The Secret Adversary

By Agatha Christie

Rating: 4 stars

Tommy Beresford and Prudence “Tuppence” Cowley are old childhood friends who meet up again in the aftermath of the Great War and, almost penniless, agree to form a joint venture: the Young Adventurers Ltd, willing to go anywhere and do anything. Their first assignment ends up leading them into much more danger than anyone imagined and they have to fight for their lives against the mysterious Mr Brown while searching for the one document that could save Britain from civil war.

This book feels very much of its time, with a gently paternalistic government that Knows Best and poor, misled British unions who don’t really want to strike, but those darned Bolsheviks are leading them astray. This makes it sound like I didn’t enjoy this novel. That’s not true, I did, but you certainly need to be aware of the context that it was written in to enjoy it. But that’s something that I’m quite good at, doing it regularly with the Golden Age SF novels that I enjoy so much, so it was easy enough to do the same thing here.

The book kept me guessing as to the identity of the mysterious Mr Brown right to the end, laying several false trails. I warmed to the two protagonists very early and became invested in them (so I’ll definitely look out for the other books in the series). Despite that, this book was written very early in Christie’s career and doesn’t feel as polished as some of her later work. As an indicator of things to come it’s marvellous, and it holds up well enough to be an enjoyable work on its own merits, so long as you’re able to place it in its historical context and not judge it too much.

Book details

ISBN: 9780007111466
Publisher: Harper Collins
Year of publication: 1922

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