The Secret Adversary

Today is the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI or Armistice Centurion. For this special day I felt the need to review a WWI type mystery, and chose:

The Secret Adversary (Tommy and Tuppence Mystery #1) by Agatha Christie

This is one of my favorite mysteries and the second of her mystery novels to be published. It has a fantastic mystery duo team-Tommy and Tuppence.

The mystery begins with the sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915. As they are moving people to the lifeboats, a man approaches Jane Finn and asks her to carry some secret papers. She questions him, but he tells her that she is a woman and American, much more likely to get on a lifeboat and out than him.

Five years pass and we pick up with old friends Lt. Thomas “Tommy” Beresford and Miss Prudence “Tuppence” Cowley who run into each other in London. It has been three years since the have last seen each other and they catch up. She worked as a nurse during WWI, then at a government office job, but was let go and on the search for a new job.

Tommy was in France, then Mesopotamia, and then in Egypt until Armistice. For ten months he too has been job searching. But they don’t just talk shop, they also just talk about all kinds of things, Tommy mentioning how he overheard two men mention a name “Jane Finn”, he remembers the name as he finds it very odd.

Tuppence wants money and adventure and comes up with the idea that the two could start their own business- The Young Adventures, Ltd.-and run this advertisement.

Two young adventurers for hire.

Willing to do anything, go anywhere.

Pay must be good.

No reasonable offer refused.

They part ways, but then Tuppence is approached by a man with a job offer. They meet the next day and he offers £100 to travel to Paris, speak in an American accent, and pretend to be Edward Whittington’s ward. Tuppence questions him some more but he deflects and compliments her.

When Tuppence brings up Tommy, Mr. Whittington doesn’t want him. But the real surprise comes when Mr. Whittington asks for Tuppence’s name. She gives him the name “Jane Finn”, and everything changes. Mr. Whittington is angry, accuses her of trying to play him, and questions who could have squealed-Rita? Tuppence “blackmails” £50 out of him, hears him talk to a “Mr. Brown” and agrees to meet him the next day. But Mr. Whittington disappears.

Tuppence won’t let this go and gets Tommy to put in a new advertisement:

WANTED:

Any information respecting Jane Finn

Apply Young Adventurers, Ltd.

They receive two replies. The first is Mr. Carter who Tommy recognizes as a member of the OSS, that he met in France. “Mr. Carter”, not his real name, relates to them how they had an operative on the Lusitania with the draft of a secret agreement, by various representatives of different countries. When the boat was sinking the operative passed the documents to a young girl-Jane Finn-and did not survive, his body washing ashore. But no one knows what happened to the girl and the documents.

The girl was listed on the survivors, was an orphan, and was headed to Paris to work in a hospital. They have tried everything but she has completely disappeared. They need the documents as if they were to be public today it would be disastrous. Agreements made in war do not always do well in times of peace. The head of unrest and Bolshevist movements is the elusive “Mr. Brown”.

Tuppence puts that together with what happened in Mr. Whittington’s office-they wanted her to be Jane Finn, that is until it seemed she knew all about their plan. The call from “Mr. Brown” was probably one of warning and that is why he disappeared.

Hmm…

He hires them and the two start investigating. They begin by meeting the second person who answered their advertisement: Julius P. Hersheimmer is Jane’s cousin and a millionaire. He’s searching for her, and came to get Scotland Yard to find her. He brought a picture to give, but it turns out “Mr. Brown” played him and took it.

The three team up together as this case takes ups and downs and twists and turns. Kidnapping, imprisonment, mistaken idea, red herrings, Bolshevisks, amnesia, spy games, etc.

Thoughts After Reading:

I LOOOOOOOVEEE this mystery!!!!! I could read it over and over a thousand times.

The characters are amazing, the mystery marvelous, I just LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVVVVEEEEEEEEEE It!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For more Agatha Christie, go to The Mysterious Affair at Styles

For more World War I, go to A Duty to the Dead

For more mysteries involving a disapperance, go to Death Wears a Beauty Mask

For more mysteries with amnesia, go to C is for Corpse

For more mysteries with kidnapping, go to Gates of Thread and Stone

For more spy stories, go to The Princess Plot

Happy Veteran’s Day! Thank you all who have served and are currently serving. Thank you for giving the ultimate sacrifice.

Cream Puff Murder

cream puff murder

Cream Puff Murder (Hannah Swensen Mysteries #11)

So Hannah’s mother, Delores, is planing a huge party to celebrate the release of her newest Regency themed book. She has ordered special gowns for her daughters to wear to the event. The only problem? Hannah’s dress is much, much too small.

well that's just great anchorman

Only one thing left for her to do: Diet.

Diet

While she hates working out, she decides to join her sister, Andrea, in her new exercise regime at the newest gym, Heavenly Bodies. Now why is Andrea working out? Well even though she looks great, with Ronni Ward, three time bikini queen and always after men married or single, Andrea has been feeling insecure.

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And she isn’t the only one Ronni is upsetting. Almost every female in Lake Eden is upset with Ronni’s return and her putting the moves on their men.

Hate her that's so raven

But Hannah has other things to focus on: such as creating the perfect dessert for her mother’s party, and getting in shape to fit the dress.

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As everyone involved has agreed that Hannah’s cream puffs are the perfect choice for the party; Hannah does a few trial runs on flavors. Mike sees them and buys them for Ronni’s party as he thinks they will be just perfect.

Really Mike?

Really Mike? Really? Buy something from one girlfriend for another?

The next day Andrea and Hannah head to the gym, using their member key to get in really early. After they have worked hard, they decide to head to the jacuzzi for a reward.

fantastic

Andrea continues her workout a bit longer as Hannah goes first. There she finds a huge mess from Ronni’s party. Food and drink stuff, both of which are not supposed to be in the pool/jacuzzi area.

Come on, guys. You didn't even clean up?

Come on, guys. You didn’t even clean up?

But then as Hannah looks further, she finds a dead body. Ronni.

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She’s been Murdered.

Murder

Almost the entire sheriff’s department is suspended as they either had a relationship with her, like Mike, or was a friend, like Bill. With only two newbies left and having to bring in outside assistance; Hannah decides it is up to her group to solve the crime. She, Norman, Andrea, Michelle, Delores, and even Carrie set out on the case.

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Thoughts After Reading:

This is one of the few Hannah Swensen Mysteries I actually enjoy.

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I know, a real shocker. I liked this because the end wasn’t predictable. Fluke leads down a path that causes you to think is the end is totally obvious. It has to be this person, it just has to. They are the only one who makes sense.

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Fake information is  even given by another character to steer you away from who you think it is, but it makes you think even more that the person you are thinking of is the killer.

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But then at the end when you have the reveal, you are completely amazed as you discover you were looking in the wrong direction the whole time.

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And it isn’t one of those weird, completely out of left field endings either. This one made total sense.

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So that was the good. Now let’s look at the bad.

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Hannah and Mike’s Relationship

Really Mike?

Really Mike?

So there is this love triangle between Mike, Hannah, and Norman. And I really don’t know why it is there. Norman loves Hannah and Mike loves having a good time. Mike is a horrible boyfriend as he doesn’t want to commit himself, but have fun with other ladies as well. Norman on the other hand is perfect. Why can’t Hannah see that already. I mean, argh, it just makes me so upset to have to read about how she can’t decide when the answer is clearly in front of her face.

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So let’s begin out Mike is a loser countdown:

A) Hannah: “[Mike’s] not mine. I’m not even sure he is partially mine, not when Ronni’s living in the apartment across the hall from him.” (pg. 6-7)

If he “isn’t” yours, and so eager to bounce to the new babe in town; why are you even with him? Just dump the chump already. He’ll move on quickly.

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B) Mike: “Sometimes I wish you’d taken me up on my marriage proposal. Then I could eat like this every night.” pg. 66

  1. First of all, Mike only proposed after he heard Norman was going to. Norman built Hannah her dream house. Mike ran out and bought a ring just because he didn’t want Norman to “win”.
  2. Second, Mike hardly ever takes Hannah out; instead making her always cook for him, and usually late even though he knows she gets up early in the morning to bake.
  3. Third, he states the only reason he is sad that Hannah turned him down is because she can’t cook for him every night. Really? Why is there a contest again?

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C) Norman: “I love you too. And I know telling you what to do is a lost cause. You never listen anyway. I’ll see you in about forty-five minutes with steak and salad and two types of cookies.” pg. 76

When Mike hears that Hannah is going on a diet, he tells her that will be good she needs to lose weight. Norman asks why she needs to change when she is already beautiful. Mike tells Hannah read this book, investigate like that, blah, blah, blah; Norman shares his advice and then lets Hannah choose whatever she wants. When Mike calls to take Hannah “out” she always ends up cooking for him, with Norman he takes her to the restaurant or brings the restaurant to her.

He's perfect.

He’s perfect.

D) At Midnight Mike Calls and Wakes Hannah Up Having Her Meet Him in The Freezing Parking Garage and Having Her Bring Him Coffee.

Mike doesn’t want a girlfriend he wants a maid and assistant. And he knows she wakes up at like four in the morning and works all day. He’s suspended, he can wake up at four talk to her then and then go back to bed. He’s a jerk. Let her get her beauty sleep!

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E) Mike: “I just wanted you to know that there was nothing between Ronni and me. I know it looks bad, but there wasn’t…She needed a friend, a shoulder to cry on. I guess she was using me, but I didn’t mind being helpful…She was always calling me to come over for something and I went because…well…we had a lot in common since we both worked for the Sheriff’s department…I know it is going to come out that I slept at her place a few nights. We’d be watching a movie or something, I’d fall asleep on her couch. She never woke me. She’d go to bed and let me wake up on my own the next morning.” pg. 169-170

Really Mike? Really. So Ronni was your “friend”, the same way Shawna was your “friend”. In fact if Shawna hadn’t also been murdered; he would be messing around with her too.

And all these “she invited me over” crap? In every book 90% of the time Mike invites himself over or shows up on Hannah’s doorstep, like he’d be any different with Ronni.

He’s a jerk so cut him loose!

duh

F) Norman Makes Her a Low-Calorie Breakfast After Spoiling Her with the Incredible House, A Roaring Fire, Soft Bed, Plush Towels, and Two Cats.

Hannah stays the night at the master suite while Norman takes the guest room. It is an incredible and ritzy place. Then to top it off, he makes her an absolutely scrumptious breakfast, carefully measuring everything out so that he doesn’t ruin her diet.

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G) Mike: “Hannah…Where have you been? I’ve been calling you every hour since midnight!

Hannah: He’d called her at midnight. Again. Mike wasn’t concerned that she hadn’t had a full night’s sleep since Ronni was murdered. He’d probably wanted her to meet him in the garage again with a thermos of coffee and cookies so that he could give her more instructions on investigative procedure.” pg. 282

Hannah you said it. That is all he wants.

How rude

H) Mike: “I should have known someone would tell you, but I didn’t think you’s run to Norman on the rebound…It didn’t mean anything, Hannah. It was just…convenient, you know? She was right across the hall from me and…these things happen. You’re an adult. You know that.” pg. 283

ohnoyoudidn't

So first you lie, lie  about your relationship with Ronni? And then you try to excuse that behavior by saying it “just happened” and “that’s what adults do”?

stupidestthingever

NO! NO! And NO! Good-bye.

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I) Nancy: “Keep your eyes open Hannah. If you find a man who doesn’t think he is the hero, grab him and give him a hug because he’s the only realist in the room.”

Hannah: “[To Norman] Do you think she modeled the Duke of Oakwood after you?

Norman: “After me?…What are you talking about, Hannah?…The Duke of Oakwood is about as far from my character as you can get.” pg. 333

Norman is fantastic. Pick him. Then the two could be the Tommy and Tuppence of the midwest. Besides that, he really loves her.

Tommy-and-Tuppence-1923

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For more Hannah Swensen Mysteries, go to Carrot Cake Murder

For more mystery reviews, go to The Harlot’s Tale

Key Lime Pie Murder

Key lime pie murder

Key Lime Pie Murder (Hannah Swensen Mystery #9)

It’s summertime in Lake Eden, and that means that it is time for the Tri-County Fair!

Double double yay

As always there are loads of events, games, rides, and food booths. Hannah was planning on only suppling cookies to a booth, The Cookie Nook, but when a friend becomes sick, Hannah steps in to take her place.

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Yep, this year Hannah will be judging the bake-off; sampling all kinds of bread, cookies, pies, and more. She’s not in this alone, as the other two judges are home economics teacher, Pam, and instructional aide, Willa.

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In fact the whole Swensen family is taking part in the fair this year: Hannah’s mother Delores is running a dunk tank for the Lake Eden Historical Society;  Andrea, entering the mother-daughter beauty pageant with her daughter Tracey; and Hannah’s youngest sister Michelle is trying for the Tri-County Queen.

fair

What starts out as good eats, fun times, rodeo ramblings, and a quest to eat a deep-fried chocolate bar turns sour when Willa is murdered.

Murder

Now Hannah is on the case, trying to discover who is behind this killing.

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Did it have something to do with the robbery of the Rodeo entry fees? Was it someone who was upset with Willa disqualifying them from the Tri-County Queen contest? Could it have been someone who was upset that Willa gave them poor reviews on their baked good, causing them to win nothing and destroy their reputation as best cook? Was it a student flunked by Willa? Or was it someone unknown?

Sad but true.

Hannah soon realizes that she knows very little about who Willa is and her past. Why did she travel all over the United States, working in Washington, California, and Florida? Why did she break up with her fiancé two months ago? Why did she have her hair done and purchase a new outfit, when she had very little money?

don'tneedsleepneedanswers

As Hannah starts looking into this crime, she discovers that she needs to watch her step, or else she might meet the same fate as Willa did.

Sabrina the teenage witch salem dum di dum dum dum

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Thoughts After Reading:

Now I thought the title, Key Lime Pie Murder, was a stretch. There is hardly any Key Lime pie in the book, just the one case when they sample it for the fair.

seriously

And to add to it, Hannah never even made a Key Lime pie, nor does she add it to her shop’s menu, like in Lemon Meringue Murderwhich would tie the book together. Instead, I felt that since the book failed to revolve around any dessert, a rarity, they just picked one they thought sounded good (which didn’t).

I don't think so.

I don’t think so.

The story itself was good, and the mystery interesting as we have to figure out why someone would have killed Willa. I think that it was easily solved, but in a good way, rather than feeling lazy or stupid.

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The only qualm I have with Hannah in this book is that she really seems to use Norman a lot, and he takes it like a doormat.

neverlovesomeonewhotreatsyouordinary

I think that out of all the books, this one shows how right her boyfriend Norman is for her, than her other boyfriend Mike. Mike is too controlling, in the sense that he is a cop and cannot allow vigilanteism, not to mention the ego-burst of having your girlfriend be better at solving these crimes. The opposite of this is Norman, who doesn’t care about her investigating as he enjoys jumping in with her. He also is amazingly sweet in how he takes care of her cat, treating it as if it was Hannah’s sick baby. In fact, in this book more than any other, I could see Norman and Hannah happily married, a Tommy and Tuppence of the midwest.

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For more Hannah Swensen Mysteries, go to Cherry Cheesecake Murder

For more book reviews, go to A Change of Fortune