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.”
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 Tea ~ Malcolm 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 Newspaper ~ Tommy 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 Mystery ~ Polly Burton & Bill Owen (Baroness Orczy)
- The House of Lurking Death ~ Inspector Hanaud (A E W Mason)
- The Unbreakable Alibi ~ Joseph French (Freeman Wills Crofts)
- The Clergyman’s Daughter/The Red House ~ Roger 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)
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 ⇒