The Secret Adversary

Pure nostalgia baby! I read this book for leisure when I was in high school (or maybe even before). It was the first Agatha Christie for me and remains the only one I’ve ever completed. Which I don’t understand because I loved it and I love the mystery/thriller genre. Why I haven’t read more of Christie’s books is somewhat of a mystery itself. Upon the second reading, it did not disappoint.

I should note another item; this is the first free, public domain electronic book I’ve read on my Kindle. I just went to Feedbooks and did some searching and eventually arrived at the Agatha Christie page. As soon as I saw this I grabbed it because this book has been stuck in the back of my mind for a few years now. It has always remained a memorable book for me for some reason, but I can’t recall why. I’ve entertained thoughts of purchasing it for years but just never pulled the trigger. Now that burden is lifted.

Most people think of detective Hercule Poirot when they hear Agatha Christie. But he’s not in this novel. This book features Tommy (Beresford) and Tuppence (Prudence Cowley), two “young adventurers” who meet up one day in London after not seeing each other for awhile. In no time, they get up to date on each other and decide to start their own little detective agency. This leads to all sorts of intrigue and danger.

It feels a little like young adult literature. Or maybe it’s just kind of old-fashioned (written in 1922). Or maybe I just don’t have any idea what Christie’s writing style is like. It’s very upbeat and although there is danger and death, I never really got to the edge of my seat. But then again, I’ve read it before, albeit about 30 years ago. Here’s a passage that I found kind of humorous, it occurs when Tommy is captured; he’s trying to figure out what to do if he’s able to lure his captor into his cell:

Therefore, why not wait in ambush for Conrad behind the door, and when he entered bring down a chair, or one of the decrepit pictures, smartly on to his head. One would, of course, be careful not to hit too hard. And then—and then, simply walk out! If he met anyone on the way down, well—Tommy brightened at the thought of an encounter with his fists. Such an affair was infinitely more in his line than the verbal encounter of this afternoon.

The detective novel certainly has changed over the last 90 years huh?

Another technique Christie uses in this book is the big reveal. You know, when the smart detective goes through the deductive process they used to arrive at the solution. I’m not used to this because I don’t read that many classic mysteries. I read a lot of crime fiction, which I think is how I would classify Grafton or Burke. I don’t feel like Grafton ever uses the big reveal.

I will read The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Christie’s other public domain book in the US. Maybe I’ll do that this year or next, so I’ll get a better feel for her writing.