my preferred type of story to read,  I still feel like I have to love it.

Because it's Christie.

Because without it we never would have had the BBC Partners in Crime series of the early 1980's (or the upcoming series in celebration of Christie's 125th birthday).

Because of that I love Tommy & Tuppence.

I'm typically one of the first ones to spout out that the book is always better than the tv or film version. Well ... The Secret Adversary is old enough that it's in the public domain and free in the US. No reason not to get it and give it a shot. You may love it. You may want to stick with the on-screen version like I tend to, though.

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