Often when walking down the street, we catch snatches of conversation from those we pass, and Agatha Christie weaves a whole mystery around a single name overheard on the street in her second novel, The Secret Adversary, published in 1922. Prudence “Tuppence” Cowley, recently demobbed from her work in the Great War, runs into her childhood friend Tommy Beresford, also recently demobbed from intelligence service in the war, and both commiserate over their difficulties finding work and making their limited money last. They decide to form The Young Adventures, Ltd. to offer to do any work for good pay, with Tuppence suggesting they offer to commit crimes for pay. They write an ad for the paper offering to do work for good pay, “no unreasonable offer refused.”
When leaving the cafe, Tuppence gets approached by a man who offers her a job and tells her to come see Mr. Whittington the next day. Tuppence seems on the way to a lucrative job when Whittington asks her name. Uncomfortable using her real name, Tuppence throws out the first name that comes to her mind, Jane Finn. Suddenly furious, Whittington starts to go wild when his secretary comes in with a message that changes Whittington’s attitude, getting him to pay Tuppence £50 and ask her to return the next day. Flush with money and anxious for more, Tuppence eagerly shows up the next day only to find that the office is empty.
Curious about the situation, Tuppence and Tommy advertise for information on Jane Finn, a name Tommy recognizes from hearing it in conversation in the street. They receive a letter in response, that introduces them to Mr. Carter, and the duo find themselves a job working for the secret service to look for Jane Finn, who disappeared with secret papers after the sinking of the Lucitania, and hints are that it is the result of her being abducted. A secret organization seems to be trying to make a move against the government, led by a mysterious and elusive Mr. Brown, so it is becoming even more imperative that they find Jane Finn.
This book is exciting with a twist of mystery. I find it interesting that when I first listened to this book a number of years ago, I was not very impressed. But this time I really loved it. Christie creates a number of creative twists, and it’s interesting to see the perspectives from both Tommy and Tuppence. The former takes his time to think things out, while the latter acts on impulse and the spur of the moment. Together they make a great team.
I loved Hugh Fraser’s performance of this book. He voices the characters ably and creatively, giving depth to the book and strength to the story.
The Secret Adversary is a great book, showing Christie’s abilities from the beginning of her career. This book is followed by four more books featuring Tommy and Tuppence written throughout Christie’s career, and they would not have been as successful without this book’s having set the stage so well. I really love the characters of Tommy and Tuppence in all five books, and this book establishes them well. I give this book five stars!
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