Friday, January 25, 2019

The Secret Adversary: Review

The Secret Adversary (1922) is Agatha Christie's second venture into the mystery field and the first to feature that daring young duo, Tommy and Tuppence. The young people, who have been friends since childhood, are trying to make their way in the world after being demobbed after World War I. Tuppence is one of seven children to a timid, Victorian-minded archdeacon who doesn't know what to do with his modern daughter. She's determined not to go back home and make life uncomfortable for her father. Tommy has pretty well gone through the money allotted him at demobilization and has had no luck at all finding a job. They run into one another by chance at the Dover Street Tube exit and settle down for tea and a catch-up on old times. By the end of the tea, they have decided to start a Join Venture--calling themselves The Young Adventurers Ltd and putting out an advertisement that they are for hire. "Willing to do anything, go anywhere. Pay must be good."

But before they can even place the ad, they find themselves plunged into a grand adventure full of spies and Bolsheviks and a mysterious man by the name of "Mr. Brown" who runs the whole show on the baddies side of things. There's a missing girl who has amnesia and, just by chance, probably knows where some top-secret, hush-hush papers are. Throw in the mysterious Mr. Carter (also not his real name) who is in British Intelligence and winds up hiring our heroes and the rich American cousin of the missing girl and we're in for a fast-paced adventure. First Tommy gets captured and escapes. Then Tuppence gets captured and rescued. The missing papers get found twice. The bad guys have them. No, they don't. The Young Adventures get the papers to the good guys...or do they? It's all a rollicking, confusing good time that keeps readers on their toes. 

If there is one theme running through The Secret Adversary, it is coincidence. As Tuppence says once their adventures begin: 

“I've often noticed that when 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.” 

Their story begins with their coincidental meeting. Tommy overhears two men talking about Jane Finn. Jane winds up being the missing girl with amnesia. One of the gang approaches Tuppence and she and Tommy try to put one over on him...later Tommy and Julius (the rich American) just happen to see the gang member with a confederate and they follow them. Mr. Carter just happens to be an Intelligence man that Tommy saw once in the war--so Tommy immediately knows he's a good guy. And so on. 

But all this coincidence doesn't ruin the story. No. In the world Christie has created for us, it's perfectly believable and we're ready to go along with it for a really good story. And it is a really good story. Tommy and Tuppence are great characters and Christie's ability with dialogue really shines with their conversations. The adventure is fast-paced and fun and I was very glad to revisit it after all these years. ★★★★


Jean said...

This one is a favorite of mine!

Prita said...

I landed in this blog through "52 books in 52 weeks". I love Agatha Christie books and look forward to reading this book

Bev Hankins said...

thanks for visiting, Jean & Prita!

Sean said...

As you said, a wonderful adventure! I always liked how the "American" actor is the same Irish actor that played the drunkard Brad in Superman III!