I have just finished reading The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie and in exact juxtaposition to the title, my first e-book by one of the most celebrated novelist has transformed me into her explicit admirer!
The novel is a mystery set in early 20th century, in London and primarily revolves around Tuppence and Tommy, two young ones, who have dabbled in various professions and are presently unemployed and almost penniless. They are apparently childhood friends and yearn to earn money by hook or by crook. Tuppence, in the heat of moment, proposes to set up ‘Adventurers Unlimited’, a no-holds-barred service, where both of them can be hired to do anything, go anywhere, refusing no unreasonable offer.
However, even before, the said advertisement is published in the paper, Tuppence is approached by a man who claims to have overheard their conversation and is ready to employ Tuppence for a secret project. She is ecstatic at the auspicious beginning and seriously considers the offer, but unwittingly gives away her name as Jane Finn, wishing to conceal her real identity.
But, the name seems to break some spell, as the prospective employer is drenched in sweat and makes some hurried excuses to leave. Next morning, as Tuppence and Tommy revisit the office, they are dumbfounded to discover that the mysterious man has simply vanished, leaving the duo to wonder at what magical world Jane Finn supposedly leads to.
After this initial adventure, Tuppence and Tommy find themselves in a whirlwind, with the unusual name Jane Finn baffling them at every turn, involving them in a sleuth mission, where the shady criminal Brown threatens to pose a serious threat to the democratic Govt and again the key is Jane Finn!
For the fear of revealing too much, I would not divulge anymore, but in essence, the entire novel concentrates on finding Jane Finn, in a true detective style a la Vyomkesh Bakshi. I simply loved Agaths’s direct style, her detailed narrative that left me eagerly waiting for the next twist. Though, I could guess the actual convict somewhere in the middle of the story, and even had a clear hunch about who is Jane Finn, yet the digressing sub plots, misleading clues and unrelated developments kept derailing me from solving the mystery, before the author finally chose to divulge the secret. And, this is what made THE SECRET ADVERSARY so special!
I loved the way Christie introduced her characters, they seem to be theater artists, who come on the stage in well done makeup, with their unique style, and enamor the audience with their eloquence, leaving a lasting impression. Be it Hershimmer’s hasty American impatience, Tommy’s deliberate slow judgement or Tuppence’s intuitive intelligence, each of them was unique, adding flavor to a well written tale.
The Secret Adversary is set in an old world, where cellphones and internet were unheard of, even the telephone calls were far in between. The intelligence was a much more manual process, and it is this unique approach of relying on telegrams and the age old trusted trick of employing informers that kept me asking for more. Not to forget the logical drawn out conclusion at the climax, taking care of all the loose ends, gives the novel a very sophisticated look.
If you have never read any of Agatha Christie’s novel, let this one be your first, and if you are already a fan of Poirot’s antics, then give a chance to the old world charm and laid back attitude of Tom Beresford and Tuppence Cowley, they would surely provide a good break.
San violence, Christie has created a wonderful thriller.