Goodreads: The Secret Adversary
Series: Tommy & Tuppence #1
Tommy and Tuppence, two young people short of money and restless for excitement, embark on a daring business scheme – Young Adventurers Ltd.
Their advertisement says they are ‘willing to do anything, go anywhere’. But their first assignment, for the sinister Mr Whittington, plunges them into more danger than they ever imagined…
Agatha Christie has stumped me once again.
In The Secret Adversary, she introduces readers to the amateur detective duo Tommy and and Tuppence, a pair of young friends who basically decide to work on a case for the fun of it– and because the government is offering to pay. The result is a refreshing story where readers get Christie’s full skill of writing a twisty mystery but see it through the eyes of two exuberant youths rather than a professional like Poirot.
Not all mysteries are known for great characterization, but I think it’s important for the authors to give characters layers in order for the story to be beautifully messy. When the characters in the story are a mystery because everyone has secrets, everyone has a motivation to be the culprit, and everyone has things about them that do not quite make sense or fit perfectly together, it makes the overall mystery better. And Christie is an expert at this. Even though I spend the whole story looking for clues, I also feel as if I’m reading about actual people, not just markers that will help me solve the mystery.
I do think Christie frequently fails on setting or general premise. She wrote in the foreword to Death Comes As the End that she thought the setting there was irrelevant, and I actually disagreed and felt that placing the mystery in Ancient Egypt was important. InThe Secret Adversary, I am less enamored with the setting. The story starts with the sinking of the Lusitania and takes places after the end of WWI and is centered around politics–but none of that seems strictly necessary or even interesting. I found it alarmingly easy to ignore much of it, and I found myself wishing that I were as invested in the setting as I was in the plot, that it wasn’t just background flavor or an excuse for all the action to happen.
However, the plot was brilliant. There is action and adventure and, of course, a frustratingly difficult to solve mystery. I was hoping to break my streak of failing to figure out Christie’s novels and thought I had finally come up with something clever this time–and I was still wrong. Tommy and Tuppence are not as famous as some of Christie’s other characters, but I’d like to read more about their adventures.