Monday, July 1, 2013

Review of THE SECRET ADVERSARY by Agatha Christie

book cover Original Publication Date: 1922

Genre: mystery, adventure
Topics: espionage, wwi, love, master criminal

Review by heidenkind:

Tommy and Tuppence are old friends who run into one another in post-WWI London and find themselves in the same boat: they're broke, unable to find work, and on the verge of being thrown out of their respective abodes. As they're musing over their impecunious fortunes, Tuppence has an idea: they should start their own business and be professional adventurers! Tommy agrees to put an ad in the paper just to humor her, but no sooner do they part ways than Tuppence receives a job offer from a very suspicious bloke. Beggars can't be choosers, however, so Tuppence agrees to accept a retainer, and in short order she and Tommy are sucked into a world of international intrigue, missing documents, spies, and master criminals. And that's just in the first few chapters!

This is only the third Agatha Christie novel I've read. The other two were Murder on the Orient Express, which was very good but didn't inspire me to read more Hercule Poirot books; and The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which was just okay. So I wasn't expecting to be wowed by The Secret Adversary.


The Secret Adversary is a very different type of book from Christie's Hercule Poirot novels. For one, it's hilarious. Whenever Tommy and Tuppence get together there's snappy, clever dialog, and the story is delightfully ridiculous with plenty of opportunities for hijinks. The coincidences in this novel are just mind-boggling, but whatever. As long as Tommy and Tuppence continue having adventures, Christie can throw as many incredible happenstances into this book as she wants.

Speaking of Tommy and Tuppence... I LOVE THEM! I need my own Tommy and Tuppence to hang with, you guys. I AM SERIOUS. The other characters in the book are also really fun, from Julius P. Hersheimmer, the American billionaire, to Albert, the elevator operator who loves gangster movies.

As for the mystery, it worked surprisingly well considering the pool of suspects consists of basically two, possibly three, men. Christie does a great job of planting red herrings that had me thinking I knew who Mr. Brown—the criminal mastermind—was, but at the same time not being quite sure.

The Secret Adversary is in no way a realistic book. It is a proudly fluffy, sublimely ridiculous tale. In a lot of ways it reminded me of The Man Who Was Thursday (which I loved), only much less metaphysical: the cabal organization, run by a mysterious man who is everywhere yet whom no one has ever seen; a series of fun, entertaining adventures; and then everyone lives happily ever after. In a word, delightful.

I can't wait to read all of Tommy and Tuppence's other stories! If you haven't read anything by Christie before, The Secret Adversary is a great place to start.

Download The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie at Project Gutenberg