I love Agatha Christie. When most people ask my favorite author, it’s a rapid fire response about the brilliance that is Christie. Her mysteries are smart, compelling and, typically, keep you guessing to the end. With “Secret Adversary“, the pulse is novel thrives on discovering Mr. Brown’s identity. Unfortunately, that’s where the comparisons stop. It’s unlikely you will find me continuing with The Young Adventures, Ltd. on any of their other journeys.
Maybe it is modern day marketing (and I don’t say this lightly as a public relations professional), but the back of the book drew me in with it’s description: two young lovers solving crimes and always on the run. Yet, nothing about it felt electric. Tommy and Tuppence genuinely care about each other, but the relationship always felt brother/sister-like. Their engagement at the end was not the end goal of my reading. It happened, but I would have been okay if it didn’t.
What the book does right is the characterization of Tuppence: quick-witted, smart mouthed and full of wonder. Alone, I hope I could follow her along as she stumbles into these highly dangerous situations. On the other hand, I’m okay if Tommy wants to sit on the sidelines. While I compliment Christie’s development of characters, he just sagged against Tuppence’s brightness. They were a fine pair, but he just seemed to exist.
Moving on, the characterization of Mr. Brown was fascinating. An ever changing chameleon, no one could ever pinpoint his true identity. While it seemed like he hid in the shadows, he was always in broad daylight. Don’t let me fool you, he isn’t a Moriarty or Joker. But he held his own, and built an interesting counterpart to the Young Adventures.
The story itself was your typical mystery. There was nothing that stood out or made it revolutionary. While it kept you guessing who Mr. Brown was, the mystery at hand wasn’t all that compelling or seductive. You knew the culprit after a few chapters, you just had to discover his identity. Sure, there was the aspect of finding Jane Finn, but even that unraveled rather quickly (or shall I say, felt transparent). This wasn’t as page-turning as “And Then There Were None“, but it found its charms through characters.
Ultimately, “The Secret Adversary” is what I’ve grown to love about Agatha Christie, but a little lacking on the heart of other mysteries. While I feel this way, I know many other cherish Tuppence and Tommy and enjoy some of the other adventures they tackle together. Please never let my words make you hesitate on whether or not you should pick up a book. Everyone has their own cup of tea they enjoy.
Don’t worry about my love of Christie diminishing, either. I will be following up with “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” and “The Body in the Library“. The latter of which follows my favorite protagonist, Miss Marple. The former, of course, is lead by Hercules Poirot, who is a fine literary hero in his own right. Every mystery gives you something to unravel, it’s just about finding what your book soul is searching for in that moment.