Tommy & Tuppence are discontent as they feel they are not allowed to contribute towards the war effort, but one day an acquaintance of their old employer Mr. Carter comes by. It seems British intelligence are looking for the titular characters N or M, though they don't actually which of these two elusive characters they are after. So in order to catch that person unawares, they want to send in an outsider, someone who isn't known to the other side. Only thing is - it's only Tommy they want...
It probably won't come as a surprise to you that Tuppence soon insinuates herself into the narrative. As usual with these T&T stories, they aren't really mysteries. Instead we get to follow the two as they suspect everybody in the seaside resort, set different traps for the suspects and generally aren't very thorough in their investigations. Poirot wouldn't be too impressed...
It's a good romp and exciting enough in places. Christie shows herself to be somewhat of a humanist, arguing that it's not the individual Germans we should hate, it's the German war machine. And then promptly undermines her whole argument with the revelations about German refugee Carl von Deinem. Meh.
It's also a bit unfortunate that it's fairly easy to find the villain of the piece, since it's the only person that Christie doesn't give any suspicious traits at all. All the others have a queer look or intense personality or something else during the course of the novel, except the real villain.
So, apparently I wasn't too taken with this novel, but I still enjoyed quite a lot about it. It's Agatha Christie having a bit of fun during a time of great stress and contributing to the war effort in her own way. I'll give it a 47 out of 100 for sheer enthusiasm, not for the end result.
For being so early an edition, the very first cover is pretty good. And whatever you say about it, it's hard to miss the title... The Zebra edition from 1967 is the one I have, and again it's a direct steal from the British Fontana edition. A fine cover, though.
Delfinserien makes the cover a bit more surreal with the young girl flying zeppelins with strings. Per Åhlin doing what he does best - I like it! The early 80s edition makes sure that we understand it's a wartime novel. It's not bad, all things said.
The swastika appears on the 1990 edition as well, but not the question mark. It's not the most striking cover, but not a total loss either. The best thing about the final cover here is that they've managed to put faces in profile on the letters. Except for that, it really doesn't say much about the contents. Not my favourite here.