Monday, 19 September 2011

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

The Secret Adversary features two of the lesser known heroes of Christie - Tommy and Tuppence
Beresford. Unmarried at the beginning of this book, they are old friends who bump into each other in London. I thought I'd stumbled into a PG Wodehouse novel:

'Tommy, old thing!'
'Tuppence, old bean!'
The two young people greeted each other affectionately and momentarily blocked the Dover Street Tube exit in doing so. The adjective 'old' was misleading. Their united ages would certainly not have totalled forty-five.
'Not seen you for simply centuries,' continued the young man. 'Where are you off too? Come and chew a bun with me. We're getting a bit unpopular here - blocking the gangway as it were. Let's get out of it.'

When they meet they're both at a bit of a loose end after finishing their war work (it's just after the First World War). So, they decide to be adventurers. Personally, I would've looked for secretarial work, or a job in a bank, but that's just me. Anyway, no sooner is this decision made, than they happen upon an adventure. They become embroiled in searching for a woman named Jane Finn who went missing during the war. It is believed that she was carrying a draft peace treaty. This treaty has  become important because it would reflect badly on the government and the government believes that revolutionary forces want to use it to foment rebellion. Tommy and Tuppence meet Mr Carter, who is with British Intelligence. He explains:

Yes, five years ago that draft treaty was a weapon in our hands; today it is a weapon against us. It was a gigantic blunder. If its terms were made public, it would mean disaster......It might possibly bring about another war - not with Germany this time! That is an extreme possibility, and I do not believe in its likelihood myself, but that document undoubtedly implicates a number of our statesmen whom we cannot afford to have discredited in any way at the present moment. As a party cry for Labour it would be irresistable, and a Labour Government at this juncture would in my opinion be a grave disability to British trade.......

He then goes on to explain to Tommy and Tuppence about 'Bolshevist influence' in the Labour movement. I found this very interesting and it made me want to find out more about this post-World War 1 period. Was there really a genuine fear of revolution, or was it paranoia from the Establishment? There are some patronising descriptions of the working class as naive dupes of foreign mercenaries. Certainly Tommy and Tuppence accept quickly enough that the status quo should be protected, and that it is perfectly right to suppress facts which might reflect badly on the government.

I thought this book was a fun read that relies on some amazing coincidences. Early on Tuppence says, 'I've often noticed that once coincidences start happening they go on happening in the most extraordinary way. I dare say it's some natural law that we haven't found out.' I picked the wrong villain again. 2-0 to Agatha.


  1. I have yet to read any Tommy and Tuppence. The TV programme repeats put me off I think. I must try though as I suspect I will surprised, I generally am when it comes to Christie.

  2. I have this on the shelf and am really looking forward to meeting these two. Great review.

  3. Jo - I didn't realise that the tv programmes were being repeated. I vaguely remember them from the first time round, years ago.

    Nan - thank you. I really enjoyed it, it is a bit silly in places - but lots of fun.