Three Grand Dames of Mystery: “Partners in Crime”


 Partners in CrimeaAfter seven years of marriage, Tuppence is finding life “satisfying but dull,” as Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime opens. That delights Mr. Carter, the high ranking intelligence official whom we first met in The Secret Adversary, because he has a proposition for the pair. The government has recently arrested the Mr. Blunt whose advertisements for the International Detective Agency are splashed all over the pages of the newspapers. Mr. Carter wants Tommy and Tuppence to keep running the agency because the government has reason to believe that foreign operatives are funneling their intelligence through this agency. The pair are to run the agency as real detectives, but they are also to look for blue envelopes with letters from a ham merchant in Russia looking for his wife, and beneath the Russian stamp, they will see the number 16.

The pair decide to base their cases on famous fictional detectives’ styles. I only vaguely recognized most of the detectives because most have left our general public consciousness, but I did recognize Tommy’s rather unsuccessful attempt to play Sherlock Holmes, and I laughed at the pair’s imitation of Hercules Poirot, the dapper Belgian detective who made Agatha Christie famous in the first place. In addition, they hire Albert, the eager young elevator boy of the previous book, to serve as office boy. He likes to take on different personae that he sees on the movie screen each week. In fact, inspired by a Western he teaches himself how to make a lasso and even lassoes a bad guy in one story. The trio greet each visitor with manufactured sounds of a busy office and the message that Mr. Blunt will soon be with him or her but is on an important phone call with Scotland Yard. Over time they become very helpful to the Yard and even help to bring in a number of foreign operatives.

To enumerate all the cases would get excessive, so instead, I will select just a couple memorable cases.

In “The Affair of the Pink Pearl,” a surly young woman comes to hire the International Detective Agency even though she clearly is hostile to having them contract to work for her family. The previous night, the Kingston Bruce family hosted Lady Laura Barton and a couple of rich Americans, Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton Betts, who are eager to meet someone with a title. When Mrs. Hamilton Betts has the clasp break on her necklace that contains a valuable pink pearl, she sets it down, only to have the pearl disappear. On the advice of another guest, the hire the “Blunts,” a.k.a. the Beresford couple, to find the pearl so they don’t have to call in the police. Here Tommy brings his camera, pretending that it has special features as he channels Dr. Thorndyke by R. Austin Freeman, one of the earliest CSIs.

In “The Crackler,” the pair are asked to solve the case of a counterfeiter, which requires Tommy and Tuppence to go undercover in the high rolling world of house racing and other gambling where fake one-pound notes keep appearing. They keep their eyes out for “the Crackler,” Tommy’s title for the counterfeiter, named after the sound of new money. It takes their teamwork to solve this mystery.

James Warwick reads the audio edition of this book. He does a great job of showing the unity of the book while also keeping to the flavor of the individual stories. The book has a degree of melodrama to it, and Warwick blends that in without making that ridiculous.

I have always enjoyed Partners in Crime. Though it is not always included among the Tommy and Tuppence novels, I consider it a novel because the stories all tie together. The characters never cease to delight, and even though I don’t know most of the books each story parodies, I found each story fascinating. I give this book five stars.

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