Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie

Partners in Crime

Partners In Crime: “Mrs. Thomas Beresford shifted her position on the divan and looked gloomily out of the window of the flat.”

Detective: Tommy and Tuppence Beresford

Published: 1929 (Christie’s 12th published book)

Length: 277 pages

Setting: The International Detective Agency, 118 Haleham St. W.C.

Following up from her first Tommy and Tuppence Beresford book, The Secret Adversary, Christie re-introduces us to the couple, now married and after their initial adventures, are extremely bored.  Tuppence, especially, longs for adventure so what a thrill when their old friend, Mr. Carter, of British Military Intelligence, appears with a proposition.  They are to take charge of a nearly defunct detective agency, The International Detective Agency, which was in fact a network for spies.  With its former owner now in prison, Tommy will impersonate Mr. Blunt in the attempt to intercept communications with ties to espionage, as Tuppence poses as his personal secretary. With such an important request and the safety of Britain at risk, how could our young couple refuse?

However, in spite of the initial mandate, the book is presented as a compilation of short stories which relate to the cases the pair solve while waiting for the expected espionage documents.  This narrative format is often labelled as “a group of short detective stories within a detective novel.”

The Mysterious Barricades

The Mysterious Barricades (1961) Rene Magritte
~ source Wikiart

Christie uses parody within each of the short stories, as with each case, Tommy and Tuppence attempt to model themselves and their methods after a famous fictional detective.  While Sherlock Holmes was quite easy to recognize, there were certainly many detectives with whom I was unfamiliar.  It would be a fun investigation to track down their novels and thus, here’s a list of each short story in this novel and the detective allusions that tie to them, followed by the name of the author:

  • A Fairy in the Flat/A Pot of TeaMalcolm Sage (Herbert George Jenkins)
  • The Affair of the Pink Pearl  ~ Dr. Thorndyke (R. Austin Freeman)
  • The Adventure of the Sinister Stranger ~ Desmond & Francis Okewood (Valentine Williams)
  • Finessing the King/The Gentleman Dressed in NewspaperTommy McCarty & Denis Riordan (Isabel Ostrander)
  • The Case of the Missing Lady  ~ Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)
  • Blindman’s Buff ~ Thornley Colton (Clinton H. Stagg)
  • The Man in the Mist  ~ Father Brown (G.K. Chesterton)
  • The Crackler ~ Edgar Wallace’s style of writing
  • The Sunningdale MysteryPolly Burton & Bill Owen (Baroness Orczy)
  • The House of Lurking DeathInspector Hanaud (A E W Mason)
  • The Unbreakable Alibi  ~ Joseph French (Freeman Wills Crofts)
  • The Clergyman’s Daughter/The Red HouseRoger Sherringham (Anthony Berkeley)
  • The Ambassador’s Boots ~ Dr. Reginald Fortune & Superintendent Bell (HC Bailey)
  • The Man Who Was No. 16  ~ Hercule Poirot/The Big Four (Agatha Christie)
Letter Mysterious Messenger

Letter (Mysterious Messenger) 1896 – Konstantin Somov
~ source Wikiart

This book started out slowly for me.  I wasn’t certain I liked Tommy and Tuppence in their new roles as husband and wife, but about one-third of the way through the cases got rolling and not only their detective skills developed but so did their relationship and interactions with one another.  None of the cases were intellectual masterpieces but they were enjoyable romps that weren’t very mentally taxing but entertaining nonetheless.  It was a sad day when the book ended, as I would have liked to continue reading about this very British couple and their unusual adventures.

I am curious if any of my readers have read any of the authors/detectives in my above list though.  Other than Conan Doyle, Baroness Orczy, Chesterton, and, of course, Christie, I’ve never heard of any of the other detectives or authors.  What about you?

 

The Seven Dials Mystery                                                  The Mysterious Mr. Quin ⇒

40 thoughts on “Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie

  1. This is interesting, Cleo. I might follow your lead. The only one from your list I can add, is Dr. Thorndyke, who was adapted into a short radio series, and is occasionally repeated on Radio 4 extra.

    • Well, then Dr. Thorndyke might be my starting place if the books were respected enough to make a radio broadcasst from them. I’m now very intrigued. Thanks, Cath!

  2. I started taking an in-depth look at Golden Age mysteries after reading Martin Edwards‘ two books on the subject, and I‘ve come across a fair few of the „models“ for these stories in the interim, but I didn‘t know all of them before I read the Martin Edwards books (and when I first read „Partners in Crime“), either. They‘re very much worth checking out, though — as is the whole forgotten world of Golden Age mysteries; before I read Edwards‘ books (and started reading the British Library Classic Crime series that he edits) I had no idea what a wealth of books and authors are out there, just waiting to be rediscovered! (Not all of equal quality, of course, but by and large, you just have to wonder how these authors could have been forgotten so soon after their own lives had ended.)

    Btw, have you seen the Partners in Crime TV adaptation starring Francesca Annis and James Warwick? Highly recommended — they totally bring Tommy & Tuppence, as well as the spirit and atmosphere of the books, to life.

    • I thought that you might be able to add more knowledge to the subject and you have! I’ve always wondered if there are some very good writers that have been overlooked or simply gone out of fashion. If only one could live long enough to discover them all! I’ve bought a couple of books from the British Library Classic Crime series and hope to eventually explore more from there. I’ll come to you for some recommendations when I get around to it.

      I did see that Tommy and Tuppence adaptation years ago and absolutely loved it! I have to watch it again to see if I like the T.V. or book characters better. I’ve seen another adaptation but have been hesitant to watch it as Annis and Warwick will always be Tommy and Tuppence for me!

      • Oh, I absolutely agree about Annis and Warwick. Plus, the other series made the unpardonable mistake of moving the action to a different period — that *alone* is enough for me never to want to watch it, as the interwar / 1920s atmosphere is absolutely key to the first 2 T&T books. For all I know, they also messed with the plots — *and* with the characters — which makes for another major Christie „no-no“ in my book. I had always secretly been wishing they‘d eventually get around to adapting the later books (at least „N or M?“ and „By the Pricking of My Thumbs“; can do without „Postern of Fate“) with Annis and Warwick when they were the right age … well, there goes that wish, I suppose. Then again, I guess it’s small mercies that this new production team didn’t get to mess with Annis and Warwick’s take on the characters … I can’t read the first two books without hearing their voices in my head, and this way at least I can stick to my own ideas as to how they / T&T sound (or would have sounded, in the actors’ case) in the later books!

        • I don’t even know how they could have set them in another period!!?? I so agree that the time period Christie placed them in are essential. Geesh! I’m sure I don’t even want to try them out now. Thanks for the warning!

  3. Hi, Cleo! I am a new subscriber, and I just wanted to thank you for the time and effort you put into your blog. It’s been a struggle to find someone with similar book taste. Thank you for the list. I’ve never heard of most of these people and their books. I will look into those!

    • A warm welcome to my blog, Lila! It’s so nice that you took the time to comment. I know there aren’t that many classics blogs around so when you find one, it’s almost an eureka moment!

      I’m glad to have given both of us a list to explore, lol! Have fun!

  4. I’m in the same boat and haven’t heard of any of the other authors mentioned. I love the idea of reading those in addition to this book. I skipped this book and read “N or M?” after I read “Secret Adversary”; since it was short stories, I thought it might not matter which order I read them, but now I wish I’d read it first!

    • I must say that I’m glad that I’m reading Christie’s novels in chronological order. I’ve heard that Christie writes about Tommy and Tuppence from when they first met and married, right into their old age so while on one level you might not miss anything, it’s still nice to follow them as they mature (I was going to say “age” but that word doesn’t have as nice a sound to it as “mature”, lol!)

  5. Hi Cleo! As always, enjoyed the post, although I’m afraid I don’t have any names to add to your list of models. Like one of your previous commentators I was going to suggest checking out the British Library Classic Crime series if you like mysteries from that era. I’ve only recently discovered it myself (from Kaggsy’s book blog, I think) and, while I haven’t read that many of the offerings, I enjoyed what I have sampled. There’s just something about crime fiction from that era that really draws me in; these are real comfort reads for me.
    Speaking of drawing me in — I love the art work you used for this post. I’d seen the Magritte image before but had never even heard of Konstantin Somov. I must go immediately and google him!

    • I’m not exactly a mystery-buff per se, but I do enjoy reading them from time to time. In fact, I wish I had the time to read more of them. One day …..

      I really enjoy finding the art for my posts. I quite like Magritte and I almost picked a Salvador Dali for this post but ended up going with Somov. I like him because his artwork is rather varied. Good luck with your investigation!

  6. there were five authors on your list that i didn’t know and i thought i was pretty familiar with the Golden Age… nice work! i’ll have to get busy looking them up; i wonder if they’re on Gutenberg, but i guess i”ll find out!

    • Oh, yay! I’m glad I’ve introduced you to some new authors. I hope their books turn out to be good or I’m going to have something to answer for. 😉 I’ll keep a look out on your blog in case you read some of them.

  7. I read my first Tommy & Tuppence pretty recently (Pricking) and I thought I really need to catch up on those! This sounds fun.

    Other than the ones you know, I’ve read a bunch of the Thorndyke stories. They’re pretty good and you can get them on Gutenberg, though I’ve got some in books. I’ve read some Edgar Wallace and one Freeman Wills Crofts novel, but it wasn’t an Inspector French story.

    Fun stuff!

    • Your first?! I’m so surprised! I’m not surprised, however, that you’ve read some of the others on the list. I was guessing that Dr. Reginald Fortune and Superintendent Bell would be the most familiar but it appears that I’m wrong. Oh well, it won’t be the first time! 😉

      • I’ve certainly heard of Bailey’s Fortune & Bell and I think I might have read some, but I wasn’t sure. I’ve got a couple of anthologies of golden age detective stories & there was no Bailey in either one of them, so who knows! So many books…

        • I would have liked to know why Christie chose these particular detectives. Holmes and Father Brown are obvious (and, of course, Poirot) but the others ….??? It would be interesting to find out.

  8. I too have thought of tracking down the various authors in this list, but the only one (besides the obvious Holmes, etc.) I’ve actually read is the weirdo Old Man in the Corner, which of course is the Baroness Orczy detective. I’d never heard of him, and his propensity for dairy products and string was so odd that I had to look him up!

  9. Hmm I read this a long time ago but can’t remember a thing about it. 😆 What I do remember is I enjoyed the Tommy & Tuppence books – like you say, they’re not “mentally taxing” but still enjoyable in their way. The one exception being By the Pricking of My Thumbs – that one was genuinely terrifying!

    • I read By The Pricking of My Thumbs eons ago and remember nothing about it except that it was terrifying. Oh, and the cover of my book had a cracked baby’s head on it with thorns and blood dripping or something like that. Ugh! I wonder if I still have it!

  10. I read one book of Tommy & Tuppence and I don’t recollect much. But I am intrigued by what you say about the Parody style and considering I do not recognize many of the detectives listed, I can definitely see some additions in my TBR

  11. This parody list is awesome!
    I’m currently listening to all of Poirot, and so often he is referring indirectly to Sherlock Holmes, and not in a nice way, lol!
    So after all of Hercule Poirot, I plan to read Miss Marple books, and then Tommy and Tuppence, so if all goes well in 3 or 4 years, if I’m too tired of AG by then, lol

    • I read about your Poirot reads on your blog and wondered if you would continue with Miss Marple. I’m reading about Mr. Quin at the moment, another one of Christie’s inventions. So far it’s starting out well!

  12. I only know Sherlock Holmes, of course, and Edgar Wallace, Baronne Orczy and Chesterton. I don’t know why I retain a prejudice against Tommy and Tuppence from my teenage years because I loved the Secret adversary (though I don’t like espionage). I’ll be happy to rediscover this one, thanks for sharing 😀

    • I’m not fond of espionage either because I find it’s usually highly overdone but in this book the espionage is in the background and it’s all about their cases. I do hope you get to try another Tommy and Tuppence at some point!

  13. I’ve only read The Secret Adversary featuring T&T. This book sound like it would be fun to read and then track down the referenced fictional detective stories. I might just set myself that task in future. I read Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson last year, which has its plot structured around eight classic detective novels and I enjoyed the process of getting copies of and reading five those novels that I hadn’t already read as “homework” before I read it. I enjoyed the project as much, if not even more than, reading the modern book.

    • That sounds like a fun investigation. I wonder if Swanson had this idea from this Christie novel. And even if the actual book isn’t stellar, it gives the reader a jumping off point. Now I’m curious as to which detectives Swanson used. Thanks for the tip, Ruthiella!

  14. When I first read this book, I had only heard of the authors you had, but recently I’ve been reading the Martin Edwards books so know of more now. I assume Christie knew some of these other authors personally and was teasing them? Or paying them a compliment? I do like Tommy and Tuppence and vaguely recall the miniseries. I should try to find it again.

    My 13-year-old niece told me last night that “everybody” is watching a mystery series called Lupin, so I am curious about that (although maybe a tiny bit affronted to be so out of the loop).

    • I would be interesting to know if Christie was complimenting the authors or teasing them, wouldn’t it? I hope I’m able to read at least one book by each of these authors but I’m going to have to speed up my reading.

      Lupin sounded familiar and when I looked up, I found out why. I’ve watched some of the episodes! I remember it being a little dark, yet well constructed but I wasn’t over the moon about it. His being a thief who only steals from bad people reminded me of an old BBC series with a group of “grifters” who did the same. It was called Hustle. If you can get ahold of it, THAT’S definitely worth watching!

      Oh, and being out of the loop can be good at times. 😉 Thanks so much for your comment!

  15. I’m a few away from reading this one, but am very curious about the list of detectives/authors. Most of those I haven’t heard of–some investigation (heh) may be required.

    • I’m a little stalled on her Mr. Quin short stories. It’s not that they’re bad, but they’re certainly not gripping. At least, not yet.

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