2020-02-21

Agatha Christie 100 - The Secret Adversary

So, finally we leave the 20s behind with this, Agatha Christie's second novel, and her first Tommy & Tuppence outing.


Old friends Tommy & Tuppence meet again, not long after WW1 has ended. It turns out that they have both fallen on hard times, and not wishing to settle with regular boring jobs, they decide to try out adventuring for a bit. And as it happens, soon they are after a missing girl and the very important papers she has hidden somewhere.

A brief introductory passage introduces the MacGuffin that the novel will turn around - Jane Finn receiving the government papers from a doomed agent aboard the Lusitania, but then it's almost straight into the action with T&T. It really is quite amazing how quickly they both happen into adventure, particularly since they're both complaining about their lives during their first meeting. If it's so easy, why didn't you do it long ago?

Leaving aside the curmudgeonly grumbling, this is very similar to Christie's other early thrillers (e.g. The Man in the Brown Suit). It zips along quite merrily with implausible event following implausible event. Tommy and Tuppence are very likeable protagonists, though they spend quite a lot of this novel being apart. If you liked those other early thriller/adventures, you're going to like this one as well.

As far as I can remember, there is absolutely no fair play clueing here, and towards the end it comes down to two people who can be the big bad villain Mr. Brown (did AC have something against the colour brown?). And really, it could have been any of the two suspects. Christie probably just threw a coin to decide who it would be.

My rating is 37 out of 100. It's hardly essential, but still a readable novel - especially if you like Christie adventures.

1923 1941 1952 1954
1969 1989 2014
Den hemlighetsfulle motståndaren is more or less a literal translation of the English title. (Interestingly - or not - the 1989 edition chooses the feminine form of the adjective by using "hemlighetsfulla" instead of "hemlighetsfulle".) This was in fact the first Agatha Christie title to be translated into Swedish, which explains why such a minor title has had so many editions.

The first one from 1923 has a pretty dull cover. I wonder if that's supposed to be Tuppence or Jane Finn? The 1941 cover does the same thing as the British cover above - focuses on the excitement of the sinking of the Lusitania. I suppose it's fine, there's not that many other exciting scenes to depict from the novel.

And the other one is the killing of Rita Vandemeyer, so I guess it's understandable that the following two covers choose that scene to focus on. I like what the artist has done with the body in the foreground of the 1952 cover, though the depiction of the people in the background, particularly Tuppence, is much worse. The perspective seems oddly off - doesn't it look as if the chair is about to fall any second? The 1954 cover is unfortunately hampered by a lack of colours. The man in the background has the worst posture ever.

I have the Zebra edition, which goes for something completely different - I'm not sure whether I like it or not. The huge eyeball looks quite worrying, but the silhouette of the titular adversary works pretty well against it. Sometimes I think this is the best cover here, sometimes I think that 1941 gives it a run for its money.

1989, and it's book club time! Apparently Tuppence is now in a labyrinth/cave with Japanese demons' heads. It's not really the story that Christie wrote, and probably not a story I'd like to read either. 2014 has another fairly dull cover. Featuring just a silhouette doesn't really cut it, sorry. It doesn't even look vaguely sinister, to be honest.

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